|Typically for an author, the two months leading up to a book launch are nothing short of thrilling. There are interviews to do, podcasts to record, swag to order, giveaways to host, and lots of excitement about sending your newest “book baby” into the world.
Earlier this month I began crafting this month’s newsletter, fully anticipating sharing all the fun leading up to my Dec. 4th book launch of The Lost Gift to the Italian Island. But the world has changed so drastically since then. Like many, I’m sickened by the brutal terrorist attacks against Israel; and I’m heartbroken for all the innocent people in the region who have been killed or are missing or suffering.
At times like this, I often look back at the lives of those who came before me. I think about my Jewish relatives who left their eastern European homeland at a very young age to come to America and begin again. Their courage and hope are the reasons why my children and I are here today. I know that many of you have similar stories and hold your ancestors close to your heart, as I do mine.
In the last few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about those relatives. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about “the aunts.”
Bessie, Ida and Rose
“The aunts.” That’s what we called Bessie, Ida and Rose – my father’s three elderly aunts. Ida was the glamorous one, with snow-white hair swept high on her head, while Bessie and Rose had short, grey hair kept in place with ample amounts of hairspray. There had been a fourth sister—Sarah, my paternal grandmother—who died when I was very young. So my dad had a special place in his aunts’ hearts.
I don’t know much about the background or early years of the aunts before they came to this country. But when I was little, they all lived in separate apartments in a tall, brick apartment building in the Bronx. Rose and Ida were widows, while Bessie was married to Benny—although with no husbands of their own, Rose and Ida were as eager to fuss over Benny at holiday dinners as Bessie was. I remember how they’d all rush to his side with another serving of brisket, more potatoes or carrots, or a second slice of chocolate cake even before his plate was empty.
We ate lots of holiday dinners in Bessie and Benny’s tiny apartment when I was young. There were always many relatives of all ages there—close and distant cousins, I was told. I remember how beautifully the table was set, with china and cut crystal and the heaviest silverware I’d ever felt. To provide a seat for everyone, Bessie and Bennie would “extend” their regular dining table by adding multiple folding tables end-to-end, through the dining room and almost all the way to the front door. Though I was very young, I knew that serving food was how the aunts showed love – and watching us all eat the dishes they’d fixed was their greatest joy.