This year was a busy one for travelling, because 3 grandchildren were born overseas (and 3 here...mazel tov, much nachas ptu ptu ptu), and travelling means jet lag, and jet lag means having time to scroll through my phone in the wee small hours looking at interesting shopping sites that pop up on my FaceBook feed. Especially when I am by myself, because of course presence of He Who Must Be Obeyed cramps my phone shopping style. A Lot.
So it's time to look back now and see how much was actually a supreme waste of money, and how much actually stacked up to be worthwhile.
It looked like such a good idea. OK of course it's a Chinese site so quality control is but a dream, but all I wanted were some summer dresses that I could just fling on, that covered arms, legs, not too low in the neck, and yet I would be cool and comfy. Yes, I know the models in the pictures are tiny petite Asian women, but they offered a good size range. Banggood.com was one site, I can't even remember the other. I measured myself and worked with their size chart. I bought 3 dresses for less than $100. I then bought another dress on the other site for about $30.
The first parcel arrived. The white dress made me look like an unlikely virgin sacrifice. The red dress, which looks like a brick red on the site but is actually vermilion red in the real world, will come in handy for Purim. The brown dress actually looked and felt great. And then I washed it- according to instructions!- and it shrank. Actually, the word 'shrink' doesn't really cover what happened. It contracted. Like 3 sizes, in all directions. Unwearable. My diligent housekeeper ironed and stretched it and it's better but too short now. So FAIL.
The second parcel came. The blue dress fit and looks ok - blue is my colour- and I wore it once, it got some food grease on it, and I had it dry cleaned. Of course, it is cheaper to buy another few dresses and throw them out, rather than dry clean them. So partial success, not as far as 'easy care' goes.
Inexplicably, there was another brown dress in this parcel, which I did not order - at least I don't think I did, but I probably did, it's all a mad whirl -which SAID it was larger than the other one, but was in fact far smaller, and didn't even make it round my shoulders, forget my tummy. So it's in the op shop bag. FAIL.
Contrast this sad experience with the US sites I purchased from:
Bloomingdales- Eileen Fisher skirt and top, crazy Columbus Day sale, WIN
Eddie Bauer - leggings, T Shirts, travel skirt, also crazy sale, WIN, had to return some leggings, no problem, my card credited.
Jockey undies- eh, so-so, I liked some that I had bought in store, so I ordered more, and turns out I don't like them as much as I thought. I am always searching for the perfect undies. Aren't we all.
Vanity Fair- same idea, bought in store and liked, and went online to buy more. These are supremely comfy but I would have liked a little more holding power. I don't want Spanx, but there must be something between these and Spanx. Partial win. (They really are comfy.)
While scrolling the Bloomy sales at 1 am, also ever-searching for gifts for my girls and grandies, I found assorted Kate Spade bangles, some lovely little single pearl necklaces and other bits and pieces which were well received, so big WIN there.
And I also found wearable tech, in the shape of a Q-bracelet, that you can charge your iPhone with. Big sale, like 60% off, so I bought a gold bangle; range was gold, matte black, and matte silver. 'We suggest that Small fits most women and Medium fits most men', so stupid me, I bought a Small, forgetting that I am not Most Women, although my wrists are hardly large. So I gave it to my slim-wristed daughter-in-law, she likes it, it looks great, it really can charge your iPhone enough to get you out of trouble, so WIN. And I went back and ordered 4 more, because I am mental, and because free shipping to Australia (I was home by then), through Borderfree, which is amazing. So I have 2 now, gold and black (Medium) , and 2 more waiting for a recipient. Semi Win.
Stuff for Kids:
I've bought lots of stuff online for kids in the past, but that was from reputable sites, so not really risky. But this year, I saw these mermaid tail blankets and I bought 3 which I will be giving to 3 granddaughters for Chanukah, so let's wait and see how that goes. They seem to look OK, of course some obscure Chinese site, so better be good. Win? not sure yet.
I'll just mention Peter Alexander, whose PJs I have been buying for grandchildren for years, but only on sale because overpriced. Such cute stuff.
Well, what a mixed bag.
The first thing that sucked me in was the Pyramid Pan. At first I looked away, but after a while it called me back, and again, and then I thought, screw it. And I bought 4. The parcel arrived and out flopped one silicone Pyramid Pan. Odd, thought I; maybe they are sending the rest separately. The invoice suggested that there were 4, and the rest was in Chinese, so, I waited. And waited. And then it occurred to me that there was an email somewhere confirming the order, so I found it and told them about only one, where are the others etc, and they said: Have you checked that they aren't all stuck together? And I did, and they were! So the good news is that all 4 came, but the bad news was that they were a LOT thinner than I thought they would be. BUT. They REALLY WORK. Reheat pizza, fried fish, schnitzel for a really crispy finish! So unexpected WIN.
Feeling confident, I ordered the Stretch and Fresh, 4 sets - I don't know why I do that- and they came, no problem. And they are, in the main, despite glowing testimonials, unusable. It's as if what I have received bears no relation to what was offered. You need 4 hands to do it, they don't stay on, and when I tried using one in the microwave, for which they are supposedly safe, it tore. However, serendipitously, I have found that they are great for opening jars; they give you great grip. Still, I would call that a FAIL. All complaints have gone unacknowledged. So I gave them a really crap review. Don't mess with me.
BIG SHERIDAN SALE online and I ordered sheets and towels. The ones I bought 25 years ago (!) are wearing out, so this might be the last I ever buy. But does my party pooper husband appreciate that? No he doesn't. Complain complain. They're coming tomorrow, I'm so excited, they had better look as good as they did on the website.
Thus winds up the Year of Shopping Dangerously; some wins, some losses, just like life.
I've got a bunch of these Stretch and Fresh things to give away, they're really great.
Monday, 28 November 2016
I see a lot of mothers and babies in my line of work. All sorts of issues, all sorts of levels of distress. From time to time I see the rare creature known as The Father. These range from anxious first timers to calm and supportive types. And I do see my share of - how shall I put it - less than supportive types too. Unreconstructed jerks. Fortunately not that many real full on dicks, but a few.
For the few Fathers that may be reading this, I just want to point something out to you:
Your wife has just turned her body inside out and produced the child that she gestated in varying degrees of discomfort for the last 9 months or so. She has pushed a large being out with tremendous effort and some risk to her life, through an amazingly narrow path, or had her body cut into, and hey presto. A baby. Your baby. The baby that you put into her in an event that was pleasurable to you, and now you reap the dividend.
So CUT HER SOME EFFING SLACK.
I cannot tell you the number of times that I've witnessed petulant little boys, sorry, fathers, get cross because their exhausted newly delivered wife can't remember something that she was about to ask or can't quite find the right way to say something like please pick up some groceries, or, can you come home early, I feel crap, or needs to be asked to, I don't know, make dinner or empty the garbage or say thank you.
I'm not calling all men jerks because that's unfair and untrue. But many need to have some damned respect. When your wife can't even think what she needs because she is so exhausted and mental from hormones and fatigue, not to mention pain from a sore bum or nipples, BE KIND. That's all. Be kind.
No, that's not all. This woman has done something which is the closest to Godlike that any human can do. She has created a person. And she has all but torn apart her body to do it. Yes, generally she wants that baby, it wasn't forced upon her. But it's still bloody hard work, even if it all goes smoothly. And it isn't over after the birth, because it's only the beginning.
You should be prostrating yourself at her feet, not getting annoyed because you're out of milk because she forgot to tell you to buy it. Or maybe she ate the last cookie or something. Or she put a milchig spoon in the fleishig sink. Or she forgot to pay a bill or some shit. Or, heaven forfend, she spoke sharply to you. Whatever. I've seen scenarios like these played out and I just want to slap people. Fathers, some grandmothers, mothers in law.
'Primitive' and traditional societies usually let mothers rest and recover with the help of a carer for 40 days or so after birth. Here, in our modern Western world, you have to back into your bakakteh skinny jeans by 3 weeks or you're just not trying. Back shopping in the supermarket with your baby in one of those delightfully clean plastic capsules on top of the trolley. Back at work by some ridiculous time. Motherhood is so disrespected and so undervalued, and we wonder why there is so much post natal depression - 12% and rising- and so much anxiety.
You can't fix the world, you can't heal today's twisted values, but you can BE KIND TO YOUR WIFE. I know you're tired too BUT. Do I have to say it again? You didn't gestate that fetus and you didn't give birth to it and your hormones are not like a bloody roller coaster. So GET OVER YOURSELF and worship your goddess wife. And remember to buy the milk without being told.
Rant concluded. For now.
PS I'm now going to appeal to your self-interest, fathers, because that usually works. Spousal support is the single most important variable for breastfeeding success. Supportive and kind men's wives have better psychological outcomes. Happy wife, happy life. Have you heard that one before? It's generally true. If you support and nurture your woman through the post-birth months, you are putting money in the intimacy bank and it will pay tremendous dividends when you resume your intimate relations. Short term and long term. In summary, BE KIND.
Monday, 19 September 2016
Well it's been a big year for this family BH. Pesach 2015 when we got together from all over the world, my husband raised his glass and blessed everyone and said, 6 new grandchildren in 2016!
He wasn't to know that his father would pass away at the end of 2015, and that there would be 3 new grandsons born who would carry his name. And then 2 new granddaughters; and we await no 6 now with the usual mix of excitement and anxiety.
So it's been a big year. Rozhinklech und mandelen as we say, raisins and almonds, the sweet and the bitter.
I won't dwell on the number of grandchildren we have, ptu ptu ptu (my mother in law always answers the question of 'how many grandchildren/great grandchildren do you have' with the answer: 'Not enough!'). But I will say that it's a bunch, and the age spread is 11 to newborn, and the geographical spread involves Israel, New York and Melbourne Australia. This means that I have travelled a few times this year and when you add it all up, by the end of 2016 I will have been away from home for about 3 months.
I go overseas to help the new mums with the recovery and the breastfeeding. New motherhood can be a lonely isolating thing if you have no family nearby.
If I get to be at the birth, that's a plus. Major bonus if I actually get to assist at the birth. My daughters are all ok with that, my daughters-in-law maybe less so, which I get, I'm not pushy (I hope).
I've written before about growing up without grandparents, since my father's family perished in the Holocaust and my mother's family just did not live very long. And neither did my own mother.
Most of my peers were children of Holocaust survivors and thus grandparents were a rare thing. I would gaze upon the occasional Bubby and Zaidy whom I encountered with curiosity and awe. My parents were the oldest people I knew, apart from a few old people we visited at the Montefiore Homes for the aged, with whom we had some non-blood relationship as a rule. But I had to call everyone Aunty and Uncle out of respect so I never knew who was related or who came across on the same ship (shifsbrider or shifsshvester, literally Ship Brother or sister) or who was the aged mother of the ex-wife of my mother's brother (I'm not making that last one up either.)
And not everyone had the full complement of marbles either so some of these old folk were a bit scary.
And some spoke only Yiddish which I was not really au fait with, or else a Yiddish different from the Heimishe Yiddish of my father who was from Dzialoszyn.
So the ideal of the gentle Zayda stroking his beard while poring over the Talmud or the Bubby with the floury apron and the huggable bosom was just that: an idealized fantasy, and rare as a unicorn.
And consider the unsupported parents; in the main, Holocaust survivors who came to a new country with nothing more than what the Joint had provided them, sponsored out by families, real or fictitious, whom they barely knew. They built new lives, new businesses, new families, with hard work, having to learn a new language while they did this. And who had time for counselling even if there was such a thing, even if they could afford it if it existed?
These were our parents.
I was a latchkey child from about 8 years of age. Not only no grandparents but parents who did their best to put food on the table for us, and in doing so, left us kids largely to our own devices.
And there was also the expectation that we would make something of ourselves. We had opportunities! Opportunities that were denied our parents. I used to hear about this so much that I thought 'opportunities' was a Yiddish word. To waste these opportunities would be an unpardonable sin.
Fast forward a few years.
A brother who made Aliyah in 1968, found his niche and then was killed in the YomKippur war in 1973. I've written about this too, and the effects that grief can have on a family.
A medical degree- talk about opportunities!
A marriage to the son of a Holocaust survivor father and a Soviet refugee mother whose parents survived Stalin and Hitler and who were sent by the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe to start a Jewish school in Melbourne.
It so happened that I knew my future husband's grandparents long before I knew him, because Reb Zalman, as we all called him, befriended my father and encouraged my parents to send my brothers and I to the new Jewish school. Reb Zalman was the real deal, the Zeidy, the Chossid, the embodiment of Chabad Chassidus, and I won't go on about him because he needs a book to be written about him. Mainly he was the glimpse of the mythical grandfather. Anyway.
So I got married.
And then I had 7 kids in 10.5 years, 3 born after my mother passed away, and then, moving right along, a bunch of grandchildren. And no idea how to be a grandmother. Mind you, I had little idea on how to be a mother either, being that my eldest were only little when Mum died, so she also never really got to experience much of being a grandmother; nor did her own mother who died young. Generations of no role models of grandparenting and barely any for parenting! There are times I feel that I raised myself.
So here I am, inundated with blessings and feeling like everyone wants a piece of me. Like I need to protect myself.
I recently wrote a piece which earned me much opprobrium, about dealing with these challenges. I got all these comments from other grandmothers about how MUCH they LOVE their precious grandchildren, and how they CAN'T do ENOUGH for them or spend enough TIME with them, and how they LOOK FORWARD to every second, every playtime, every babysitting, and what an ungrateful ungracious wretch I must be, withholding my time from them, and how dare I express relief when they leave my house, and how dare I place boundaries on what I would choose to do for my kids to help them with their kids.
It was a bit nasty, I thought.
And then it turns out that most of these commenters had one or maybe 2 grandchildren (and maybe 2-3 kids) who were aged 4 and 18 months on average. And I'm like, well you haven't really got a clue about heavy duty grandparenting, have you.
I always say that I will do anything in an emergency. I will take kids to the ER if parents can't. I will cook meals and drop them off or I will have them all over to eat (and do this regularly once or twice a week) and I will do school drop offs and pick ups and babysit if I have to BUT I'm not the nanny and I won't /can't do this on a set basis.
I'm the on call doctor for sorting out health issues - Doctor Booba! I look at throats and ears amd rashes and listen to chests and feel tummies and I wrote referrals to paediatricians etc and I call in favours from Doctor friends.
I'm the booba who reads and draws but I'm not the booba who goes to the park and climbs equipment and jumps on the trampoline.
I have had kids move in while parents go on babymoons or overseas visiting family etc, I have paid for extra help to mums who need it, I have stepped into the breach many times. But I'm not the paid help and I won't raise my grandchildren. I love them and I feel blessed
and I am amazed that they are flesh of my flesh, but I've been through it and I've done my bit, and considering that nobody helped me, I think I'm paying it forward better than expected.
Here I am again, sounding like it's a burden and I'm resentful but this is not the case; still, I'm only human and I do my best. I hope everyone appreciates this.
I am a springboard to help my kids into parenthood; I am a sounding board for discussion and solution of problems; but I am not a doormat.
Now for the comments.
PS The picture is neither me nor my grandchildren. Mine are cuter.
Sunday, 28 August 2016
Every year before the big fasts - Tisha B'Av and Yom Kippur - I get the phone calls from women in the community. 'I'm breastfeeding - should I fast?' So I give them an answer and advise them to take it to their Rabbi. And maybe they listen and maybe they don't.
The ones that don't call me, I don't hear from most of them, obviously. But I hear from some of them, a day or two later. With mastitis. With supply crash. In one case, with grossly abnormal liver function, and liver pain, as a result of vomiting and dehydration.
Now I will just come out and say that I think that breastfeeding women should not fast. Not at any stage. I will also say that I don't think that pregnant women should fast either. I don't know how much science is in this, but it seems that fasting can bring on premature labour. The maternity hospitals in Israel have a rush of patients after YK every year, so maybe there is a study out there.
I know that 9Av and YK are different but fasting is fasting and dehydration is dehydration. You can also talk about how it's different if the mother is Yoledes (recently gave birth), or if the baby is under 6 months or if he is fully dependent on breast milk yada yada. But the fallout is the same. Dehydration is a real risk for mastitis AT ANY STAGE of lactation. And mastitis is serious. It can land a mother in hospital needing IV fluids, but even if it is not severe enough to require hospitalization, it can make her pretty sick and incapacitate her.
Then we have the situation where I say my part and the mother takes it to the Rabbi and he gives her a Heter (permission) to drink and eat, yet she still decides to fast, out of what, guilt? Piety? Ladies, this is not Halacha. This is AGAINST Halacha.
Another recent case I was involved in was that of an older gentleman who had multiple health issues including diabetes, who was on antibiotics recovering from a chest infection and dehydration and actually argued with me when I forbade him from fasting (and this was for 17 Tammuz). I thought that was pretty extreme and certainly there is no question that he had a Heter to drink and eat freely. And yet he argued. I can only hope that he actually listened to me. Ignoring doctors' orders is not Halacha!
So on YK if you have a Heter to not fast, then you don't fast, and you REST and you STAY HOME. You do NOT go to Shul. Always remember that, in active childrearing, pregnancy and breastfeeding, that you are doing Hashem's work and that is the greatest mitzvah of all. It is not a mitzvah to be sick and incapacitated and unable to care for yourself or your children.
I'll say something else here: I recently saw a FB post where a mother was praising her 8 year old daughter who fasted on 9av and also looked after her because she was unwell due to the fast.
Now I am sure that this child is a wonderful person and a credit to her parents and Klal Yisrael, but she is too young to fast. There is no Halacha that demands this of such a young child. I also hear of this thing of doing the last 3 fasts before turning Bar/bas mitzvah and I would like someone to enlighten me as to where this is written. So if any Rabbis out there could discuss this with me, please do.
Oh, it's about chinuch (Jewish education), is it? I'm not saying that the kid should do nothing at all; they can 'fast till breakfast', or not eat treats. Older kids can fast till noon if they want to; some kids really get a feeling of achievement. But a young child should be actively discouraged from trying to do a full fast, especially where these days fall in the summer where the day is hot and long. Kids are vulnerable to dehydration and it's just not necessary.
And, final word, watch out for the little perfect pious girl who just loves to fast, because it can be a mask for an eating disorder, just as excessive religiosity can mask OCD and other psychological issues. Just saying.
Religious fasts have their importance, but please, approach with common sense in these cases.
I've had a fair bit of interest in this post now that Yom Kippur is imminent So I'm adding this comment:
My opinion and expertise relates largely to breastfeeding women, and my problem with these women fasting is the real risk of dehydration triggering mastitis. It can also trigger duct blockage which is less serious but mastitis can land you in hospital and even if it's not bad enough to cause hospitalization
, it still can incapacitate. I think it's not good enough to say 'fast until you feel sick and then you can break your fast'. That's not the point. The point is to avoid falling sick; mastitis can strike the next day even if you didn't 'feel sick' with fasting. You need about 2 litres of fluids a day when breastfeeding; you can have 39mls (a 'cheekful' of fluid) every 9 minutes, so that would mean doing this for 7 hours or so to get enough fluid to stay out of trouble. This is referred to as 'shiurim' and is not considered to be breaking the fast. Water is probably good enough but those with a poor track record of fasting might have electrolytes. But I am not a Rav so please discuss with a sympathetic Rav.
Re pregnancy of course it is NOT a good thing to go without water and fasting can bring on premature labour. But more than that I can't advise, speak to a Rav.
Re pregnancy of course it is NOT a good thing to go without water and fasting can bring on premature labour. But more than that I can't advise, speak to a Rav.
Wednesday, 22 June 2016
In my Visiting Bubbeh persona, I found myself babysitting two of my granddaughters the other night. Their eldest sister Y was out at a barmitzvah with her parents. They live in New York.
R is 2 and FB is 6.
R is in her preferred state of nudity+nappy. And purple socks. We are in the front room, where there are many books.
-Ok, here's the plan. I'm going to read you these 3 books and then we'll go upstairs and we'll put pyjamas on you and then I'll read you 2 stories and then you'll go to bed. Ok?
(Read 3 books. Go upstairs)
-Look at these pyjamas, aren't they cute! I got them for you. I am a major supporter of Peter Alexander. See, Eiffel Tower on the front! Pink! Ok on goes the top. And now the shorts!
-Oh you want them on back to front? Ok, why not. Happy?
-Which books do you want me to read? Oh this one? Longish? With 4 stories in it? Umm. Ok.
(Start reading while FB hops and jumps and climbs and forages while R giggles)
-Um FB I think you should go to your room and wait till I'm done here, you're distracting R, ok?
FB-Sure. (Bunny hops out.)
-Ok, that's what Bubbehs are for. Which one?
-Oh, I know that one! Where the Wild Things are. And here's the book!
Wait, it's in Spanish.
FB, is there an English version somewhere?
(FB pops head into room.)
-Can you get it?
-Don't know where it is.
-Oh ok then. I guess I'll manage.
(FB pops head out of room.)
-Here goes: 'La noche que Max se puso un traje de lobo y comenzó a hacer una traversura tras otra, Su mamá le dijo: "¡ERES UN MONSTRUO!" y Max le contestó:"¡TE VOY A COMER!" y lo mandaron a la cama sin cenar-
-Umm, ok, even though you are wearing a nappy, sure.
(Off with the back to front shorts and the nappy.
FB, ever helpful, readies the step set for the toilet.)
R sits. Smiles.
-Do you really need pishy?
-Oh really? And yet there you sit, and nothing happening.
You know, I think you are totally stooging me and you don't really need, right?
-And yet you are doing nothing.
-Ok, that's enough.
(Back on with the nappy and the back to front PJ shorts.)
Let's go to bed.
(R runs into sisters' room and snuggles into a bed, plays possum)
FB -She can stay there! I don't mind!
-Uh yeah, as if the two of you won't be running around as soon as I turn my back.
Come on, into your cot!
(I pick her up, and deposit her in her cot. She sits up.)
(I go to bathroom again and fill cup. She drinks.)
-Ok, now lie down.
(Points to slim reader emblazoned with the ubiquitous princess sisters and Olaf the snowman)
-Oh ok. One more then.
(Fortunately book has about 4 words per page. )
-I didn't know you had a special blanky...FB, where is R's blanky?
(FB pops head back into room)
-Don't know, Y had it before and she put it somewhere.
-You can just take one out of that cupboard.
-Ok (reach in, take random flannelette blanky)
-Hey, ok ok, what about this one?
(I take out almost identical one.)
-So lie down, I'll cover you.
(Lies down, snuggles under blanky.)
(Close door. Blessed silence.
That only took an hour and a half.)
FB -Can you read Willy Wonka to me?
-Of course. The night is young.
*The photos used are not my grandchildren. Mine are much cuter.
Tuesday, 21 June 2016
I've been wanting to write about this fascinating stage of childhood which we have come to call 'tweenage', 8-13 or 14, and when I started it came out like a poem. So I went with it.
On the brink of they don't know what
Not little kids anymore, they think
Posing in front of mirrors (or any reflective surfaces)
Examining faces, imaginary blemishes
Hand on hip, pelvis tilted, looking back over shoulder at reflections
Shy smile, bold smile, batting lashes
Minx coquette and yet
They can't know what lies ahead.
And then giggles and tickles and being mean to little sisters
then being helpful
To mum and then hating her and then wanting her stuff and her approval;
Clear skinned and coltish and pouty and laughing and cartwheeling and twirling
unselfconscious and self-conscious in turns
Sitting hugging knees, or with legs flung out, unashamed and then embarrassed
Flick hair up flick hair down
Side pony tail then not, then braids then not, hair never long enough
Bikes and skates and scooters and longing for makeup
Hate boys like boys hate boys
Dirty boys stupid boys
Too old for play dates, too young to hang out at the mall Hanging on to older girls, sitting at their feet, worshipping and listening and learning
They don't know what
Thursday, 9 June 2016
I first encountered death of a family member when I was 18. My brother Yehuda had been killed in the 1973 Yom Kippur war. After that, my parents were subsumed with grief and went AWOL as it were, mentally and physically. They went to Israel to visit Yehuda's kibbutz several times after that, and would stay away for around 6 weeks at a time.
It was during one of these absences that I first found myself without my family over a Yom Tov.
I was spending Yom tovim and Shabbosim in the home of Rabbi ID Groner during the times that my parents were away, so over the years I would have spent every Yom tov there. I was a part of the 'family'. And although I'm not really a shul-goer, I did go to shul, and Yeshivah was my shul.
So came the inevitable time of Yizkor. All I knew of yizkor was the Gabai's THUMP on the Bima, and the announcement 'Kinder arroys!' And of course when I was a Kindt, untouched by bereavement, that's what I did. I went out with all the other kids. Who knew what went on in the shul for those 15 or so minutes that we kids all milled around and chit-chatted outside? Old ladies stayed in and we went out.
But at 18 at that time in the davenning, suddenly I didn't know what to do. Do I stay? Do I go? Is it only about parents or also siblings? For whom does one 'stay in' for yizkor? Never thought about it. The Tehillas Hashem siddur says only parents. But everyone else says siblings too. What is it about, if not remembrance, obviously, and why would one not memorialize a brother? So I stayed. I didn't say anything but I stayed.
I saw old ladies (of course I am now older than many of those old ladies) weeping quietly and swaying with their faces hidden in their machzors. I heard murmuring of silent prayer. I heard the Kel Melai Rachamim, maybe for the first time, and then it was over.
Afterwards, at lunch, R Groner told me that I shouldn't stay in because my parents were alive. Oh. Whoops. But I don't remember if I gave it much thought because when you are 18, even a traumatized 18, life beckons; well, it did me anyway.
My mother was also not a big shul-goer, and had been raised in a traditional but pretty secular family. But she always made a point of going to Yizkor (Yisskeh, my Aussie mum pronounced it, as she mispronounced so many Jewish terms - 'Mejeshem' instead of 'Im Yirtzeh Hashem', Moydi Ani, Kenorah, a sort of pastiche of Tzvosser Yiddish and Australian vowels). She had bad knees and hips and walked with a cane from her mid 50's but she would go for Yizkor come rain or shine, to Yeshivah until she could no longer make the distance, and then to Adass which was much closer to home. She had lost her parents while in her 20's.
She passed away when I was in my 20s and her 31st yohrzeit falls on 10 Sivan. Her last Shavuos was terrible, awful, and has cast a cloud over Shavuos for me ever since (and then my other brother died 2 Sivan, so.) which I try to dispel by making a Kiddush in her name.
And I always go to Yizkor. Rain or shine. Just as she did.
It's not as if I don't think about my parents every day. Your loved ones are never forgotten.
It's not as if I don't dedicate Tzedaka to their names anyway, or at least I think I would, even without the prompt that the Yizkor prayer gives me.
Those few minutes of time with others who have lost parents- and sooner or later, in the natural order of things, that means everyone- give me a few minutes to remember and to really focus on them, and also to realize how we are all temporal and temporary beings, yet we are also part of an endless chain.
I still don't know what to do during Yizkor. The prayer that my parents - and, less officially, my brothers- are in Gan Eden and the pledge to give Tzedoka in their names take only a few minutes. Then the Av HaRachamim and then the chazan's Kel Melei Rachamim- it all takes about 3 minutes. What am I supposed to do the rest of the time?
That's all, I guess.
Sometimes with my face shielded by my machzor as I weep silently. Like the other old ladies.