Wednesday, April 22, 2009

His Name Was David

I may have mentioned this, but in case you didn't catch it, a sister with ten kids and a daughter-in-law came in for Passover from Israel. The last time I saw them was summer 2007 when we were there in Israel. The last time they were in Chicago (with less children, of course) was summer 2002, when my brother got married.

In addition, a sister from New Jersey and a broth
er from Israel also came in for Passover. On Hun's side of the family, his brother and Grandparents came in from New York.

So there was a lot of family to spend time with, which is just the way I like to spend the Holidays.

There is no tone of sarcasm to be derived, I really do appreciate that family can be around for Passover, because that is what I am used to.

My entire childhood, this one particular family of cousins would come every year to us for Passover. The Patriarch was my Mom's first cousin. He married a divorcee with two daughters and they had three more daughters together. I loved the fact that there were many girls my age to hang out with. Except for about two years that we went to celebrate Passover with them in New Jersey and once somewhere else with them (which is it's own story that I will get to soon), they were with us in Chicago every single year. To this day, they are probably the relatives I am closest with.

We had many laughs with them. We all saw each other grow up and move onto marriage and jobs... We had very specific traditions together as well.

During the intermediary days, we would go on excursions together - to the zoo, the museums, the aquarium, a baseball ga
me, enjoying each others company immensely. And at night we had a very particular tradition....

Between the 60's and the start of the 80's, my parents had a movie camera and spent much time recording family, even
ts and trips and all of us going through some very awkward stages of life. When I say movie camera, I mean, 8mm film and silent picture. So we were also the proud owners of a portable movie screen and a projector. And when I say projector, I mean.... load the 8mm film roll.... feed it into projector ..... watch it go round and round and make that, phtttt ....phtttt... phttt... noise, and repeat this process every five minutes when one roll finishes and you want to see another film.

We used to spend the intermediary nights watchin
g these old movies. And spent much time laughing at Great aunts and Uncles groping one another, pointing out the amazing clothing and hair styles through the ages, getting glimpses at Grandparents and other relatives many of us never met, and realizing that at one time, our parents actually loved us and thought we were cute and kissable.

At some point the bulb on the projector burnt out and we were forced to come to terms with the fact that projector bulbs were no longer easy to find. In fact, projectors and 8mm film were loo
ooong gone and replaced with video cameras that captured more detail on VHS...

The film sat in my Parent's house untouched.........until my brother took them all and had them transferred over to DVD. And he completed this task before this years Passover Holiday began. And it just so happens, my husband has a projector at work, the modern projectors that people use with lap tops for presentations. And my parents h
ave some lovely wall to display movies on... So we were back in business.

Watching some movies -
From left to right:
My nephew's wife, my sister with the 10 kids, my sister from NJ, my bro from Chicago, a niece

My hubby on the left and my bro from Israel on the right.
Watching one of the many birthdays my Mom made in the 60's and 70's.

And I love this shot, because that is the back of my Hun's head while he is introduced for the first time to this Passover tradition of ours, actually watching his wife at the age of one being fed in a high chair that was probably a baby death trap at the time.

I wish there was a better way you could really capture the essence of what was going on.

I need to backtrack for a moment, so you can understand why this tradition and Passover in general has additional meaning to my family, over the fact that it is just another Holiday.

If you scroll up and re-read a bit, you may notice that I wrote "the patriarch WAS my Mom's first cousin". This was deliberate on my part. His name was David and he was an exceptional human being, and his life was cut short in February of 1996, when along with two train engineers, he was THE ONLY passenger to die in a two train collision from Hoboken New Jersey. I will insert two links
Here and Here ... that refers to the accident, although one article touches on the accident itself, the other is about the after effects of the accident. Although there were many articles at the time, all the links I find are related to what went wrong, who is to blame, etc... and David seems to have been forgotten.

David was in his mid 40's, a lawyer who did a lot of pro-bono work to help Jewish women get the proper religious document needed to religiously be considered divorced and free to marry again. (Jewish women can go through a civil divorce, but in order to re-marry, they need something called a "Get" from their husbands. There are too many unfortunate stories of husbands withholding the Get or using it to make the terms of custody and alimony benefit themselves, leaving Jewish women unable to ever re-marry, because without the "Get" they can not be considered divorced and therefore any new relationship would cause them to be considered adulterers). David was a father of five and a devoted and loyal husband. He loved baseball and took beautiful photographs as a hobby. He was an exceptional human being and a HUGE part of our Passover Holiday.

I remember clear as day how I found out what happened. The train accident occurred on a Friday in February of 1996. Sabbath began and I had three friends over for dinner Friday night. My parent's seemed to me to be acting their usual selves. Little did I know, that they already were informed before the Sabbath began. But my parents did not want to ruin the kids Sabbath and waited until the moment the Sabbath ended with a blessing we say over a lit candle.

My mother handed me a piece of paper that I could see was copied from a newspaper. I remember spending a few moments reading about how two morning commuter trains collided outside Secaucus New Jersey, immediately killing both conductors and just one passenger. However, it did not mention the passenger's name. I looked up at my mother who had tears in her eyes and not wanting to hear the answer, I reluctantly asked,
"Ma, who is it"?

"It's David".

And with just that, we both wept together.

We flew into NJ the next morning for the funeral - it was packed. People were outside and could not get in. He was an exceptional man.

Being that this was February, and Passover was soon to come, we already had that years plans in place, and it was going to be a whole new experience.

One of David's daughters was married to a Rabbi and he was a pulpit Rabbi at a Synagogue in Palm Springs California. This daughter was due to have a baby, just before Passover. My cousins were going to Palm Springs to help her make Passover, and they had asked us to come. We were set to rent a house in a gated community with it's own pool. We were planning excursions to places I had never been, such as Universal Studios. It was supposed to be an exciting, new way to spend Passover together.

Sometime after the funeral and the shiva (seven days of mourning), my mother asked David's wife what she wanted to do? My Mother wanted to make it her decision. Her family was of course, still going to Palm Springs, because her daughter was still having a baby, but did she want us there with her? She absolutely did. She could not imagine celebrating passover without her Husband and on top of it, without us as well. So we all went - but it was the most bitter sweet Passover ever. My Father began crying at the start of the Seder, which then caused the tears to flow around the table.

On one hand, we were in a beautiful new environment. There were orange and grapefruit trees right out our window that we picked fresh citrus from. We had a private pool that we utilized. We went on amazing excursions - hiking, to see endless energy making windmills, all the way to LA and Universal Studios. And yet, David was not there, and we all felt the loss incredibly.

And we still do to this day.

There is a part of the Seder when we dip a vegetable into salt water. The salt water is symbolic of the tears that Jewish slaves shed. My family always only used boiled potatoes for this part of the Seder. But cousin David also used a stalk of parsley. Since his death, every Passover, we have included the stalk of parsley along with the potato for this part of the Seder in his memory. He is constantly on our minds - especially at Passover. He will always be missed.

Passover is about a lot of tradition - some is all about the joys of celebrating salvation, but some is about the bitterness of loss. My family feels this in more ways than one.

Now when we watch old movies of many relatives who are no longer with us, David is amongst them. And we smile as we watch, he had a way about him. He was an exceptional person.

3 have shown Orah a little love:

elisha said...

what a nice tribute to your cousin! your family sounds very special.

Anonymous said...

You are very lucky to be a part of such a wonderful family that has amazing traditions.
The way you describe how your mom broke the news to you about your cousin, David, I feel like I was in the room!! Very touching! He seemed like he was a very special person.
It's funny, my Bubby Gucia, O"H, had a home in Palm Springs, in a gated community w/ a pool, just as u described. Every summer, when I was little, we used to go for a few days and we just had an amazing time chilling there. I have some wonderful memories from there, and in the end, having those amazing memories of our experiences & loved ones means more than anything!!
- Miss. S said...

What a beautiful tribute to David. He sounds like an amazing individual.

It is so wonderful that your brother tranferred the video to DVDs. A tradition revived!