A Gift from a Dead Lady

Ruby came into my life three years after my mother died. Mum would have loved this newest baby, not just because of her unruly, abundant hair; not only for her full moon abundance; nor for her kookaburra laugh alone; but because Ruby is of a rare species, a female.

Most of Mum’s kids were boys. And she loved us even though we were boys.

My brother Dennis was Mum’s firstborn, a peach-faced baby with golden hair. Adored, but a boy.

I was next, a truly lovely child, I often said as much. And Mum agreed. But still, a boy.

On Friday evening May 13, 1949, Mum came into labour a third time. The rains came, the river broke its banks and in the next town of Narranderra, Mum’s doctor was stuck in his shrinking island in this Riverina sea.

Mum laboured on. The Sabbath came. Dad lit the Shabbat candles and went to the hospital where he delivered Mum’s third baby.

The next morning Dad read in the paper that a resident of our small town had won the lottery.

Full of the news, he hurried to Mum in hospital: ”Yvonne, a Leeton man has won the Sydney Opera House Lottery.”

“That’s nothing. I’ve got a girl!”

Last December our thirdborn gave birth in a hospital in Bristol. My wife was present but I was not. Thirty-six years previously I had delivered that thirdborn, a girl. Now she had borne a girl, Ruby. One of Ruby’s Hebrew names memorializes my Mum.

I met Ruby about six weeks ago and spent three weeks loving and learning her. Since I parted from her, Ruby has learned to laugh and to suck her thumb. She is the smartest kid of the present century. Mum would have loved her.

(If you look at this little movie you’ll fall in love too.)

My Mum would have burst with love for Ruby.

But Mum died. She left little pieces of beauty, bits of jewellery she gathered here and there during a long and travelling life. These lovely things have found their way to her female descendants as keepsakes.

One item, a small brooch of enamel and pearls, wanted a claimant. I saw Ruby, I came home and found the brooch. Then I remembered Mum and how she was about little girls.

If, one day, a score of years from now, you happen to bump into a plum-cheeked young lady with disobedient hair and this brooch (see link) in her lapel, you’ll know: this is Ruby; her great-grandmother would have loved her.

Copyright Howard Goldenberg, 28 April, 2013.

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Time Keeper

My mother, Yvonne, was famously late for everything.
One day, her sister, Doreen, visited Mum; it was the day before Mum was to undergo surgery. In old age, the two sisters always got together on the eve of any hospitalization of either one of them, in case the patient ‘pegged out’, as they put it.

Doreen was examining the contents of Mum’s jewellery box; Mum was indicating which piece would go to whom if she were to peg out.
Doreen held up pretty pendant watch on a gold chain. She said, “Yvonne, this is lovely. You should wear this watch more often.”
Dad, hearing this and all too aware of Mum’s tardiness, laughed:” Yvonne doesn’t know how to tell the time.”

“Yes, I do”, said Mum, “I just don’t approve of it.”