Mildred Brodsky is my mother’s best friend. They were in the Army Air Corps together as World War II WACs, they lived near one another in spacious apartments in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, they protested, argued, and supported one another for as long as I can remember. When Milly’s husband Zvi, died, Mom and I were there, when either of them needed to go somewhere and didn’t have a babysitter, we’d show up at each other’s apartments. Milly’s daughter, Debby, and I grew up together. There is something about the imprint of those young years that doesn’t grow old.
I miss those days. Sitting on my father’s shoulders or holding his hand as we walked one long block to the Brooklyn Museum and surrounding park . He pushed me on the swings, caught me at the bottom of the slide before my skinny rump hit the ground, and took me to marvel at the labyrinth of Lionel trains within the grand hallway of the museum.
Milly and my mom took us to the supermarket and placed us in shopping carts. Debby and I wreaked havoc by yelling the names of body parts (usually private ones) that our mother’s so proudly and boldly taught us. While the words were anatomically accurate, we were not interested in showing off our smarts to strangers, we knew well how to embarrass our mothers. And we did so exquisitely! My mom and Milly walked away from us and the carts. In those days, you could do that for a few minutes without fearing someone would steal your child.
Milly had an operation yesterday and is on her way to a rehab in New Jersey. It’s difficult knowing that someone you love is vulnerable and in pain. Debby showed Milly the picture of my young mom in the post, What The ????. A reminder of a stronger, healthier time. Milly smiled, recognizing Mom immediately, calling her by her Yiddish nickname, Bleemie. I wept when Debby told me. The ache of missing my parents doesn’t leave, especially when poked with reminders. Like wood in the fireplace, stirred flames rekindle and my heart smolders.Time eases the intensity of my emotions but when located this near the surface, they are easily stoked.
And there they rest, as they should, in a place of honor reserved for special, not perfect, parents.