I Am Not Everybody

Tuckmans Bunglalow Colony, 1965 -- a great day out with my mom

When I was two years old my mom and I would sit side by side in ancient beach chairs on top of a mountain in the Catskills and soak up the sun and she would tell me stories of what it was like to be a little girl in the Vilna Ghetto.  I just loved hanging out with my mom. 

When I was six years old and had a friend over to play my mom would peek her head into the bedroom, disrupting whatever drama was unfolding in the Barbie house, I wished my mom would go back into the kitchen where she belonged. 

When I was 10 years old and my mom came to my school for Parents Day and she was the only mom dressed there in pants (and polyester pants, noch!) I just wanted to keep on asking for the bathroom pass and leave the room for the whole day. 

When I was 13 and we were back in the Catskill Mountains and all my cool friends where sneaking off to smoke cigarettes in the woods and my mom insisted I come and sit with her and my grandmother in the shade of our bungalow and work on my knitting. I had such a crush on Leon but so did Debbie and she was out there with him and I was stuck with my mom knitting and my life was over.  “But, Ma, everybody is there!”  “You’re not everybody!”  was her answer, always her answer…. 

When I was 16 and we were all going to go down to Rockefeller Center to go ice skating, and it’s only $25 dollars for 15 minutes, and it’s just two hours on the subway (that stops every five minutes in the South Bronx and in Harlem) and my mom didn’t let me go.  “But Ma, everybody is going!”  And my mother would reply, as always, “You’re not everybody!” 

And then I was 20 and leaving home forever and moving to Israel.  My parents came with me to the airport and both cried but I was too excited to get on the plane to notice.  A few months later my parents themselves made the trip when I married The X.  They smiled and hugged and let me have my Bridezilla moments, all the while not liking the person I with whom I had chosen to spend the rest of my life.  But they smiled, because deep down my mom had a secret — I am not everybody. 

And then I was 28 and the mother of four darling daughters, and I started taking them to New York to visit their grandparents.  “Don’t take them to the zoo,” my mother warned, “it’s dangerous.”  She didn’t let me introduce them to the narishkeit (nonsense) of my life and made sure I fed them healthy food instead of Entenman’s donuts for breakfast.  When I wanted to drag my then 14 and 13 year old daughters down to Fifth Avenue to watch the Thanksgiving Day parade (in the rain), she put a stop to that.  “But, Ma, everybody needs to go down there at least once!”  And her reply, “You are not everybody!” 

And then I was 41 and my father had just died the year before, and I was going through a divorce, my mom was the most supportive mother in the world.  I discovered many secrets that year that she didn’t want me to know, and through it all, when I wanted to go and yell out my anger and frustration to the world, my mom put a gentle hand on my arm and said, “You are not everybody.” 

And then I was 42, and getting married to a man that I just know my father would have adored, getting married to a man who would treat my mother with respect (even though she never could get his name right), and my mom was too weak and too scared to make the flight out to Israel for the wedding.  “But, Ma, everybody’s mother comes out for their wedding.”  And you know, by now, what my mother would have said to that. 

Six months ago I was proudly shlepping my husband out to finally meet my mom.  I don’t know who was more nervous, but this meeting was finally going to happen.  And then, Man plans, God laughs. The night before our flight we got the news that my mom had died quietly in her sleep, a burst aortic aneurism. She went in death as she never would have in life, quietly, no fuss, just a small sigh while she slept. 

And she is so right — I am not everybody!  So to commemorate my first Mother’s Day without my mom, I offer you her recipe for shmaltz.  This stuff accompanied me throughout my childhood, always there, ready to support whatever meal my mother placed in front of me.  Always there, ready to support, just like my mom. 

You can see my mom’s recipe for shmaltz as I originally posted it on Recipezaar in 2004.  I wish I made it more often.  I wish I had a picture of the stuff to show you, but I don’t, and thanks to widening family waistlines, I won’t be making this anytime soon.  But if I ever do think of shmaltz, it always brings back wonderful memories of my mother.  

The last day I saw my mom, August 2008 -- I started to cry, because I didn't know if I was every going to see her again. "Why are you crying, Mamaleh?" she asked. I replied, "Because everybody cries when they say goodbye." And her reply, "You are not everybody!" She gave me a huge hug, an even bigger smile, and sent me back to my family.

About Miriyummy

All I want to do is live happily ever after.

Posted on 9 May 2010, in Chicken, Family Life, Jewish cooking, Mom, Passover, Sauces and Dressings and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. This was very moving, Mirj. Your mom’s (Z”L) recipe for schmaltz is different than my mom’s, but then you’re not everybody…(I was thinking there’d be similarities in the recipes because my mom’s family is from the same area of Europe.)

    I use a low fire but turn it up a bit at the end to make the grieben crisp. I slice the onion thinly, cut the pieces of fat and skin into postage stamp size (smaller than what you describe), and add a bay leaf and a few whole peppercorns into the pot. Mine takes hours and I definitely leave it alone, giving the pan a swirl (never stir) every so often. I do watch it carefully at the end to make sure it doesn’t burn.


  2. mariealicejoan

    Oh Mirj, what a wonderful tribute to your mom whom you love so very much. It’s evident in every word. I am going to see my mom this July. It will have been three years since I saw her last and, like you, I have a feeling this will be the last time I see my mom, but then again, she could surprise us all! I wish you a Happy Mother’s day and I just know your new husband and your dear daughters will spoil you today! xxoo


  3. tobythegreat

    Okay, I’m tearing up here on my lunch break 🙂
    That is a beautiful post! Thanks for sharing it with us!


  4. Oh Mirj! I’m tearing! Another great blog. Keep them coming


  5. Mirj- This was a lovely Mother’s Day post. I have tears in my eyes (and I can’t blame it on the onion I just chopped!). Thanks so much for sharing. Have a great Mother’s Day.


  6. A very moving post. It made me think about my (and Ju-boy’s mum) – especially as yesterday was the English anniversary of her passing on.

    Also – did you know that Ju-boy’s mother also made schmalz and grivenes. We loved it – and ate it just as it was. Never bothered with adding it to liver or on bread. Just noshed it. View it as kosher pork scratchings 🙂

    As for schmaltz being unhealthy, i prefer to believe one of my favourite cook books and the only one with a recipe (Cooking Kosher – the Natural Way, Jane Kinderlehrer, Jonathan David Publishers Ltd, 1983). This quotes from Poultry Science, 56:166-173, 1977 and points out that schmaltz is NOT saturated fat like other animal fats – and has a significant proportion of unsaturated fatty acids (depending on the bird – but can be up to 75%). This is why they are mostly fluid at room temperature and (say the researchers) “places them closer to vegetable oils than to other animal fats….”. Significantly they are also a great source of vitamin E – which helps prevent them going rancid (as it’s an anti-oxidant) and is reputed to stimulate sex drives as well (noch).

    We have to pay for fat, from the butcher – as in the UK they trim off the fat for people who don’t know what they are missing, and prefer lean skinny (size 0) chickens), ignoring the fact that the chicken has probably had the poultry equivalent of botox to bulk-it-up anyway.


    • In our house Ju-boy is the self-appointed chicken cleaner, and he, in his infinite quest for a trim figure, throws all the skin and fat away. Each week I mourn the loss. If I weren’t so squeamish about the cluckers I would clean them myself, but this is a team effort, and he makes a unanimous decision. Perhaps his elder brother could beat some sense into him?


      • I’d love to beat some sense into him – but I doubt that it would work, considering he refuses other traditional delicacies such as chopped liver!

        Try serving him up calves foot jelly – and see what he makes of that! (That’s another disappearing dish, along with helzel).


  7. Yes, you are certainly one of a kind. That made me cry – it was beautiful.


  8. I love the story of your Mom. She sounds like she was a wonderful mother and I know you miss her very much. Thank you for sharing her with us! Happy Mother’s Day!


  9. rutimizrachi

    I don’t usually cry all over my cookbooks. Have to mop up the keyboard now. Thank you for posting such a nice memorial to your dear mother.


  10. This is an incredibly moving post. It is a stark reminder to the rest of us on Mother’s Day.. and yes, the rest of this week if not year.

    We plan on leaving for Israel in two years. While I count down the days, I worry about leaving my parents behind, and what it will mean for them….

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful post. Had I read this before reading your comment on http://www.ima2seven.com, I don’t that it would change my opinions, but it might have changed the way I wrote my reply. It certainly feels, at times, like we more to handle than we can bear.


    • We seem to be cross-commenting on each other’s blogs. I respect you for your opinion, and, quite frankly, am also a little jealous of your outlook. May we all live happily ever after!


  11. What a lovely tribute to your mom!


  12. Such a lovely story, Mirj. Very moving. I’m sorry that both of your parents are gone now. – Heather


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