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A Woman of Valor

For My Mother-In-Law:

I was present at your 50th birthday and remember the homage presented you at the Sorrento Hotel – by photo, skit, and heartfelt tribute …

And two decades later, it gives me pleasure to be present in some small way at this milestone, the 70th anniversary of your birth.

I commemorate it today by expressing gratitude for the gifts you gave me when I was privileged to be your daughter-in-law and afterward:

The gift of demonstrating what a daughter is and should be. You showed me who a daughter was through your steadfast loyalty – even through gritted teeth – to your irascible father. You taught me it didn’t matter whether a parent deserves it or not, fealty is owed.

You played a significant role in my reconciliation with my own mother before her death. And I think she looked to you – perhaps subconsciously – as an example of a parent who stood by their kid, no matter how difficult their kid made it.

In any case, you drew me closer to my mother and I am grateful to you.

As a wife, you are without parallel. I didn’t have the lasting power you did – but while I was the wife of your son – who, by the way, is an exceptional person due in no small part to your love and support – you were a constant example of steadfastness and honor within the matrimonial web.

Daughter, wife, mother – and you were my friend. I remember you babysitting me after spine surgery, when Jeff couldn’t take it any more, rubbing my feet and taking my mind off the pain.

I remember talking with you on the phone, really enjoying your sly sense of humor as you managed to insert barbs without anybody really feeling any pain. You could be wicked – but so subtle.

I remember you as the only person I knew who really liked the color orange. Couldn’t understand it then, it’s an acquired taste, but now whenever I see that color used well, I think of you.

I remember you as a person who used the words “shinola” and “crapola” particularly evocatively.

And as the originator of the real “feast of Gedalia.” And as the creator of the wildly ecumenical – yet ultimately Jewish – Passover and Chanukah celebrations of which I was a part. Including grinding the special mix for gefilte fish. And grating your knuckles into the latkes. And laboring over two kinds of meat – usually brisket and roast chicken – for the family dinner extravaganzas. And always serving yourself last.

And a dancer, in the manner of Martha Graham. And a writer of anthropologic tomes. And an aesthete with your own quirky take on art (which is why you still have that folk art animal I once gave you). And a chooser of gifts par excellence (which is why I still have the multifloral silk scarf you once gave me). And a politico (who I bet enjoyed Howard Dean while he lasted) who joined me in looking forward to Election 2004 – which was supposed to have been the end of an error.

There’s so much more to you than could ever meet the eye. And I’m so glad I have had the opportunity to be part of your life, and to have had you in mine.

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life…
She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms…
She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy…
Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come…
She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth G-d, she shall be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her...

Proverbs 31:10


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