On the surface, Mothers Day is one of those feel-good holidays that spans ethnicities, socioeconomic groups, age groups and political associations. Most people want to acknowledge their mothers if they are here, remember their moms if they are gone, and offer thanks to other moms they know.

But Mothers Day has a painful side for many people. There is the typical bittersweet feelings we have if our moms have died. I miss my mother today: I miss how we would go to museums and talk about the artworks we saw, how we would go to ballet performances and discuss them, how we would talk about important things as well as mundane things. We would talk shop as well, because my mother, Leah (Jainchill) Levitt had worked for many years as a teacher, and then I taught as well. Our relationship was not perfect, but we enjoyed each others company greatly, we loved each other, we learned from each other, we could make each other laugh. And some of my favorite memories are of baking hamantaschen for Purim with my mom, and her helping me prepare and run fundraising activities at our Hebrew school and shul. My older daughter's middle name commemorates my mom.

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I also miss my mother's older sister, my aunt Miriam, who got to meet and play with my daughters, who also went with me to ballet performances and museums, who liked going out to eat with us, and with whom I enjoyed hanging out with when I was a child and an adult. In a way I felt like a daughter to her, because she had two sons (my cousins) and a nephew (my brother) and I was her only niece. She even told me this, which I treasured.

And while I have only the briefest memory of my maternal grandmother Beatrice, I remember well my paternal grandmother Jennie. She was a really good cook, could be humorous as well as garrulous, and made an impression on practically everyone she met. Whenever I bake a lukshen (noodle) kugel, I think of Grandma. On Pesach I think of her seder meals from when I was very little.

But I know some people have a lot of angst around Mothers Days as well, if they had difficult relationships with their mothers and other women in their families. Some women who do not have their own children chafe at the sentimentality of Mothers Day.

And then there is the mother of Etan Patz. In 1979 little Etan, a Jewish kid from Manhattan, went missing and was never found. His bottomlessly sad story was recently in the news in New York City, and elsewhere, because a man was on trial for his murder. I cannot help but feel such pity for this woman, whose son was gone at the tender age of six, his body never found, his true whereabouts ultimately unknown. If your child dies in an accident or of illness, it is so very sad but you still have closure. If you and your child have terrible fights and disagreements, you can still be aware of your child's whereabouts. But Julie Patz has had to deal with 36 years of sorrow because of what has happened to her son, and she has had to endure her awful pain in public. I think on Mothers Day we have to acknowledge that for some women, Mothers Day is a very tough situation.





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