April 23, 2024
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April 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Thanks Sooo Much, Woodrow!

This year marks 100 years since Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation creating Mother’s Day. Later it became a federal law (36 U.S. Code §117, for those who doubt). Besides the League of Nations (another one of his brainchildren), this in my view was one of his worst ideas. OK, ladies, before you inundate my editor and me with hate emails, let me explain: Why should we men need a federal law to instruct us to honor and cherish the important women in our lives when we should be doing this every day? And, of course, every Friday night I sing a song to Ellen, my beloved wife and mother of my three children, recounting how she is an Aishet Chayil (“woman of valor”). Yup, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it. But the reality is, for some weird reason I have had trouble remembering Mother’s Day, ever since I was a kid.

My last column focused on what to me was an important topic: a new policy (since rescinded) adopted by General Mills by which consumers, by engaging in activities such as downloading a recipe, or participating in a contest, or “liking” the firm on Facebook, would unwittingly be agreeing to arbitrate. Although I made some feeble attempts to inject some humor into my writing, to me this was a topic worthy of serious, scholarly treatment. The only problem is, it wasn’t very funny, and readers of this column have come to expect humor from me.

Speaking of Ellen, I admit publicly and for the record that she advised me not to do the General Mills piece. When she suggested I write something funnier, my retort was that people needed to know about the issue. To which she replied, “Yes, but it won’t be funny and people won’t like it.” And it turns out she was right. There: I now have written proof that on at least one occasion, I admitted publicly she was right about something. Tie in to the Parasha: this happens about as often as shmita years. Well, actually, Ellen has been on a bit of a hot streak lately.

A Mother’s Day Problem for Years

I don’t know why I sometimes forget about Mother’s Day. Ellen thinks I need some serious therapy to get at the root cause. She may be right (wow…two public admissions!). I was born less than a year after my brother. I mean, do the math, folks. For years I have suspected that perhaps I might not have been planned. I mean, the stories I’ve heard: 1) my Mom refused to speak to my Dad for four years; 2) my Mom’s best childhood friend telling Ellen, at our engagement party no less, that my Mom was ready to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge when she found out—so soon after giving birth to my brother—that she was pregnant again with me; and 3) my Mom rumored to be the person who first conceived of the home vasectomy…stuff like that. Anyway, I have trouble remembering the holiday. The best example is described below.

Escape from 246th Place

This goes back to when I was about 8 or 9 years old, living at 246th Place in Douglaston. Greeting cards were and still are a big deal in our family. My brother Harvey and I woke early Mother’s Day morning and, to our horror, realized that neither one of us had bought a Mother’s Day card for my mom. We just plain forgot. This in our house was a hanging offense. We sprang into action. First, we scrounged up 15 cents for a card, which we accomplished by busting open a piggy bank. Then, inspired by having recently seen The Birdman of Alcatraz, we fashioned a rope out of bed sheets, and escaped from our second floor bedroom window. Next, we rode our bikes to the candy store to buy a card. Finally, we picked a few flowers from our garden. Nice touch. The only problem, of course, was that the two geniuses hadn’t planned a way to get back in. Busted! When I protested that there should be a Kids’ Day, my Dad’s response was, “Be quiet. Every day is Kids’ Day.”

Still Messing Up as an Adult

I’d like to say that, as an adult, I have outgrown my Mother’s Day issues. I’d like to, but that would be a lie. The year Leyna, our first child, was born, I neglected to get Ellen a Mother’s Day card—or flowers—or a gift. By some miracle, I had actually remembered to get stuff for my mom, so I was pleased with myself. Anyway, my (twisted) logic was, “Ellen’s not my Mom, so where’s my obligation?” Leyna clearly was the one at fault here; Ellen was her mother, not mine. Then again, Leyna was just an infant. My dad straightened me out on this one: “[Derogatory Yiddish term for ‘fool’], she’s the mother of your child!” Right. Hadn’t thought of it that way.

Much Better Lately

Technology seemingly came to my rescue with e-cards and computer-based calendars that dutifully reminded me that the holiday was coming. But it’s not fool-proof. For example, one year I sent my mom a lovely e-card. The only problem is she doesn’t know how to work her computer to actually view the card. So, it doesn’t count, not even for partial credit. Only physical cards sent by snail mail count toward fulfilling the filial Mother’s Day obligation.

This year, I dutifully ordered flowers for Ellen’s mom and mine. I went to CVS and bought and sent cards, on time. I sent messages to my adult kids reminding them to send cards to their mom, and instructed the dads to get cards and stuff for their wives. Very impressive! The only problem is I got so busy with all this, that I arose Mother’s Day morning and realized that I’d forgotten to get Ellen flowers. Shades of 246th Place—not again! What to do? Being 60, I immediately ruled out climbing out of our second floor bedroom window. But times sure have changed. I now have a car, credit cards, and supermarkets that are open on Sunday and sell flowers. So, with Ellen still fast asleep, I snuck out, went to Stop-n-Shop, and bought a lovely bouquet and balloon. Problem solved!

However, Myy Days May Be Numbered

Thanks to technology, and the wisdom gained through a lifetime of Mother’s Day screw-ups, I am now really good at this Mother’s Day thing. My card this year even made Ellen cry. I’ll make her cry again: “El, you are the best thing that ever happened to me and I thank Hashem every day for putting us together. You are an incredible Mom, Savta, daughter, daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, friend, and soul mate. I love you.”

Aww. So, why do I believe my days may be numbered? Ellen’s grandmother, of blessed memory, used to say “Men! You finally get them where to you want them to be, and then they up and die.” I hope she’s off on the timing.

George Friedman and his wife Ellen are members of Congregation Beth Aaron, and have lived in Teaneck for 37 years. He sits on the Board of Arbitration Resolution Services, the world’s first completely online dispute resolution forum, and has taught arbitration at Fordham Law School since 1996. He is also one of the co-owners of Lose-Win Situation. His mom and dad, Gloria and Irving Friedman, still live on 246th Place in Douglaston. She still expects paper cards.

By George H. Friedman

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