It is hard to believe that 18 years have slipped by since my mother, Roslyn Shor, of blessed memory, passed away. I see her in my memories, strong and vibrant and full of life, before cancer took her from us just two days after her 65th birthday.
My mother was a unique figure, blessed with an incredible understanding of human nature and a big heart that drew everyone into her orbit. She filled up a room like no one else I have ever seen. She loved people, and they loved her right back.
The number 18, of course, is the numerical value of chai — life — and my mother loved life and making all the people in her life happy.
Because my mother was a native Washingtonian, and this column is about stories, I think the best way to pay tribute to my mother would be to tell some of the stories and incidents that offer insight into who she was.
My mother was the one who organized our family’s social calendar, and she made sure everyone was included; the thought of someone being left out was truly horrifying to her. She proved it every Passover by making two seders for over 30 people; she did this every year for close to 40 years! I would run the liturgical side of things and my mother, watchful of all the food and wanting it served at the right time, would catch my eye and mouth the words, “Hurry up!”
My mom never called anyone by their given name; she had crazy, endearing nicknames for people that they were actually proud to have, and even if you didn’t have a nickname, you were “beauty,” or “honey.” When I brought my future wife Shari to her first dinner with my family, my mother immediately drew her in. “Sit right here next to me, honey,” she told her. (To my sister, the current occupant of the chair: “Get up!”)
When I told my mom that I wanted to marry Shari, my mother’s face grew serious. “Are you sure?” she asked me. I was a little taken aback. “Yes, absolutely!” I replied.
“Good!” she said. “I wanted to hear it from you because, remember, when you put that ring on her, she becomes my child as well.” She was as good as her word. She even gave Shari a nickname: My real name is Lawrence, so Shari became Sharence. When we would laugh at something, my mother would smile and say, “A match made in heaven. Look at the two glumps [fools in Yiddish].”
With my mom, what you saw was what you got. She despised phony sentimentality. She could tell right away when someone wasn’t giving 100 percent to help someone else. Once, she came back mad from a funeral.
“Ma,” I said, “What’s wrong?”
“Every time they bury a Jewish woman, all they know is ‘Eishes Chayil.’ That’s it.” Now she was on a roll. “As a matter of fact, when I die, they can say anything they want about me. But don’t you dare let them say ‘Eishes Chayil’!”
“Ma, what are talking about? You’re not going anywhere for a long time,” I said.
Well, as they say in Yiddish, der mensch tracht, un G-tt lacht, (man thinks and G-d laughs). My mom passed away, and when we met with the rabbi I made sure her wish was fulfilled. The rabbi didn’t quite understand, but I knew what I had to do.
One final story for this tribute: When I was 16, I was taking drivers education, and of course you need to gain road experience. One day, Mom announces, “We’re going to Bubby’s. You can drive.” My mom was an awful passenger; I don’t think my dad drove her three times the entire time they were married.
“Really, Ma? You sure?” I asked.
Mom said yes. We got into our nice big Cadillac, and drove the length of three houses before Mom had had enough. “Get out of the car!” she said, “I’ll drive!” And she did.
My mom always said that if you do the right thing, you can put your head on the pillow at night and always be content. She was right. When I put my head on the pillow, I think about the kind and wonderful person my mother was, and I will always be grateful that Roslyn Shor, Russi bas Mayer, was my mother. May her memory always be for a blessing.
NEXT TIME: Fun Times at BBYO
By Larry Shor