Sunday, July 19, 2009

Go West, says the family

One sunny day in May of this year, I was sitting on a beach in Marin County with my son, his fiancée (now his wife!) and her mother. I was waving at the cormorants, talking to the pelicans and wishing a whale would swim by. Susan, the bride’s mom, asked if I had ever thought of moving west. I replied that I have loved the ocean my entire life and once tried to move to Oregon, but failed. (I was offered a job at a 60 percent salary cut…)

Susan looked at me and said, “You might want to consider it again.” She glanced toward our grown children.“You would be part of the family mix, and not have to hear about their lives over the phone.” What a compelling sentence! As my plane landed in St. Louis the next evening, I looked at the abundance of beautiful green trees and thought, “I’ll miss spring in Missouri.”

Then a series of eerie events occurred.

I didn't realize the time sequence at first, but that beach picnic took place on Mother's Day, the day my brother died when he was 9 and I was 14. I called my aunt on May 12 -- the date my brother died -- to say I had made the decision to move. Three days later, the realtor told me he would have the condo on the market Friday, May 22. That's my brother’s birthday. Oh, and the realtor has the same first name as my brother.

A week later, for a freelance assignment I interviewed five women preparing for a group Bat Mitzvah, women ranging in age from 75 to 93. At the end of the session, the eldest, a beautiful blind woman, called me over to say she appreciated that I had not only listened to what the women said about this experience, but that I had heard them, believed in what they were doing.

She asked if I would be offended if she gave me a Hebrew name. I said would be honored. (I was christened Catholic, saved at a Baptist revival, shivered in the presence of Shiva in Bombay and spoke aloud to a statue of Sekhmet in Egypt – so why not?)

The woman said my Hebrew name would be Penina, and that she would call me “Penny.”I gasped audibly, startling the woman. I told her that I grew up hearing that my mother had intended to name me Penelope, and call me Penny. Daddy had agreed at first, but when he filled out the birth certificate, he wrote a favorite family name instead. Suddenly, 60 years later, a 93-year-old blind Jewish woman gave me the name my mother (who died in '72) had chosen for me! I asked what Penina means. It means "pearl." The pearl is my birthstone.

Two nights later, I was sitting in the cheap (relatively) seats at Opera Theatre. At intermission, a woman in the row behind me tapped me on the shoulder. She said she thought she recognized me. Then she said this: "Your father rented an apartment from my grandparents on Arco Avenue in the late 1940s." Indeed he had. My father died in 1982, and strangers rarely bring up his name.

All these coincidences occurred in just 13 days.

Believe what you like. I choose to conclude that my whole family is supporting this move.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this story, have you ever thought of writting? GO WEST.
    I will miss you!