NDJ:4 Betty Kershner, PhD


My parents knew each other before they were born. Their DNA came from the same tide pool and their histories were entwined. They were Lannsmen. Their families were part of a small community of Jews in Eastern Europe that uprooted and moved together in times of trouble, which were many. A failure of the harvest, a pogrom; such might be the cause that cast them out and sent them elsewhere. Their village dissembled, journeyed, regrouped, dissolved and moved again; back and forth across the boundaries of what are now different countries. I am not certain what country name to give for their place of origin.

My father came as a child to Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the early 1900s, having already lost two brothers to tuberculosis. Members of the community, not just relatives, brought each other over. They shared apartments, found each other jobs and helped each other in any way they could. My father wheeled my mother in her baby carriage: a fond memory that he shared often, with delight and gratitude.  Seven years older than my mother, my father was already a figure of some eminence in their circle when my mother was merely a teen. She regarded him with admiration and awe. He thought she was a knockout. By the time my mother was pushing twenty, she was orphaned and alone. My father’s mother took her in. After all, they had known her all her life. The relationship between my parents developed.

However, their interaction was not easy. They fought bitterly. My sense was that the love between them, especially from my mother, would shatter, dissolve abruptly, catastrophically, swept aside by hurricane and fire. And then it would regroup. They went through it together. They would reunite with a joke, a laugh, a kiss, a hug, a linking of one arm through the other, her sitting on his lap. By the end, they reached a safe shore of contentment and amusement.

How has this affected me? Many currents swirl the ocean. When things break, fall apart, are rent asunder, I expect them to continue nonetheless. Where others walk away, I giggle, nod in recognition, shrug at the tornado and reach a hand out to the other. Dissolve they may but I expect them to regroup, come together and transform. And I stay.

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