Sunday, March 31, 2013

March '13 Round-Up: What I Loved on OTHER People's Blogs

New York Public Library by Neil Kramer

Welcome to the March edition of my monthly "What I Loved on OTHER People's Blogs" feature. The place where I share what has caught my eye (and brain, and heart) on the internet over the past month.

Also, as usual, I am also featuring many photos from my friend and amazing intstagram photographer Neil Kramer - of the blog Citizen of the Month - who has been in NYC this month and doing some wonderful work.

Please notice a lot more humor this month. (Don't worry, there's still a lot of gut wrenching, lyrical beauty and thoughts on autism, as per usual.) March is such a heavy, heavy month for me, I really needed help to lighten up - so I'm passing that on to you here.

Morning, Queens by Neil Kramer

Let's start with some funny...

A conversation about the cat that has nothing to do with her weight by Alice of Finslippy

And Then The Phone Rang by Nancy of Midlife Mixtape

St. Patrick's Day Parade, NYC by Neil Kramer

Frida & Diego by Deb of Deb on the Rocks

Hop on the Bus, Gus by Anna of An Inch of Gray

Chrysler Building, NYC by Neil Kramer

Was It My Fault by Tracy of Sellabit Mum at Scary Mommy

Our real lives by Mary (the Barnmaven) of Clean Shavings

Reading, Highline, NYC by Neil Kramer

Why it’s okay for parents of autistic children to not be okay… by Lexi of Mostly True Stuff

Dear Relative: What Are You Waiting For? by Leigh of Flappiness Is...  

Elevated #1 train 125th St., NYC by Neil Kramer

Chosen: First Grade Politics by Debby of Everybody's Boy

Our "College" Tour by

Yellow Chair, Highline, NYC by Neil Kramer

For the First Time (Since Ever) He Didn’t Sit Alone by Jo of A Sweet Dose of Truth

six years — or — no. hell, no. hell to the mothereffing no. by Jess of a diary of a mom

Woman 23rd St., NYC by Neil Kramer

And because I promised you funny and after the first two selections we dove back into serious... ending with funny!
The Game of Life by Jillsmo of Yeah. Good Times.

Evasive Maneuvers: A Guide To Parental Escape by Vikki of Up Popped a Fox

And now, a word from Max's sleep-deprived dad AND Special needs mom's head explodes! by Ellen of Love That Max (Who was extra funny this month and I just couldn't choose!)

Clock near Flatiron Building, NYC by Neil Kramer

Finally, a few more photos from Neil, who was on fire this month - really inspired by NYC architecture...

Hotel New Yorker, NYC by Neil Kramer

In Shadows, NYC by Neil Kramer

Madison Avenue, NYC by Neil Kramer

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC by Neil Kramer

Reflection, NYC by Neil Kramer

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A beautiful thing

Jake and his Grandma, September, 2012

My mother's memorial service, held, finally, on Sunday March 3rd was beautiful; just what I needed. Although up until five minutes before it started I was feeling all jangly and out of sorts, grumbley about how it didn't feel right to be doing it at that exact time, a month and a half after she had passed.

I had been up nearly all night finishing and polishing my eulogy, wanting it to be just right, to properly honor the mother I had so loved.

When I stepped up to the podium to begin the service, Ethan was standing right beside me. He had asked to do so, telling me he wanted to support me, to be there for me in case I was overcome with grief. Sometimes I am astounded by his sweetness and depth.

I welcomed the assembled guests, a mix of family and friends, including, thankfully, one set of old, old friends of my parents, nearly the last left standing.

I read my eulogy: Some Heart: Sylvia Steinhardt's Eulogy and then opened up the podium to everyone who wanted to speak, starting with Ethan.

He spoke about where he was when he found out his Grandmother had died and how he felt. It was spontaneous and heartfelt and lovely. Clearly there is yet another storyteller in this family.

Then my brother Bruce spoke, filling in his side of the story of what it was like to suddenly have a step mother as an older teen, and how wonderful Mom had been, in spite of all the challenges. He spoke so lovingly of her, reminded me that I had forgotten "seltzer" in my list of things she loved passionately.

Then my fourteen year old niece Greta (my cousin Annette's eldest daughter) read a poem she had written for my mom. I was awed by its beauty, and am sharing it here:

To Sylvia

My most vivid memories of you
are summertime; flowers
stretching palms for sky,
a green new world
growing into its skin.

I wore golden, dangling earrings
to go see you.
You thought they were beautiful,
and you told me so.
Again. And again.

Your memory was a visitor
that didn’t stay for long,
But you knew who we were.
Your hands were for holding,
your eyes were an embrace.

I like to think
that wherever you are in the universe,
you will continue to find
new stars in the sky.

by Greta Wilensky

(Now you can see why she's been winning poetry slam contests.)

And then Jake, who had been sitting next to me, taking this all in, told me he wanted to speak too, and pointed to the podium... I asked him “Are you sure?” and he said “Yes.” Firmly.

So up we went. I had absolutely no idea how much of what was going on he had comprehended, and what he was going to say. If he had recited a favorite scene from SpongeBob it wouldn't have surprised me.

But no. He stood there silently for a moment, clearly working hard to come up with what he wanted to say.

And it was stunning and beautiful.

“I love my grandma” Jake said.


“I see her in the hospital” (what he often called the nursing home, it being more like one than any other home of hers he had known)

“2012” (which was the last time he saw her)

“Mommy loves Grandma” (very true indeed)

And he was done.

My heart just filled to the brim – that he had understood we were all sharing our experiences with his grandma and he had wanted to participate, to be a part of it, and then that he had found his own words to do so, not a scripted phrase among them.

Well, I was floored, and so proud of my boy.

After that, I honestly cannot tell you in what order people spoke. I remember who spoke, remember their words, their stories, their love.  I deeply appreciated the tremendous amount of humor that everyone brought to their stories of Mom, which was so fitting because she was such a warm, funny, full-of-life person.

My cousins Jess and Annette spoke together, sharing what a warm and loving presence their aunt Sylvia had been in their life.

My niece Rachel, my sister-in-law Bern, Jess's daughter Ilana, my friend Emma, my husband Danny all shared lovely memories of my mom.

And my Uncle Walter? Brought down the house. He loved my mom, his big sister, so very much. Generally an earthy as well as intellectual man with a bawdy sense of humor, he has been ailing lately and may have been somewhat further disinhibited by medication he is taking.

He told more tales of Mom that frequently included phrases like "and then she bedded the boss, and was soon running the joint." But as these were delivered in tone so clearly full of admiration for her, he had tears of laughter streaming down our faces as he filled in many details of her adventurous life, pre-Dad.

When it was over, my friend Julie came up to me and said she absolutely wanted my uncle to deliver her eulogy, when the time comes.

Everyone contributed their stories in what felt much more a celebration of her life than a mourning for her death. And that was exactly right. What she would have wanted.

So many people came up to me during the lox and bagels brunch in the social hall afterwards, telling me they had never been to a memorial service that was so funny, so haimish, so relaxed and enjoyable. Those that hadn't known her well - like some of my recent friends and my husband's family members - told me they felt they really got to know her.

And that was just perfectly who Mom was: funny, warm, informal, wanting to know people and to be known.  I feel we truly honored her that day, sharing her essence as well as her stories.

I now carry this day around with me, along with all the other parts of my mother that live on forever inside me.

My mom is gone, but her love, and the love she continues to spread among those who knew her, lives on. As it should be.

It was a beautiful thing.

Mom & her brother Walter, October 2012

Monday, March 25, 2013

Happy Birthday, Daddy Jim

My Dad, September 2009

Today would have been my father's 96th birthday, had he still dwelt among the living. I almost feel guilty, so raw and fresh is my grief in having just lost my mother, that the pain of my father's passing - three years ago - feels most pale and ghostly by comparison.

Mom & Dad on his 89th birthday, 2006
Thankfully, the vivid memories of the horrible three months of his dying are fading, and what remains are wistful, warm memories of the loving father he was, my whole life.

Me & Dad on my high school graduation day, 1977

Dad loved celebrating birthdays, and there were so many memorable parties. I traveled to Sarasota Florida for his 80th, a bash he threw at Pelican Cove - the retirement community my parents were living in. Dad was in his element, surrounded by friends and family, drinking champagne and telling stories.

Mom & Dad at his 90th birthday party, 2007
For his 85th, I couldn't travel - being in the middle of my pregnancy with the twins and grounded by my OB - so I threw him a party here in New York.

The cheapest space I could find turned out perfect - the local Hungarian Hall, as my dad was always proud of his Hungarian (Jewish) ancestry, even though the only words he could speak in Hungarian were "Jo Istenem!" (pronounced yo ishtenem, meaning "Oh, my god!") and something filthy taught to him by a Hungarian cook at summer camp that caused his mother to wash his mouth out with soap when he repeated it to her upon his return home.
Dad with daughter-in-law Bern and his 3 grandsons, 2007
One unfortunate consequence of having the generations in my family so spread out, is that my children never got to know the vital, full of life man he was, as his fading away began when they were toddlers still. My kids' main memories of their Grandfather are of him sleeping on the sofa through most family gatherings. Though in pictures there is evidence of how much he enjoyed his grandsons' presence in his life.


Dad, you were a good man, a good father. Mom loved you right up to the end and missed you, acutely, every day of her nearly three years without you.

Happy Birthday Daddy, wherever you are.

March 25th will always, for me, belong to you.

Dad, 1961, photo by Bruce Steinhardt

Friday, March 15, 2013

All the other (good) stuff

Baking cookies with Ethan

You would think from what I've written about them lately (not at all) that I didn't still have kids, so consumed has my blog been with my mother's death.

But it's perhaps because I do still have kids (two, in fact) and I so strive to be present and cheerful with them in my daily life, that I come to this space (my own) to let all the heaviness leak out.

It is nearly two months since my mother has passed and time has not stopped, not even for a second.

Ethan is now in the final months of fifth grade.  Each time I bring him to or pick him up from school, I look at the tiny kindergarteners swirling past and marvel that he was once so small and that we looked upon the "big boys" back then and found it unimaginable that our sweet little five year old munchkins would ever become THAT.

He is worried about the future, about middle school - both getting into the one he wants (a unique New York City problem, I know) and about what it will be like when he is actually there next year, with new faces and routines and a whole higher order of academic pressure.

He is sad that his Saturday basketball league is about to come to an end. And that the Knicks really suck right now. And that his grandma is dead. (And probably about in that order.)

He grew a whole inch in the last two months.
We bake cookies together. A lot. I used to bake with my mother all the time. (Some of the recipes we use are hers.)

Jake & Belt at The Croods screening

Jake is a wonder.

I went into his recent parent teacher conference with trepidation, knowing he'd had a hard time adjusting earlier this year, and what I heard brought tears to my eyes. Happy tears.

They said that all the trouble at the beginning of the year seems to be behind them. They haven't needed the behavioral plan. He doesn't work just to earn iPad time at the end of his day. He is calm, engaged, participating, and if he starts to get out of line (throwing the word "stupid" into every sentence, perhaps, as he is wont to do) all they have to do is threaten to separate him from the group.

"I'm sorry. I'll stop." he says. AND HE DOES.

Furthermore, they all expressed their love for him so clearly. "Some days I just want to take him home with me, I haven't had enough Jacob time!" said his assistant teacher. That she already has a one year-old at home makes this doubly miraculous.

Jacob is having a burst of language and connection that is lovely to experience.

The other day he came into the room, uttering a very conversational "Mom, can I talk to you for a sec?" He stopped when he saw our cat lying upon me, purring. "Cocoa loves you!" he said.

SO much going on in those three simple words: being interested in and observing his environment, correctly interpreting what he saw, understanding the emotions involved, and commenting on it, in original language.

If you know anything about autism, you will know how beautiful this was, indeed.

He is also actively seeking to participate in situations, after observing others doing the same. (Again, awesome!)

Watching me, my friends and family sharing our memories at my mother's memorial service, he asked to go up to the podium himself, and then spoke a few very heartfelt, very appropriate words about his Grandma (more on that soon).

This past Monday I was invited to a mom-blogger family press screening of the new animated movie "The Croods" that Jake has been excited about since the ads and trailers for it stared popping up months ago.

We had a great time - it's a very enjoyable movie - and afterward there was a Q & A session with the  writer/directors Kirk De Micco & Chris Sanders, and Catherine Keener - the voice of the cave-mom. After answering The Moms' questions, they invited kids in the audience to come down and ask some of their own.

Jake and I were sitting near the back. He watched some kids ask questions about various aspects of the script or the production, he listened to the creators answer. And then he told me he wanted to go up and ask his own.

We made our way up to the front of the theater. Catherine Keener saw us standing by, and got up herself to hold the microphone for Jake as he asked: "How did you get the idea for Belt?"

(If you want to watch Jake yourself, it's the bottom video here at exactly 10 minutes in. It may look like I'm prompting him, but it IS the question he told me he wanted to ask as we were waiting our turn. He just suddenly forgot it when the mike was in his hand, and I had to whisper it in his ear.)

I was so proud of my (autistic) boy that day.

(And every day.)

Jacob, me & Catherine Keener at The Croods

So just in case you were worried that I had lost myself in grieving... I haven't.

I try to leave it here.

And in occasional tears on my pillow.

I haven't forgotten that I have two wonderful, alive, full of life boys.

And oh yes, a husband, too.

(Hi, honey.)

So expect me to be bouncing back and forth here between mourning my mother and telling tales from all the other myriad facets of my life.

I'll try to remember to throw in the good stuff as often as I can.

And ask you to forgive if the tears outweigh the laughs for just a little while longer.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Three Years (and nearly two months)

Me, Mom & Dad, Summer 2009

Three years ago, today, just after the 12th slipped into the 13th, my beloved father died.

Every year since then it has been a day of mourning and reflection for me, becoming a little less intense with each passing year, but still the ache remained acute.

But this year, today felt very odd, eclipsed by my mother's much more recent passing - nearly two months ago on January 17th.

My mother's death still hangs over me, feels much more recent still than two months.

If I close my eyes and think of her, I am, unfortunately, transported back to the final minutes of her life. That moment when her heart snapped and everything changed is burned deep into my mind's screen, sharp and bright, hopefully to be fading in intensity over the coming years.

But for now I remain somewhat ghost-ridden.

I regretted not being there, by my father's side as he passed. I had taken my first break in months, and many people told me that they think that allowed him to finally let go, that my absence was giving him permission to die.


He managed to do it quietly, with no one there to witness.  My sister Lois had gone to the bathroom down the hall, and said she felt a wave of heat and nausea pass over her, out of nowhere, at what she later calculated was probably the moment of his leaving, for when she came back into his room, he was gone, my mother unaware, fallen asleep sitting upright in the chair by his side.

At the time I felt like had missed out on something.

Now I'm not so sure.

The look on my mother's face as her eyes popped open, bugged out, unseeing, as she huffed and puffed as her heart was literally bursting, is something that will probably haunt me for the rest of my days.

I can talk about it most freely with my cousin Jessica, who, as an ER doctor, is no stranger to death. Other people I know I will creep out, make uncomfortable, so I hold this moment silently, in my mind and heart. But there it remains, indelible, most every day.

Even today, when I feel I should be remembering, mourning my father, yet still, my mother and her death hangs over all.

Though it is comforting to think back on the two of them at the same time, for they were such an entwined and loving couple. Fifty one years together.

I don't know where our spirit, our essence, goes when we pass. Truly I don't. I feel something remains, for I felt it leave my mother, witnessed how her body was just so much lumpen clay after it was gone.

And so, in the not knowing, I can only conjecture and hope that whatever wisp of energy that was my bright mother has found my father's counterpart out there, in the ethosphere, and their stardust particles are swirling about the universe in tandem, dancing together once more, forever.

Just Write

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Some Heart: Sylvia Steinhardt's Eulogy

Mom, Thanksgiving 2012

Today, Sunday March 3rd, we held a memorial service for my mother, Sylvia Steinhardt, who died in January.  We celebrated her interesting, 90 year long life, and we said goodbye.

In attendance were my husband and kids, my mother's 85 year old "kid" brother and his family, my brother Bruce (Sylvia's step-son) and most of his family, plus many friends, in-laws, and a pair of dear old friends of my parents, nearly the last surviving members of that once-large clan.

Photos from various points of my mother's life were on display. Anyone who wished to share a memory of Syl was invited to speak, and quite a few did, including both of my sons.

But first I read a blog post (found here) written immediately after, and about Mom's dying moments.  And then I read this eulogy:

The day before she died, the cardiologist who first met my mom in the ER a few days prior came in to her room to speak with me. "When you said her aortic stenosis was critical you weren't kidding. It was SUPER critical. In fact" - he added, clearly quite impressed - "I have never seen anyone with such a tight valve still alive and so asymptomatic... That's some heart your mother has!"

And I say yes! That was some heart my mother had.

In fact I would say it was her defining feature: My mother’s capacity to love and be loved. Her big generous, open heart, and how many hearts she lives on in will be her defining legacy.

She had a warmth, a natural curiosity about people. Spend five minutes with her and she'd know your life story, the names of your children (or parents, or both) and where your ancestors came from.

She was also genuinely gracious, sincerely grateful to everyone for everything done for her.

In the hospital, in her very last days, she even whispered a "Thank you" to the nurse giving her a shot of vitamin K. The nurse turned to me, her face alight, and told me she had never been thanked before for giving a patient an injection.

That was Mom.

My father, as much as he loved his family, was defined by his life's work: his photography.

My mother, like so many women (especially of her generation), was defined by her relationships, the people she loved and who loved her. And at this she excelled, oh so well.

Mom made friends everywhere she went. At Carnegie East House, the assisted living community she had moved into with my father, and where she continued to live as a widow until her disastrous, hip-breaking fall last May, she had two close friends of a similar temperament: smart, funny, artistic, literate, left-leaning and bohemian. Not your typical "little old ladies" by any stretch of the imagination.

They called themselves "The 3 Musketeers" and took every opportunity to laugh at the foibles of old age and their situation, vowing not to become like some of the farbissinas* at the joint.

The staff at the nursing home where Mom spent the last six months of her life were shocked when I called to give them the news of her passing. "Oh, no! Not our DDF!" they all cried.

That was her particular nomenclature: I have been her D.D.D. for years - Dear, Darling Daughter - (and she my D.D.M.). And the women who looked after her at the home had become her D.D.F. - Dear, Darling Friends.

It was somehow fitting that nursing home where my mother spent the last six months of her life at was back on her beloved Long Island - a place that defined and encompassed so much of her life - where she grew up, held her first jobs, where she raised her family - me - where she came into her own as Sylvia Steinhardt of Steinhardt Gallery.

As she was living in the same community as her brother Walter - Port Washington – they were able to spend much time together at the end. His visits, and those of his children – my cousins – and their children, brought her so much pleasure.

Whenever I would visit, she would point out the flowers brightening up her nightstand. “Aren’t these lovely, Walter always brings flowers, he is so good to me.”

What was amazing about Mom was that this kindness, this deeply loving nature was found in a woman also funny and complex, sophisticated and keenly intelligent. How intelligent?

When I was about ten, Mom decided she wanted to take some classes at Nassau community college. Since she had never been to college, she started with Freshman English. For her final paper, did a study on how the classic English ballads changed when they came to America that included an amazing analysis and an audio tape recording of both Peter, Paul and Mary’s and Led Zeppelin’s version of Hangman. It was graduate level work... for a Freshman English class. Needless to say the professor was stunned. (She got an A+.)

I was sometimes sad thinking of what my mother could have done, might have been if she had grown up in a family that valued girls and thought them worthy of higher education, but sadly, that wasn’t the case.

My grandmother valued WORK and MAKING MONEY, and so that’s what my mother did, after graduating high school, finding a job in a furniture store, then coming to work at her family’s candy shop afterwards in the evenings.

Shortly thereafter, the US entered WWII, and mom found herself joining the throngs of other young women swept up in war work… yes, my mom was a Rosie the Riveter.

She worked at Grumman Aircraft in small airplane parts through the war. And I remember feeling terribly proud of my mother for doing this, when I became aware of how brave and radical that was.

After that, mom began to work in clerical positions, eventually to become a top fundraiser for the Joint Defense Appeal – the fundraising arm of the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League.

This job was in THE CITY, where Mom had finally left her parents home and moved to, with the help of a good therapist, and much to her mother’s dismay (the shanda of an unmarried daughter leaving home having kept my mother bound there too long before she finally broke free).

At this point my mother began an exciting phase of living her own life: going to museums, plays, films, listening to jazz, dating interesting men – including William Styrone’s roommate - (and even living with one for a while). But she still hadn’t found her one true love.

That she finally did in the summer of 1958, at a resort in the Berkshires called The Music Inn, where my father, recently divorced, was also vacationing. They met, sparks ignited, they discovered that they lived mere blocks away from each other in Greenwich Village.

Vowing to play it cool and go slow, they then proceeded to see each other every day, becoming inseparable as soon as they got home to the city. And in a few short months, on March 1st, 1959, they married.

And then, things changed, rapidly. My father had two teenage children from his previous marriage – my brother Bruce and sister Lois – and immediately after my folks married, my Dad’s ex-wife had to leave the country for almost a year (it’s complicated – don’t ask), and left the kids with them.

A friend of my mother’s had joked that in marrying my father, she has gone from swinging single gal in the Village, to matronly mother of teenage kids on the Upper West Side in one fell swoop.

And that wasn’t far from the truth. Furthermore by the time Bruce and Lois had returned to their mother’s home, Mom was pregnant herself… with me.

My mother loved being pregnant, had wanted a child of her own for a long time, and had been unsure if she would even be able to have one at the unheard of old age – for that time – of 37.

She loved to tell me stories from her pregnancy – of how she had gained so much weight right off the bat, that when she, at 5 months along, went to the maternity ward to visit my Aunt Eva and see her new niece – my cousin Jessie, someone said to her “I know who’s going got have her baby tonight!”

How, while absentmindedly crossing Broadway against the light, a truck driver had yelled out to her: “Hey Lady, watch where you’re going, you know you can get knocked DOWN, too!”

And THAT is classic mom – having a great sense of humor. As well as a tendency to curse like a sailor. Salty as well as sweet.

Her humor - and her cursing – stayed with her, through to the end. When she was in acute rehab, trying to heal from her broken hip, she was working on walking down the hall with a walker. It was hard. She was weak and tired and in pain and the therapists were pushing her to take a few more steps. “I don’t want to.” She complained. “I just want to sit down, can’t I fucking sit down?”

“Sylvia…” said the therapist with a disapproving tone of voice.

“Oh.” Said my mother “I’m not supposed to curse.”

“Yes” said the therapist,

“It upsets the other patients.” Said my mother.

“Yes!” the therapist chirped, glad she was “getting it.”

“OK” Mom said. Then with PERFECT timing that would have made a borsht belt comedian proud, she added, under her breath: “Fuck ‘em”

In this she and my very funny father were well matched. In fact they were well matched in nearly everything, a true pair of soul-mates, bonded by a love that burned bright to the very end.

She took such loving care of my father as he was failing, he the center of her life, her anchor. It was not easy to be with him in those last, plummeting, months, when he was so difficult, drifting & out of rationality. But Mom made sure to only curse him out when her back was turned to him so that, deaf, he would have no idea.

After Dad passed, Mom missed him fiercely. She frequently teared up thinking about him, telling me yet again and again: “He wasn’t just my husband he was my best friend.”

And they had had a good life. They LOVED to travel, and for twenty years - after I left home and before they became too frail - they explored the world together. Mom and Dad took trips to Greece, Hungary, Italy, Turkey, Alaska, Mexico, Trinidad, Israel, and Bali - to name a few places on their expansive itinerary.

And, true to their nature, these were not your standard touristy tours of national monuments. Because my parents were genuinely interested in other people and cultures they went deep into the hearts of these places, seeking out the spots the locals frequented, letting themselves enter into the true spirit of journeying.

Even when they took tours, these were folk dance tours, and they involved going to small villages, learning the local dances from the people who lived there, then joining hands and joyously dancing together with them.

What afforded them these wonderful trips was that the family business, Steinhardt Gallery, had finally become incredibly successful - the move from Westbury to Huntington perfectly timed to coincide with the resurgence of Huntington’s downtown.

Earlier I had said that Mom was defined by her relationships, and yet that is not entirely true. She was also defined by and hugely proud of The Steinhardt Gallery - that she had been a part of, as my father’s partner, since the beginning. It was where both Mom’s impeccable taste and people skills could come together and flourish.

She loved being surrounded by and dealing with beautiful things, She loved getting to know and interact with the craftspeople she bought from, the customers – who often became friends, and the staff, who became an extended family.

In fact, my parents really ran the business like a family, in a good way. Everyone who worked there, and all the artisans they dealt with were treated with fairness and respect, and, always, warmth and humor.

My mother loved the fact that she was not just Sylvia Steinhardt but Sylvia Steinhardt of Steinhardt Gallery. And it always made her day when someone would either recognize her or the name of the gallery when they were far from home – on a cruise up the Alaskan coast for example, or on a Caribbean island. “Oh,” they would say ”I LOVE that place, all my favorite gifts come from there.” And Mom would just beam.

And I loved being a part of the Gallery, too. Growing up in a family business meant being intimately connected with my parents working lives in a way that folks whose parents go “off to the office” can never be.

This is one thread in the fabric of the close relationship I had with my mother. She loved children and being a mother. She included me in her life, sharing her passions with me, telling me her stories and listening to mine.

I remember countless trips to art museums; watching classic Japanese movies on channel 13, snuggled together on the sofa; Mom teaching me how to Lindy in the kitchen during a nostalgia craze in my high school years.

And now, everywhere I go, everything I light upon, I find traces of her. And I find evidence that so much of who I am has come down from her.

Recently, I found myself in the dentist's chair, the radio tuned to the classical music station. Beethoven's 6th symphony came on (the "Pastorale") and I found myself conducting with my hands. "Oh, you know this one?" my dentist asked, surprised, explaining that he usually has the radio tuned to classic rock but his previous patient expressed a strong preference for WQXR.

"Yes," I told him, "it was my mother's favorite symphony, she played it often in my childhood."

"Sorry," he apologized, knowing of my recent loss, "that must be painful." But somehow it wasn't. It instead filled my heart to the brim with gratefulness that my mother had passed on her love of music, that she had shared with me, her child, all the things that brought her joy, and that their beauty lives on in me now.

As much joy as Mom found in parenthood, she found that joy doubled as a grandmother, seeing her feelings replicated in me. She loved watching me revel in my own children, yet another bond between us: we were both mothers.

Mom also just flat out loved being a grandmother, first to my brother Bruce’s children, Rachel and Simon, and then recently to my twin boys, Ethan and Jacob.

She never happier than when holding her baby grandsons, rocking them to sleep. When they were toddlers, Mom always got down on the floor to play with them (even though with her bad knees she needed help to get back up afterwards) and seemed as delighted in building a block tower or putting together the pieces of a simple puzzle as the boys did.

Delight. That’s a word that describes mom’s enthusiastic response to so much in life. Not that she didn’t have her dark days, but she was always pulled back to the light by her passions.

Mom loved, among many other things, and in no particular order: people, purple, chocolate, art, nature, the ocean, lox and bagels, chocolate, Birkenstocks, a good joke, flowers, family, birds, dogs, cats - in general and Willie, her last cat, in particular, The Steinhardt Gallery, seltzer, handmade things, chocolate, Scandinavian furniture, travel, folk dancing, bird watching, African violets, Art Nouveau, word puzzles, artichokes, lobster, Maine, Long Island, music, poetry, Paul Klee, Shakespeare, Broadway Musicals, modern dance, champagne, hugs, Sunday mornings, babies, silver jewelry, the Chrysler building, chocolate, her husband Jim, children – in general, and Me, her child, in particular.

She loved me in a way that left no smidgen of doubt. She loved me so deeply, so freely: as a mother loves her children – with pride and acceptance and gratefulness for my mere existence.

I whisper in my children's ears (now, mostly while they are asleep): "I will always be your mother, and I will always love you."

She taught me to love like that, my one and only mother.

And I loved her in return, fiercely.

And I miss her every day.

(p.s. If you are a regular reader of this blog and some of the words of this eulogy seem familiar congratulations, you are observant. I did, indeed lift and rework a few paragraphs from a number of past blog posts to use as elements in its creation.)