(Yvonne Mayer Goldenberg, 8 June, 1917- 7 June, 2009)
Eat only foods rich in butter and cream. Avoid any food that requires chewing, especially vegetables. (My mother was frightened by a vegetable as a child and never came near one again.)
Relax. Do not rush. Shun punctuality.
A lady who possesses the skill of changing a flat tyre should conceal such knowledge. ‘Why deprive some gentleman of the opportunity to behave chivalrously?’
(Mum believed in chivalry. As a child when instructed by her teacher to use the word ‘frugal’ in a sentence, Mum understood ‘frugal’ to mean one who saves. She wrote: ‘A lady was walking by the sea. A strong wind lifted her up and flung her into the waves. She could not swim. She saw a man on a white horse: “Frugal me! Frugal me!”, she cried. So the man leapt into the waves and frugalled her. And they lived happily ever after.’)
Rejoice in your kin; they are life’s benison to you. You will not have them forever. (Mum’s parents died in her childhood. Left with her younger sister in the care of her beloved grandmother, Mum cherished all her descendants with promiscuous undiscrimination.)
Smile. Nothing is so serious that it should furrow your brow – unless it hurt your little ones.
Talk to strangers, visit their countries. Walk the earth without fear. People are good.
Forgive your children their naughtiness. Indulge your adolescent children in their self-absorbtion. They owe you nothing; they give you all.
What you cannot cure you must endure – with a smile. (Mum’s hip was shattered in her twenties. For forty years she walked in pain, with a marked limp. She did not think to complain. Pain did not interest her. Likewise the disabling strokes she suffered in her last decades. ‘A stroke is boring’, she said.)
Decorate your life. Eat every day from your best china; use the good cutlery. (Which day will be better than today? Who better than the family to enjoy these things?)
Raise your boys to help. (‘Why should I be your kitchen slave? There is no pride in being a parasite.’)
Sex is good, sexual pleasure very good. Never boast of your conquests. Use a condom. (These last two dicta were delivered to her sons before the age of nine.)
Feminism is a mistaken impulse. (It arises from the absurd notion held by some that a woman could possibly be inferior to a man in any particular.)
Never open someone else’s mail.
Read. Meet new words. Look up every one in the dictionary. Read everything – the classics, the junk mail, the cornflakes packet.
Don’t fear death. Speak of it freely. (‘Death is a part of life, darling.’)
Do not fear harm. Fate is kind. Clothe your young in love but do not over-wrap them. Harm probably won’t befall them. Entrust them to the care of the universe.
Do not fear at all.
(Myer Goldenberg, 5 December, 1909 – 10 September, 2003)
Fear everything. (Dad witnessed his friend die of electrocution when the stays of his yacht struck power lines. He operated on trauma patients without number. These events made him warn his children of the injuries that result from inattention or lack of care. One warning would never suffice. No number of warnings could suffice.)
Do everything. But take care. Sail, drive, use power tools. Never wave a knife around. Safety first. Safety last.
Fear nothing and no-one. No task is beyond you, no skill too hard to master, no knowledge beyond your reach, no person to be feared.
Eat vegetables. Overboil them first.
Be firm with children. Demand they meet your own high standards. Don’t coddle them in their minor ills. But if real harm come near, cross the country to protect or repair them.
Don’t let your children off lightly. But protect them ferociously from attack by an outsider.
Cherish your kin. Honour your parents. Honour your ancestry.
Honour your work.
Work hard. Keep going. Do not weaken.
Do not run marathons.
Be worthy. (Dad idolised his parents, particularly his father. Through his long life Dad wished always ‘to be worthy’. He meant worthy of his own father. Even in his eighties Dad fretted he was not worthy. I ached when I heard him speak so.)
Forgive. Never hold a grudge. Speak your anger then reconcile.
Never forget or forgive one who hurts your young.
Keep your words clean. Do not say ‘bum’, never say ‘bloody’. Forget ‘dick’. When you belt your thumb with a hammer, allow yourself ‘YOU BITCH!’
Exercise. Where you could drive, choose to walk. Walk fast. Your children can run to keep pace.
People are good. Life is good, health a blessing. Protect it with injections.
Do not fret about germs. They build resistance.
Breast feed. (‘They’re not just there to fill jumpers’).
Cuddle your children. Kiss them – the boys too. And not just in private.
Pass on your faith. Drill your young in ancient ritual and practice.
Tell the children Bible stories. Read those stories with passion and conviction. Pass on your heritage with love and pride.
Be proud. You are as good as anyone else. And no better.
Be authentic. Do not fear being different. Respect yourself and others will respect you.
Love your children. Succour them in your old age as you did lifelong when the need was real.
Show tenderness. A man can be soft and still be strong.
Tell the truth. Demand the truth. Nothing is more sacred than your word. Nothing nourishes better than trust.
Don’t arrive on time. Arrive early.
Never open someone else’s mail.
Work hard. Save for a rainy day. (Dad worked very hard. He practised medicine to the age for ninety-two and a half. To the end of his life he saved for a rainy day, never feeling the heavy rain upon him, never knowing the time had come to take shelter.)
Sing. Sing loudly. Sing with your children. Sing table hymns with your children on Shabbat; sing loudly in synagogue; sing sea shanties, sing nonsense songs. Opera is grand but Gilbert and Sullivan are brighter, more fun.
The compass needle on your boat flickers; at the poles the compass fails. Know your own True North. Follow it.
Embrace the sea. Sail, fish, and sing. Travel by boat at night, navigating by stars, chart and compass. Do not fear the sea. Never take it for granted.
Be vigilant. Experience the rapture of your mastery of an alien element.
Do not fear. Relax. Never relax your vigilance.
See the beauty, smell the ozone, relish this given world.
Thrill to the cresting wave, the heeling sailboat.
Surrender to the windless calm. Experience tranquillity.
Feel the caress of the sun, the bracing breeze. Both are good.
Give thanks. Be thankful.
Love your kin. Nourish them, work for them protect them, nurture them. Demand resilience.
Be brave. Be true.
When all is said remember the love.