2/27/1927, 93 years ago, my Dad and his sisters were born. Their day of birth is being celebrated together, as it has most every year since they came into the world, surprising their parents and older sister Adelaide.
Among the things I remember hearing: My grandfather fainted when he found out. My grandmother didn’t get out of a shmata for two years. Addie was charged with tending to my Dad while Grandma cared for his identical sisters. These are among the hundreds of stories I have been told over the years. I realize family lore and truth may not gibe, that depending on which relative I spoke to I got slightly different versions, and that other details (the gorgeous 1920’s era hat in this photo) are lost forever.
What I know as fact is that they all lived in Queens (the Rockaways); the Bronx (Sedgewick Avenue) and Manhattan (101st and Broadway) until they met their mates and eventually left the city. I know for a fact that longevity runs in the family: Grandma lived to be 95, Addie 89; several of my aunts and uncles celebrated their 70th anniversaries; my parents were together more than 60 years at the time of my mother’s death.
These are love stories in multiple forms: husbands and wives, parents and children, siblings who remained close even when they eventually ended up in different parts of the country. When I hear friends and acquaintances discuss the dysfunction and estrangement within their own families of origin I feel lucky. I’m close to my brother, sister and dad, and see extended family at gatherings happy and sad: seders, Chanukah, bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings and funerals. I’ve spent many hours in small hospital rooms and at large family reunions. Nearly a hundred of us gathered when the triplets turned 90.
I feel less secure about my own family. My kids love each other yet have such unknowns in their future. I know we all have uncertainty and obstacles we can’t foresee. People get uprooted for all sorts of reasons: they lose jobs or change careers or go back to school; we move for work or climate or love. The healthy get sick, the sick can recover. Couples marry, they separate or one partner dies.
V may end up in a group home in a completely different part of the country than B and how often will they see each other? Will they celebrate birthdays together? What will happen after we are gone? These are questions I cannot answer, and I know that worry will not help create the circumstances I’d prefer. Often the outcomes we’re attached to aren’t possible or even what’s best in the long run. In that way my story is no different from anyone else’s. The future is unwritten
Change is the only constant. And yet. It is possible to remain close whatever the distance, to be bound to others in an immutable way that feels miraculous in a time when the headlines change by the minute rather than the day. I am heartened by the fact that 279 birthdays are being celebrated by three remarkable people, that those adorable babies on their beautiful mother’s lap are united as they start another lap around the sun. It’s enough to give anyone hope.