by Joy Krauthammer

January 9, 2007

An afternoon out with the gals, No; with Hare.

Whatever time I get to spend with Hare, I think of what she said to me in 1982,"What are you going to do when you grow up?" (I had already been a NY medical social worker.) Thankfully, we always look forward to playing together.

Hare and I always have the best time together. I have had our date today on my calendar for weeks. Hare is so totally booked up all the time, day and night, that it is an honor to be able to have some time with my fine fun friend. She accomplishes more than anyone else I know, and it is always fascinating to hear her stories, and see what unusual and colorful outfit she is wearing from her favorite thrift shops. I thought, last week, looking at my calendar that I had a conflict with our date. I found out about a writing class, Life Stories, while last week scanning The Jewish Journal web site. I was looking for one of my stories which was to be published, and instead, I noticed the Calendar item for a writing workshop that I could go to. I called the teacher, Jeanette Shelburne, and found that the newspaper had made a mistake and in fact the class was not last week but would be this week. I was a little disappointed thinking I would miss it because I had my appointment scheduled with Hare.

Hare called this morning, receiving my reminder call yesterday, and we talked about what we could do today. I suggested going with her to a new fancy spa for a massage because they I heard that there is a beautiful garden with a Chinese pagoda. I mentioned the writing class, never for an instant thinking that Hare would be interested, because this woman wrote for her college paper and was one of the best writers; I know because I read her stories. I loved her essay on the college pond ducks. Even Hare's daughter is an editor with a famous publisher. Hare was going to write a story on me, and it was fun when she interviewed me at length. Her former English professor became a good friend of hers.

Hare was, not surprisingly, the student speaker at graduation this last May, because she is the best. Imagine graduation with receiving seven, yes, seven different certificates and diplomas. Hare was a student at Pierce College for 42 years when she finally graduated. Hare made history. I was kvelling / so proud of Hare in her cap and gown and wearing medals. I still need to share my photos with her. Her husband--Ellory, son--Josh, and daughter--Mara, and I, all cheered her. The thousand guests and graduates knew who Hare's family was.  (See PS below.)

Hare's long awaited graduation after 42 years
(That's Hare in the red sneakers.)
© Joy Krauthammer

Hare, surprisingly, said, "YES." She too, had never had a writing class. How could that be? No more conflict for me. My good buddy was going with me. We never wrote in class, but listened to others read their life stories written before the Winter holidays in a previous semester or maybe the hour before. We also offered our critiques, "feedback."

Before going to class, Hare and I decided between having lunch together at Greek, Mexican, Chinese or Middle Eastern fare. Hare and I went down the street to a good veggie Chinese restaurant. I usually go to a similar eatery in my neighborhood, but since we were in the south Valley, it was a good choice, and Hare and I shared two delicious meals. Shitake mushrooms, baby bok choy, and eggplants. There is nothing like fake chicken made out of wheat gluten--no 'faces' that way! We have friends who say that they, "won't eat anything with a face". My maternal uncle Israel Mossman is newsletter director for many years of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America. He (along with his wife) only cooks what he grows himself in his garden. My friends in Jerusalem make their own tofu!

On other outings, Hare and I have shared Afghanistani food. That place is now gone; literally the building isn’t even there. I felt a little peculiar at the time of that meal, wondering what the politics were of the restaurant owners. I was not happy that Afghani's had torn down important historic religious huge Buddha sculptures. I stopped eating Ameci's Pizza at the time also until I figured out that the Afgani owners and workers were not the bad guys. I stopped eating at what I thought was a Greek restaurant, Greco's, when I found out the owner was Syrian. I felt culturally betrayed. Syrians had been raining down missles on Israel, and I was not going to eat at Greco's even if the food was good fake Greek food. Almost 30 years ago, I ate with my family at Angela's Italian restaurant. Where else could you get a good veggie Minestrone soup? Next best thing to Kosher. It turned out that the owner was Jewish. Ah, maybe she was Jewish Italian? My husband, Marcel, z’l, may he rest in peace, claimed that maybe his ancestry was Jewish Italian. (We enjoyed finding Kosher eateries in Rome.)  This week I was amused to be served my California roll by a Hispanic chef at the local Sushi bar. He did not even know how to say "Arigato"/ "Thank you" in Japanese. I tested him. At least today there was an authentic Chinese waitress in the Chinese restaurant. Wonder what nationality the veggie chef was?

When finished eating, Hare and I left for our first class at the ONE Generation Senior Enrichment Center. We were on time, and clearly the youngest ones present; about the age of the teacher. Small world that it is, the teacher belongs to the same synagogue where Hare and I are members and that shul is not even in our Valley. Knowing that we were landsmen felt good. The teacher recognized me from being a percussionist at shul, B'nai Horin / Children of Freedom.

I was happy to discover this afternoon class especially because I received advertising for a writing class: "Finding the Words to Say It: The Healing Power of Poetry", offered from the UCLA Pediatric Pain Dep't., and as much as the UCLA class would be perfect for me, having spent a year in mourning, the class is in LA off the 405 Freeway at Pico, and held in the evenings. I rarely go out at night; Only for shul, and drumming. I don't see well at night, and I fall asleep on the road, or have in the past, and I have difficulty concentrating at night; So I avoid this problem. If I have a passenger with me, while I am tired, it is less dangerous. I act as if I have toothpicks holding open my eyes.

Last week on a rainy cold day with friends, I went to the Mud Club at Glen Ivy Hot Springs, and it was a long drive home, couple hours in the evening, so friends and I stopped to eat Italian at Maria's Kitchen in LA. I filled up on yummy garlic "knots", mini moist garlic rolls. Eating Trader Joe’s salads and chocolate truffles were many hours earlier before the hot mineral baths, fun massages with red clay schmeared on while we sang out songs, sea kelp with aloe vera gel brushed on us, and an aromatic eucalyptus wrap for me, then dry sauna, so I ate too many knots, and the meal became superfluous; Delicious grilled veggies and pasta, even if not authentic. At least the young, handsome, dark long-haired art student, waiter (who received a big tip) was named appropriately, Anthony. I had not drank coffee, which normally I never drink, so to prepare for the drive home, I had Anthony give me a cup of ICE. I put ice on my thighs, my forehead, mouth; anywhere to chill myself into driving alertness in addition to keeping the window open and Sixties music loudly playing.

Back to today's writing class. Fascinating for me to listen to the stories of the mostly women in the class numbering 18 people, two men. I counted. Good Jewish number 18, chai / life. What was ‘fascinating’? The fact that most of the stories I heard sprinkled with foreign words, involved lives of Jewish people in the Diaspora; about their exile and dispersion from previous evil foreign environments. One writer, Eva, had lived in Paris, and on the Seine, the Champs Elysees, and at the Arc de Triomphe, she had a beshert / meant to be, romantic rendezvous and 13 day courtship with an American student returning from Israel. I had chills listening to the woman's story of how she met her husband to be. Other writers were Jewish in Russia, Cairo, Cuba, Bronx--east and west, Queens, and Brooklyn, and now the Valley. To me it was amazing that the majority of students were refugees from anti-Semitic countries, and had escaped from Hitler and the Nazis or the Czar's pogroms, to land in America. These reminiscences hold great significance because they are stories of survival, lineage, wisdom, strength, courage, character, and even humor, which sustains one in the darkest moments.

When class ended I asked the teacher why most of the class appeared to me to be Jewish and in a not so Jewish neighborhood. Jeanette responded that Jews like to talk and are communicators. Why just kvetch / complain , if one can kibbutz / shmooze in writing?

One story in class today particularly interested me; A Jewish woman had finally, decades ago, escaped from Cuba. Sharing an egg with the family was difficult enough, but not able to even receive a single egg on the food line and for needy children, was beyond the beyond. NO human rights honored. After her story, I shared with Feiguela or Fanny (the name also of my paternal grandmother zt'l whom I had never met), that my in-laws had been married in Havana and the father had even founded a synagogue there, probably around the time that she left. They were escapees from other Holocaust, Nazi over-run countries. Feiguela asked for my last name. "Krauthammer," I answered. She looked at me and said that there is a known writer by that name. I responded, "Yes, I know."

Feiguela continued, "His brother died." How strange for me to be hearing this fact, this story. "The brother–he is my husband", I added; "The brother who died a year ago this week." It really is my husband's first yahrzeit / anniversary of his death. I thought maybe she had read the eulogy a year ago; the famous internationally published syndicated story titled, "My Brother, Marcel." I asked Fannie how she knew the brother had died. Feiguela said that she, "listens to Dennis Prager", the radio host, and he mentions this fact at times when he talks about his friend, the popular political analyst, Charles Krauthammer. I too have heard Dennis say this. Feiguela also watches my husband's brother on TV. Of all the facts, pieces of political knowledge that the woman could have shared with me, but it was this personal piece of humanity, death, that had made an impression on Feiguela and that she shared with me, not knowing the family relationship. I wonder how Fannie felt realizing the sharing of the coincidence and of saying to me, the 'widow' of the dead brother, "His brother died." I entered this class today because of all the writing I have been doing about all the processing of pain, loss, grieving, vulnerability, and friendship.

My friend Hare was born in Bangor, Maine, not exactly New York, 'fer sure'. Her daughter now lives and works in NY. The son hangs out a lot in China. Both children also are brilliant. Her grandparents were from Belarus, Eastern Europe. Because my grandparents escaped at the turn of the century from shtetls of Russia and Poland, emigrating to America. I, became a proud New Yorker, born in the Bronx, grew up in Queens, played, and taught art in Manhattan, and worked as a medical social worker in darkest Brooklyn, until moving to Los Angeles, sunny California in 1974, to be married to a man born in Brazil, the Diaspora. Now a percussionist in Los Angeles, I have no reason to escape, Baruch Hashem / thank G*d. Valley days and nights may strangely be colder than where my married daughter lives in Boston, but I don’t have to shovel out my car, and I don’t feel anti-Semitism, and I eat eggs every single day, as well as the fruit picked off my vines and trees.

After three hours, class ended, and Hare was telling me about the ripe soft sapote fruits in her garden. She was going on to school (for her next degree) but invited me to go to her garden to eat the sapotes which were already picked and sitting on a waiting tray. "Take the whole tray," she generously offered, "otherwise they will be gushy to handle individually." She even gave me detailed instructions how to prepare them, sifting out the seeds through a colander. I would have rather gone to Hare's garden with Hare, but I did enter 'heaven' on my own through the heavy wooden unlocked gate. I ate the strange ripe light yellow, mellow sapotes right there on the spot. They are similar to very ripe pears with pits and seeds. One mushy sapote weirdly had two large pits; Peculiar. I also helped myself to a couple juicy tangerines from the many citrus laden trees and left the peeled skin in the mulch pile. Hare has offered them to me before, I reassured myself, plucking them from the tree. What a divine play yard. Oh, I even ate from a tree, a small ripe bitter orange colored kumquat, my favorite.

Hare’s tortoise was no longer living in the garden and I was like a hare in her garden; a rabbit nibbling on everything. I did not think Hare would mind that I took a beautiful green leaf off a lettuce head in the inviting raised bed. No washing needed from this organic garden, I was sure. Just nibbled it and loved the thought that probably I had never had a lettuce leaf so new and fresh in my life. Looking around the garden I was really optimistically hoping that I would find luscious hachiya persimmons on a tree. Too late in the season. Gone. We have had the best parties in Hare's garden over the years, Sukkot holiday and birthdays, and..., and here I was alone at my own rabbit party in Hare and Ellory's garden. Just no freshly hand squeezed juices or Hare's home-made soups from the garden's veggies. Out of love, Hare always gives to me and her other friends beautiful baskets of the best bounty from her garden of delight: Armenian cucumbers without skin, colorful non-hot peppers, tastiest tomatoes, big and tiny... Lots of brain food. I eat a lot of them before I even drive home.

It was fun walking cautiously through the heavily mulched garden, my purple suede Birkenstock sandals squushing, sinking into the deep moist thick leafy protective ground cover. I am hoping that I did a good deed; I found a hose turned on, watering a tree. I turned it off, thinking it was possible that Hare had forgotten to turn it off. No one was in the house to verify. I called from my cell phone.

I looked for Hare's sheep but did not find the remaining one. One Chanukah, in addition to friends enjoying yummy potato latkes, Hare's creative husband, El, hand carved for us, in the shape of Chanukah dreidels, wooden drop spindles for spinning fibers into thread. Dreidels, spinning toys, represent miracles and freedom. Knowing that I used to spin and weave yarn, one year for my birthday, Hare hired a sheep shearer to shear the few sheep. The hairs are finer and crimped on the Merino sheep, and their skin has deep folds, making it more of a challenge to shear. Hare, too, had learned to shear sheep at Pierce. What an experience! I needed my inhaler because the sheep wool was so filled with dust. The lanolin is awesome, rubbed fresh off the sheep hair. Great birthday present! Another year, Hare had Yale's famous women's choir sing "Happy Birthday" to me in her garden. They were visiting, as her daughter was in the choir and managing their way to a summer of overseas concerts. Hare got me the biggest Happy Birthday cake, and sadly, Hare was sick in bed and missed the whole thing.

Hare and I have been friends since our babies, from the age of three months, were in Mommy & Me class in January 1978, 29 years ago. I can still see our infants there, Aviva and Josh. I visualize my beloved maternal Grandma Ethel, z’tl, visiting, laughing with glee at my daughter, in school at three months old. Hare reminded me today how we went with our children in strollers, to the LA Children's Museum when it first opened. And Hare reminded me how we visited the Japanese water garden before the public was tuned into it. (I knew about these places because I wrote an ARTS newsletter called "Kid Kulture".) For Hare's birthday couple years ago, I took her to Sperling Gardens in Calabasas. We had a great time in the large nursery wandering about the roses, flowers, vines, trees, fountains, and giraffe animal sculptures. This last year Hare and Ellory's birthday fell out around the Jewish High Holidays. I took them both out for Chinese. What else should a good Jew do in beginning the New Year?

I produced an event at Makom Ohr Shalom last Shabbat, and Hare and her dear husband were both there supporting me in my endeavors. I loved seeing them, and it makes me feel good to see my friends smiling at me while I am playing drums. Hare and I have been friends with a small group of local women for at least 25 years, all having children the same age. Hare and I are the adventuresome ones. We are always thrilled to discover fascinating places, and just enjoy ourselves. We never have enough time to talk about everything. I can’t go 'antiquing' with Hare, 'cause I have no room at home. Hare has an original dancing skirt made for her from 'antique ties'. We have drummed together and danced together. This last summer we danced in the aisles at the Skirball Cultural Center's outdoor evening ethnic concerts. The prior June, at my daughter's simcha / graduation and bridal shower garden party, we also danced to the Hebrew singing and guitar of Cindy Paley, while I drummed; Was great festive fun.

My nicknames for my daughter, Aviva, are Bunny; Bun for short, and Rabbit. My husband also called her the same. I don't recall when Hare changed from her name, Harriet, but writing 'Hare' here is making the transition easier for me, because I was never comfortable with her new chosen nickname, but I must respect it. Now I even act like a hare. I used to own a white one when I was young. He won the pet contest Blue Ribbon at the Purchase, NY County Faire; I was so proud. "Bunny Boy" turned out to be female–guess how I found out?

Probably about 25 years ago, when our children were around five years, Hare saw me on a fast food ordering line, and we talked. "What are you going to do when you grow up?", Hare asked me. Well, I am writing now for different venues than before, and thankfully publishing my writings and art. I perform happily as percussionist in many spiritual places, and I have once again been producing musical events, and writing Press Releases as a Public Relations consultant. I am doing all these things, as I affirmed that I would again, "returning to Joy," as I used to do before becoming a Caregiver Angel Warrior for my husband, z'l, from which I have retired one year ago this week.

I have worn more than a few hats during all these years of friendship with Hare, which continues to grow, nourished by our souls, the way Hare tends her garden. I still can't answer Hare's question posed to me. But on these journeys of awakening, in discovering ourselves--our souls and, spirit, mind, heart and body, and our world, and even writing daily about it all, I just hope that Hare always has time to weave me into her busily booked days and nights as we become, with passion, creativity, truth, integrity, and authenticity, who we are birthing and what we are consciously manifesting, while we "grow up". Hare, when can we calendar our next exploration together, and what memorable adventure will we have tomorrow?

~ JOY ~


Hare just had another graduation, finally her BA, and won the Sage award. I'm proud of her.

Hare's internship was done at ONE Generation Senior Enrichment Center. This was where we had both studied Writing.

For the final class project in one of her final classes, on Health and Aging, Hare requested that I be her 'show and tell' project. Gladly, I accepted and spoke on Simchat Chochmah - Joy of Wisdom. Hare gave over a bio of me. Together we 'painted a picture'. My sharing was successful so I didn't let her down. I was the only 'live' demonstration in the class assignment. Together Hare and I continue our adventures while we figure out "what we'll do when we grow up."
August 2011

FOUR AND 1/2 years after initial web post, I add a new photo.
Hare prepared for me a promised, delicious birthday banquet, and she dressed for the occasion.
It is the 100th birthday of LUCY BALL this week!   See Hare's LUCY apron with Lucy's chocolate scene. Is that chocolate in Hare's hand, or is it a giant fig from Joy's tree?

& Lucy
photo by Joy Krauthammer  ©
~ ~ ~

More links to stories about my friend, Hare.

Birthday, I love Lucy

April 2011
Mitzvah for Hare's Mom, z'l.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, dear Joy.
    Enjoyed the blog with all its twisting reminiscences--like a dance among the words and fruits and vegetables. Such a juxtaposition of memory traces--it's like turning on a light or lighting a candle, catching images, bright and strong--a flash from the past--then flickering back into smokey black-and-white shadows. As Shakespeare would say, "Out, out brief candle--life is but...


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