Mother Daughter Mashup

Mother and daughter respond to life, love, and growth.

The Marathon Forward

by Emilia Diamant

This is my city. I grew up a Masshole, I will always be one. My earlier posts here have shown just how much I missed Boston, and how grateful I am to be home. I’ve been at a loss the past few days–writing and rewriting, erasing over and over–trying to figure out what to write.

And now it seems like this particular part of the nightmare might be over.

But now comes our marathon of recovery. The mourners have grieving to do, the survivors have rehab to endure and those near the blast will address issues related to PTSD–sleeplessness, anxiety, and more. Our entire city, nay our entire country, will continue to watch with baited breath as details come out, as our justice system (hopefully) does its work, and we get some answers. We’ll examine how this happened, look at every photo, examine every Tweet, and probably come up with the same answers we had on Monday–things like this just don’t make sense.

I say we have a marathon ahead of us because, as runners or those in recovery know, the road is long. There are phases–the beginning is easy, the middle feels impossible, right before the end you almost give up, and then there’s a finish line. But as we learned Monday the finish line isn’t always a safe or good place, sometimes it brings you to a new set of complications and needs and goals. But a finish means something accomplished, something achieved.

Recovery is more than twelve steps. A marathon is more than 26 miles. These things take time, training and re-training, and endurance. We are now in this for the long haul, Boston. My city has been hurt and we are going to take years to recover.

But tonight, just maybe, we can all sleep a little easier knowing that we’ve started the marathon forward.


Primary Colors

by Emilia Diamant

My city is red and blue and yellow and grey now

The gold dome is gleaming like nothing happened, the sun beats down without thought for the dead and maimed

Insensitive sun. Insensitive dome.

And we glance at each other for a millisecond longer than usual

Unsure if we should smile or if a suspecting scan is appropriate

My city is crying with wails of sirens and mourners

They harmonize above the chirps of birds threatening spring showers

The conductors call out for more vigilance and care underground

And I hold my breath at each open and close of the doors

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

My city is empty

Peeking our heads out we walk the dog quickly

Make jokes when we can but really nothing feels funny yet

And our TV screens are exhausted, as we are, as are the brave ones

Who likely haven’t slept in days

My city will return

But not today.

Boston Common Memorial

Boston Common MemorialIMG_5067 IMG_5068 IMG_5070

Pop up Memorials

by Anita Diamant

I’ve been walking into walls the past few days, trying to make myself believe that Boston was a target of terrorism — is a target of terrorism. I had to watch that video 20 times for it to sink in: The plume of white smoke, the screams, the second explosion, the heroic rush to rescue.

Two days later, Commonwealth Avenue in Newton was swept clean of paper cups and orange peels. The trees are budding. The beauty of this spring feels like an affront to the dead, the wounded, the mourners, and all the rest of us who find ourselves walking into walls as we put one foot in front of the other.

On Wednesday night, I took my “little” girl to the Big Apple Circus. Emilia is 27-years-old and has two inches on me but this was our family tradition throughout her childhood and it was planned as a celebration of her move back to Boston after five years in the diaspora. I bought the tickets in February.

On her way downtown on the T, Emilia was reminded at every stop to be vigilant. Passing Massachusetts General Hospital, Jim and I thought about lost limbs and broken hearts.

We were reassured by the K-9 patrol and state troopers posted outside the big top. We were happy to be part of a big crowd of families and children, gasping and giggling at the performance, terror-free for a couple of hours. After the show, we passed a local camera crew interviewing a dad who said something about how we can’t stop living and that’s what we were doing at the circus.

Not that we’re going to forget. There will be vigils and prayer services and moments of silence; plaques and bronze statues in memorium; charities and foundations funded to help and heal. All good. But it’s all still raw.

Before the circus, we took a walk around Boston Common. I wanted to see the gazebo and one of the temporary, do-it-yourself, shrines that now dot our city. Made of candle wax, roses, notes and posters, they serve as temporary memorials to the dead. And though God’s name is invoked, along with quotes from sermons and scripture, these offerings are more civic than religious.

Pop-up memorials owe their meaning and their random beauty to the efforts of a community of neighbors — and strangers. They express the emotional connection and commitment that comes with being a citizen — of Boston, the USA, the human race. They affirm the consolation of solidarity. All are welcome.

We are much too familiar with these heart-breaking shrines. Oklahoma City, 9/11, Tucson, Sandy Hook; I hate seeing Boston added to the list. I hate the list.

But it can’t end with hate. I add a few words to the local colloquy about who we are, I sign up to give blood, and I promise not to surrender to the lie that we are helpless to stop this madness.


This piece was cross-posted on WBUR’s Cognoscenti. 

“I don’t teach.”

by Emilia Diamant

My mother is frequently invited to teach. Universities, synagogues, adult education programs, and the like are always reaching out to her, asking her to teach writing or literature or how to successfully reclaim ancient Jewish ritual. Y’know, small things.

When she’s asked she almost always says, “I’ll speak, but I don’t teach. I’m not a teacher.”

And in my mind, when I hear her say things like that I can only think of my classic line…

“Oh, Anita.”

Why do I internally roll my eyes when my mother says she’s not a teacher?

Because she is. Obviously.

She doesn’t prepare lesson plans or set objectives, no. She hasn’t studied different pedagogical techniques for engaging students. She isn’t “a teacher” in that way we all think, traditionally, of teachers.

She DOES impart her own experience and knowledge in a way that is exciting, interesting, and dynamic. My mother allows other people the room to disagree, to wrestle with ideas, and to engage with one another. She teaches in the way that we all hope to teach–she is an innovative thinker, a brilliant writer (duh), and a caring leader. These three things, for me, are what I strive for as I “teach” more traditionally.

If I can inspire one teen to try out a new idea, if I can move someone to push themselves out of their comfort zone, I feel like I’ve done my job as a teacher. Basically, I want to emulate my mother when I teach…because she teaches. It’s hard to convince her of that, though. Today at lunch she settled on “I’m not THAT kind of teacher.”

I’ll take it. But I still hope to be as charismatic and popular an educator as she is one day.

Passing the Torch

by Anita Diamant

It’s been years (and years) since Jim and I hosted a Passover seder. When Emilia was little, we co-created and co-hosted a few with other families who had young children, too. Those evenings included doing the rituals (dipping parsley, reading the story, singing songs) on the floor in the living room – pretending we were in a tent to engage the kids and enhance the traditional message that we were all going into exile along with our ancient ancestors.
That was a long time ago. For nearly two decades, we have been guests at other, wonderful tables, where we were treated as family. The Kushner, Mencow, Cohen and Kline-Slomsen seders were different in countless ways, from menus to melodies to how many pages were skipped and how many extra readings were added. Year after year, I was profoundly grateful to be included and embraced and, I have to admit, to be excused from the gargantuan job of cooking, cleaning, planning and running the show.
But this year, Emilia moved back to Boston and I was eager to break out the fancy dishes and make Pesach at home. This was always my hope and plan and, as it turns out, hers as well.
Emilia is the most literate Jew in the family. She has the most Hebrew, is a natural teacher/performer and led the eight people at our dining room table through a hagaddah of her own creation, which was funny, engaging, political and eloquent. We sang songs and the blessings after the meal. We laughed and learned together.
Our seder this year was memorable for many reasons; Nathan’s presence, Jim’s leg of lamb, my mother’s excellent matzoh balls, our guests Amy, Roberta and Sarah. But to me, the most unforgettable was Emilia’s mastery, comfort and pleasure in her role as guide and emcee. Dream come true.

Whistling in the Dark

by Emilia Diamant

When I read mom’s last post, the first paragraph struck me:

“As a young parent, I assumed my daughter would grow up to become a dog person the way I assumed she’d grow up to be a feminist, politically progressive and glad to be Jewish. As an older parent, I realize that I was whistling in the dark.”

What I paused on was that she wasn’t sure this would happen. I understand that, as a parent, you never truly have full control over how your kid(s) turn out. There are LOTS of factors at play. But, Mom’s checklist is pretty spot on:

Feminist (x)

Progressive (xxx)

Glad to be Jewish (x)

Dog person (xxxxxxxxxx) 

In my late 20s, I attribute these things (and a host of others) to being raised by my parents, in Boston, in a specific time period. My parents infused Judaism and politics into dinner table conversations, participated in communal activities on a regular basis, and always taught me that equity is important and worth fighting for.

It makes me giggle a little to think that I could be anything put a progressive feminist Jew who loves dogs (and baseball). But now that I work as an educator, I understand the parental wishes that may not be fulfilled. Kids become whoever they are going to be–of course they are shaped by their parents, peers, teachers, media–but so much is left up to chance. My parents shaped me in so many ways, but at the end of the day I’ve become who I am supposed to be. Well, for now at least.

I guess I hope the same things for my kids, when I have them someday. And I’ll have to remember what my mom wrote–it’s all whistling in the dark.

But one thing I know for sure. My children will NEVER be Yankee fans.


by Anita Diamant

As a young parent, I assumed my daughter would grow up to become a dog person the way I assumed she’d grow up to be a feminist, politically progressive and glad to be Jewish. As an older parent, I realize that I was whistling in the dark. Except for the dog thing; I think that was always a safe bet.

Emilia knows that living with a dog means you are going to be greeted at the door with an outpouring of unconditional love. Every. Single. Day.

Dogs satisfy the insatiable human need for affection and connection and touch. Dogs never walk away from petting, patting, scratching or stroking. Even when you’ve had enough, a dog will put his head in your lap and look up (eyes wet with adoration) for more. Living without a dog dooms you to severe tactile deprivation.

But I’m not sure that having a dog prepares you for parenthood. It drives me nuts when people look at my Schnauzer and say, “Aww, he’s your baby.” Or “Having a dog is like having a kid; too much responsibility.”

I think, “Are you stupid?”

But I say, “It’s not the same.”

Dogs are much easier. They are always in a good mood. They do not hold grudges. They eat what you feed them. They forgive and forget. Whereas your dog makes you feel important and worthy, your children teach you humility and awe.

Sons and daughters inspire tenderness and ferocity; they are the source of the greatest joys and the worst fears. Mom (or Dad) is only as happy as her happiest kid. The highs are the highest, the lows are Hell. (Capital “h” intended.)

I’ve heard many people say they won’t have dogs because it’s too hard when they die. And it’s true that getting a puppy means that you will have to bury him someday, and mourn. If you’re lucky, that is; if he doesn’t run away or get hit by a car, or if you don’t die first. I’m just saying…

I’m sure Emilia didn’t mean for me to get serious here, but maybe the greatest lesson you learn from growing up with a dog is that the fear of grief is a terrible reason to avoid loving someone — whether they come with a waggley tail or two legs and a human heart.

Canine Care

by Emilia Diamant

Bartholomew the Beagle.

Chaz the Cockapoo.

Pom the Poodle.

Buddy the Schnauzer.

Mabel the Mutt.

I was raised in homes with dogs. I barely remember ‘Thmew, but I know he was my mother’s first dog, and she loved him hard. Chaz didn’t last long–not housebroken, behavior issues, etc. Sadly he had to be returned from whence he came. Pom was my dog from Kindergarten through 12th grade. I remember the day we had to put him down–tears still come to my eyes when I think of it. Buddy, still kicking at the ripe old age of 11, came to us at barely a year old, and he and I bonded during the summer of 2003. I adopted Mabel from a no-kill rescue shelter in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and she is currently the love of my life.

Dogs are the best. They love, they kiss, they protect, they snuggle, they live to see you and be with you. My parents taught me, through dogs, that unconditional love in a furry bundle is important and necessary for the human spirit to thrive. Between leaving my parents house in ’03 and adopting Mabel six years later, there was a void. No other being depended on me for food, water, or exercise. I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong, but once Mabel came bounding into my life it was clear–I needed a dog.

I now understand why my mother was so attached to ‘Thmew. When you’re single, your dog is your partner. The one who’s always there, who won’t talk back, who just wants to give you kisses and show you how much they love you. Mabel never fails to make me smile as she snores, grunts, and whimpers every night, cuddled up in bed next to me.

Dogs teach kids responsibility, they say. It’s true, even if they aren’t the one doing all the walking or feeding. The acknowledgement that there are beings in the world that depend on us is a humbling idea. One day I imagine a baby might depend on me for food, water, shelter, love, general well-being. Having a dog, while admittedly quite a bit easier than a child, is a good reminder of what it will take. Patience, scheduling, consideration of others, accountability. I doubt that’s what my parents were going for–they’re dog people, thank goodness–but it’s a nice side benefit.

Mabel and Buddy in the car together. "Peacefully" coexisting.

Mabel and Buddy in the car together. “Peacefully” coexisting.

Welcome Home

by Anita Diamant

When friends ask what Emilia is up to, I say, “She’s moved back to Boston!” But I’ve learned to modify my delight in, having seen the wistful looks on the faces of mothers and fathers whose adult children live in California or Nicaragua or Thailand. “Aren’t you lucky,” they say.

Luck, in this matter, is measured by miles and methods of transportation. Someone could make a pretty penny running a weekend shuttle from greater Boston to Brooklyn. Washington D.C. doesn’t sound so far away, but it is a long drive and a very pricey flight. Being in the same time zone is a bit of consolation; it’s harder to schedule Skype to Seattle than Miami, but the cost of a visit is about the same and the distance is daunting.

I never took it for granted that Emilia was coming back. I remember when she told me that she couldn’t imagine living anywhere but Manhattan; that she might well call North Carolina home for the long term; and that she planned to live overseas. I took her at her word, smiled bravely, and mailed her the glossy Red Sox supplements from the Boston Globe, trying to support her local loyalties without sighing or whining or nagging.

It feels good to uncross my fingers.

A few weeks ago, I asked Emilia if she wanted to see the Bread & Puppet Circus and I’m not sure I would have gone if she hasn’t said yes. This was not something my husband/her father wanted to do and I wasn’t sure who else to ask. So it became a mother-daughter outing, sweet and funky (see photos). And easy. Same thing when she asked me to go see a documentary about high school poetry slams at More Than Words, a non-profit that benefits teens.

Having Emilia here changes the way I experience Boston. My city is bigger because she lives in Jamaica Plain (Boston’s version of Brooklyn, kinda), takes the T to get downtown, and hangs out with friends in Somerville. The occasional presence of her friends at our dining room table is a joy that has the odd effect of making me feel both younger/hipper and very much my own age.

It’s been a great start to the next chapter in our mother-daughter story. I’m eager to find out what’s next.

IMG_4060 IMG_4074Bread & Puppet Circus

Coming Home

by Emilia Diamant

I always intended to come back to Boston.

I graduated from high school 10 years ago and left to do my undergraduate degree in New York City. In my four years at NYU, I moved around a lot; Tthe longest I lived in one dorm room was six months my senior year. I  did a semester in Italy and finally landed in the East Village, which I still hold is the greatest neighborhood on earth. After a year in Costa Rica working at a boarding school, I very randomly moved to North Carolina; first Durham, then Cary, then Raleigh. I went to graduate school, had an amazing job, cultivated important friendships, but afater four years,  I knew it was time to come home.

I love it here. The culture is complicated and dynamic. We love sports, drinking, and fist-fighting. We also love the arts, fine dining, and politics. This is also an  incredibly segregated city, home to one of the most historic school busing struggles in the country. I find that I love being in paradox–my city taught me that it’s okay to be two things at once.

I grew up here. My parents raised me to be a rabble-rouser, a thinker, an activist, a foodie, a friend and a sports enthusiast (maybe a little less onthe sports thing.) And to be honest, the biggest reasons I returned to Boston are Anita and Jim —  my parents.  Ten years ago, when I left, I was ready to go. Not only was I was anxious to get out of the suburbs and into the city, but I had been…let’s say…difficult for several years there. I had not made my parents’ lives easy, and I had as sense that things would get better if I left.

I was right.Moving away allowed me to finally realize that (a) my parents are awesome, (b) I had been a jerk to them for many years and (c) I still had time to build strong relationships with both of them.

But as I entered my “late” 20s and think about the next phase of my life–and theirs–I knew that I wanted to be close to them. I wanted my independence but I also wanted to be able to spend a Shabbat dinner with them or attend the various amazing events they plan throughout the year.*

As I  explore Boston as an adult, I’ve added one more paradox , being both a child and  an adult (mostly.) I see my parents often, but not so much that anyone feels stifled (I hope.) We share  celebrations, though  not every one. We have the option of having lunch together, but we don’t always take it. It’s a luxury to be casual about seeing one another now, not a rushed five day trip where we feel the need to spend everysinglemomenttogether.

My city, my parents, my life; they teach me that it is ok, even enriching, to be two things at once.

This adventure has just begun.

*My mother is the Founding President of Mayyim Hayyim Community Mikveh and Education Center in Newton, and my father is the co-founder of the Boston Jewish Music Festival. Yeah, I know, they rock.