When my granddaughters, Sari and Michelle, were little girls, I read them classical children’s stories that I had heard when I was a child myself.
To make the stories of Snow White, Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood enjoyable, I flourished them with vivid scenes and spoke in a grave tone about the witch in Snow White, shrieked when the ugly step-mother appeared and roared when the big bad wolf came dressed as Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother.
One day, in the middle of the poisonous apple given by the witch, Michelle got so scared that she hugged me fearfully. At that moment, I began to think I was not smart repeating those scary tales that did not have any significant good lessons about life and only told silly adventures.
I decided then that instead, I would try to entertain them with stories about our own family, some funny, some sad, and others that just showed how our lives during the ‘old times’ were. At least they would know about some experiences our past generations had. To my surprise, they loved the tales, and every time we met, they begged, “Bubi, Bubi (grandma), tell us again about Bubi Esther’s mother, about Elita’s poisoning, and about Doris’s monkey…” The same happened years after when I repeated the same stories to my younger grandchildren.
When my repertory was finished, I concluded that I only had tattered pieces of our family, but if I wrote it down, I could at least leave them as a legacy that would not be lost like so many others from my ancestors’ had.
All the stories are as real as my memory recollects them, but remember that the whole truth exists in a vacuum. The truth for each of us begins with our perception, and sometimes cognizance comes with many other issues that are not in our recognition powers.
I began to write many anecdotes, so my children, grandchildren, and their children would know how the lives of my grandparents, my parents, and my generation were. As the stories unfold – because when one tale begins, it takes a life of its own – I realized that my family’s experiences were similar to many other immigrant Jews’ experiences when they abandoned Europe. Most had similar backgrounds, had suffered, and enjoyed parallel pasts. In many of the stories, I tried to explain bits of Jewish history and tradition. For me, as a secular Jew, tradition, morals, and way of life are gifts of what makes me Jewish.