Tag Archives: parenting

Prayerlooms: A family ring and a millennial purse

A few weeks back, I wrote a column about “prayerlooms,” a word I coined for the column to describe those mementos and dear-to-the-heart items that we tuck away for a future generation to enjoy. At the time I invited me readers to share their own, and I was overwhelmed with your responses. This month I am thrilled to share the stories behind two such prayerlooms.

Debbie Valencia sent this wonderful note from Northville, MI, where she lives with her husband, son and daughter (who is now traveling in India). Her prayerloom was from her grandmother Annie Laurie.

“I turned 16 in 1976 and my southern belle grandmother gave me her single solitaire diamond ring from her teen years. Later she passed on to me her spinster sister’s, the second set into an onyx. My fiance felt honored to use my two diamonds when creating my engagement ring. Some 25 years later, we designed a new ring. My great-aunt’s and grandmother’s stones now flank an emerald from my husband’s father’s Colombian homeland. The original bands were sold to the jeweler to offset costs. In addition to her ring, my grandmother’s prayerloom for me was her belief too that I would expand her love as I cherished the two small sister diamonds .What an honor to feel there are no better diamonds but these two for me!”

Judith Goodman, a friend from synagogue, wrote to me about a little purse she bought at the tail end of the 20th century, to celebrate the new millennia. In the course of our correspondence, she decided not only to put the purse away for her baby granddaughter, but has included a letter to her to open, maybe at the turn of the next century. Here’s her story:

“In late 1999, I bought this purse embroidered all over with “2000.” Found it at Lord & Taylor, made in China, not expensive. I used it a few times for holiday parties. When I bought it, I remember thinking that if I had a purse with “1900” on it from a great-grandmother I would think it was cool, and maybe in year 2100 one of my descendants will do the same.

“Now I have a granddaughter, Tessa Rose Goodman, born in July. When the year changes to 2100, she will be 87, but hopefully she and her children and grandchildren will still be partying!”

THANK YOU to all the readers who have sent me such stories—and, yes, I’ve saved some for future columns. So, if your story did not appear today, look for future columns on this theme. Please, tell friends by using either the blue-“f” Facebook links with this column, or the small envelope-shaped email icons. Add a Comment below. Let’s keep this cycle of stories going!

Anti-spouse Pronouns

How does something as small as a possessive pronoun hold so many years of disdain, frustration, and enmity? I’m talking about the possessive pronouns used by ex-spouses. Not the “my” as in “my ex-husband” or “my former wife”. But the “your” as in “your mother”. Or the “her” as in “her father”. Came across the locution recently and was struck once again at how choosing one small possessive pronoun over another not only shifts the meaning but also shifts the responsibility from adult shoulders onto wee shoulders already weighted with confusion and loss.

“Her father” had forgotten to do something for their child. Not as bad as forgetting to pick her up at school and leaving her there all night but an oversight that was enough to cause a painful, if temporary, consequence. For the mother it was just one more reason why she had removed the man from her life. And by phrasing it “her father forgot” instead of “my ex forgot” the entire ownership of the bumbler is shifted to the party who’s most innocent in this whole scenario — the child.

“Your father……” “Your mother……” Doesn’t matter what comes after; the ensuing verbs are irrelevant. It’s the animus behind those two words that hangs in the air. Because when a child hears, “Your father did so and so” or “Your mother did such and such” then the child in question, who is the only one still linked to the offender, is also guilty by association. Through no fault of her own, the child owns the sub-standard parent and thus the dastardly deed being aired by the other (often rightfully) frustrated parent.

So here’s something to think about. Next time an ex-spouse’s shortcoming rears its head and the temptation to use one of those ownership-shifting pronouns pops up — bring it back home. Say, “my ex-spouse forgot to buy the poster board” or “my ex-spouse is taking me to the cleaners.” Or better yet use a given name. “Joe forgot to pack lunches…” “Susie forgot to send in the tuition…”

Putting the pronouns where they belong changes the equation of the complaint. Putting the pronouns where they belong frees a child to resent his parent if he wants to, or have compassion, or just shrug and go on with life, leaving the enmity where it began — in the hands and hearts of the adults.


Every time I looked out the window I couldn’t help but think of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. There were the branches, neatly bundled like kindling, as if ready to be sold by the boy who needed money. (Taking poetic license here. I know the boy sold the tree’s apples; but the neighbor’s dead tree is a maple.) Every so often the ground shuddered as another limb fell to earth; “Come boy,” I recalled the tree saying. “Take my branches and build a house so you can be happy…” The lumberjack began on the trunk. In ol’ Shel’s tale, the tree offered this final part of herself to the boy, grown now old and bitter. He hollowed out her trunk, made a boat and sailed away.

I was enchanted by The Giving Tree. Loved it, actually. Until I became a mother. What an ungrateful brat! What a masochistic tree! I heard an interview on NPR (where else?), that Silverstein wrote the book to spoof Jewish mothers who give and give and give, oblivious when giving crosses into taking territory. The spoof became a canonical tale of selflessness, earning Shel money enough to sail ’round and ’round the world. I hope he sent his mom postcards.

Such a fine line we walk, giving to those whom we love so much so much, eventually learning to save something for ourselves, too. It feels good to give; it feels wonderful to be there, to have the answers, to offer up exactly what is needed at just the right moment.

Why didn’t the tree say, “Boy, you can take some of my branches. But only some. I need them too — to scratch my trunk when my bark gets itchy, to enjoy the tickle of the wind when the breezes blow cool through my leaves.” Would it have subverted the order of the world had the tree said to the boy, “No, you may not take my trunk. For how else will I be able to stand up straight?”

When the boy returns one last time wanting only to sit and rest, the tree who has nothing left to give, tries to straighten herself in her stumpiness, joyous that the boy has returned once again. “An old stump is good for sitting and resting,” she says. What a haunting line. Why do we find this scene the pinnacle of maternal devotion?

My kids need me less now. I miss them keenly even as I am proud they are making their way in the world. With one on each coast, I’ve learned how to give from afar. If only the tree had kept a few branches for herself. She would have been able to wave and cheer the boy on as he left on adventure and to welcome him back in a leafy embrace upon his return. If she’d kept her trunk, the boy, old and tired, could have leaned back against her and rested in her shade once again. And they both would have been happy.

Animal School

I’m not big on forwarding jokes and films and things. Unless they really make me laugh or think or make my eyes tear up and my nose go red. But this week I’m making an exception. This short, beautiful film was sent to me by my friend Laya Crust. (Check out her wonderful art by clicking there on the right under website.)

Whether your child is ten years old, struggling with math yet doing gangbusters in English, forty years old and in a rock band instead of practicing law, or somewhere in between, this perceptive film is a reminder to celebrate each of our offspring’s unique gifts. Enjoy.