Sunday, 4 September 2011

Are You My Mother? Are You My Cousin?

“Are you my mother?” – Mom loved Dr. Seuss and always read his books to us.  One of her favourites was “Are You My Mother”, and she would randomly ask me this question, then giggle as her face brightened into a full on smile.  Funny, the things you take for granted…that just become a part of who you are.  I ask my own girls that same question these days, and they glance at one another with a look of concern on their beautiful faces that asks – “do you think she’s losing it?”.  No worries my girls, your day will come soon enough, and you, too, will remember these moments and feel my embrace through the memories.   

This entry should be entitled “Are you my cousin?” – allow me to explain…

I started writing this as a way to connect to Mom.  I find it so cathartic and comforting.  But it quickly took on a life of its own, first the recipes, and then the stories.  I wanted to know who she was before she was my mother in order to understand the person she was once I came into her life. 

And so, my journey has branched out, and I find myself following a variety of paths that have emerged, trying to take all forks in the road simultaneously.  I’ve decided to diarize my complete adventure in this one blog, as all roads lead back to my mother.  So, while it may appear that my entries are, at times, disjointed, they are being shared with you as they happen to me, in real time, as part of my every day life.

I recently gained access to an online photo archive prepared by my cousin Jack’s wife, and started searching out photos of my Bubbie Lou’s family, the Pearlmans, to post on my blog.  Although I had heard the name Chaliff mentioned before, it never piqued my curiosity…until I found a photo of Isaac Chaliff in this archive…and something clicked.  I realized that he was my Bubbie Lou’s grandfather - I know, it sounds silly, of course he was her grandfather!  But he had never been mentioned before.  It was as though the rich family history and many stories never went back further than Bubbie Gertie and Zaida Sam.  And I had never thought of my Bubbie as a child, teenager or young woman.  Now I wanted to discover her too!

I posted some photos on my blog, and set out to find my roots…I joined a Jewish Genealogy website, and entered the limited information I had at my disposal.  As I mentioned in an earlier entry, my friend Aviva also has the Chaliff name in her family tree, so I needed to see if we were related.  So far, it doesn’t look like there is a family connection. 

So, imagine my surprise when I was contacted right away!  A lady named Phyllis G. from Indianapolis wrote to me in search of a long-lost branch of her family tree – the family of Isaac Chaliff of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.  She and her cousin, also Phyllis (but T. this time, hailing from Cincinnati) had been  searching for their grandfather’s brother, Isaac, the only sibling of 4 to emigrate from Russia to Canada instead of America.  They knew his name, and the names of his wife and children, or most of them, but then the trail went dead.

I proved to be the missing link!  Consider all the forces that had to come together to bring us to this point…I start writing a blog, reconnect with a cousin in my search for family photos, stumble upon a photo of my great, great-grandfather and decide to find out where he came from and if I am related to a friend.  Within days, I discover a huge family that had been lost to us for 3 generations!  There is a word in Yiddish “b’shert”, it means fated or destined.  I’ll leave it up to you to decide if this was b’shert or not.  But, as I told Carlo yesterday, I believe that the Chaliff siblings – David, Pinchas, Isaac and Devorah are all up there, looking down at us and smiling at the fact that we have reunited over a century later!

So, I have been corresponding with Phyllis G. for a few weeks, and now I have had the pleasure of corresponding with Phyllis T. too.  I am eagerly seeking information about my family so that Phyllis T. can fill in the blanks in the vast Family Tree she has built, which sounds incredible.  I have to find and download the Family Tree software so I can really sit down and discover my family!  Incredibly exciting days ahead!

But, what with cooking? 

I know I was planning on making Mom’s pickles this weekend, but I think it is going to have to wait a few more weeks …we have lots of last minute back-to-school stuff to do, piano is starting up again – Becca passed her Grade 5 RCM practical piano exams – YAY!!,  Sara is starting high school – oy!, and Yom Tov is around the corner.  I need to start baking honey cakes, making chicken soup, and anything else that will freeze ahead of time. 

I came across a FB post, from Savvy Mom, on how to make cookie doughs, portion them as though you were going to bake them, but freeze them instead!  This was something Mom loved to do, I remember she had a muffin recipe (which I have not been able to locate L) that she would make in bulk, and freeze so she could just scoop out some muffin mix whenever she wanted to whip up a batch for us.  So, in the spirit of Carol Joy, that will be my project this weekend, to choose a selection of the kids’ favourite cookie recipes and prepare them for freezing – but don’t worry,  I’ll make sure to bake a few for them too!

Wishing you all a wonderful Labour Day long weekend, and a successful start back to school on Tuesday.  B’Tayavon and Buon Appetito!