Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Letter to My Daughter

Dearest Sivan,

May your intellect and humor propel the human race forward. May your kindness inspire nations to beat swords into plowshares. May your beauty dazzle brighter than all the stars in the sky.

But, most of all, may you be a colossal pain in the ass.

The women who came before you – who dug, pounded and paved the path to your existence – these women were giants. They didn’t do what they were told. They didn’t make the easy decisions. They didn’t shut up when shutting up would probably been a pretty good idea. You wouldn’t be here if they had.

Your great grandma Sara was an intellectual, a philosopher and an ideologue. She left a wealthy, comfortable pre-war life in Holland to become a farmer in Israel. Her parents were unimpressed. Zionism was fine and dandy, but after allowing their daughter to irrigate a hostile desert for a few years, Sara’s parents traveled to Israel to bring her home. She wouldn’t budge. They returned to Holland and were killed by the Nazis. Sara stayed put and built a nation.

On my mother’s side, your great grandma Pola, slipped from the grip of the Nazis by leaving behind everything and everybody she loved to escape with her mother and father. By the time the war was over, they had made it from Poland to the very border of China. The people in Pola’s life who didn’t run, who didn’t risk it all, those people are lost to history. Meanwhile, Pola didn’t just live, but thrived: her first daughter was born on the run. Her second, my mother, your Savta, was born in a refugee camp after the war.

That feisty redheaded refugee baby was raised in Israel, where she threw rocks at the prison housing Eichmann and caused all kinds of mischief. The tiny country of Israel wasn’t big enough to contain her, so she moved here, to America. That’s where Sigalit met a dashing actor named Ailon. Not much of a shul-goer and pretty much penniless, Ailon was not the groom of my grandparents’ dreams. But who listens to their parents?

I sure didn’t.

See, when I was in college – and way too young to even think about getting married – I kinda met this guy… My whole life, your Savta told me to marry a rich, Jewish boy with a strong earning potential. Your father was none of these. But he and I walked down the aisle, anyway (to the “Star Wars” theme, no less).

Had I or any one of these women listened – listened to reason, listened to the pervasive wisdom of the time, listened to their mothers – you would not be here, and, wow, am I glad you’re here!

I can’t imagine what the world holds in store for you. Or what you hold in store for the world. I just trust that whatever path I try to put you on, you likely won’t follow. You’ll stomp on the flowerbeds I arrange on the side of your road, you’ll race headlong into that forest I’ll have always warned you about.

And you’ll be fine.

Because as you trample along seemingly rarely trodden slopes, I know that you’ll actually be stepping in your mother’s and mother’s mother’s and mother’s mother’s mother’s defiant footsteps.

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