When I think about my family tree, my thoughts turn first to my grandmother. I was a little girl when she died, so most of what I know about her is from stories my mother told me.
Bubbe was a small woman; her heavy, rimless glasses all but covered her face. Whenever I picture her, it is with a clean, white apron fastened securely around her tiny waist. But what I remember most clearly about Bubbe are her hands. They were always busy! Every week she made an enormous coffee cake. With great delight I would sit at the kitchen table and watch her mix the batter. Her secret ingredient, I think, was the loving way she prepared it.
There were so many things I never got to ask Bubbe, such as what she saw the first time she contemplated Zayde’s description of America. As was the custom with many Jewish immigrants, my grandfather had left Poland first, to find a job and make a life for his family. Four years later, my grandmother gathered up their six children and boarded the large ship that was to reunite her family. What inner strength she must have possessed to make such a trip! She did not know what lay ahead, but she had faith in Zayde. Bubbe saw the opportunity for a new life through her husband’s eyes, and for her, that was enough. Despite the uncertainties of life and the mystery of some far away place called America, nothing would stop my Bubbe from following Zayde.
I don’t think Bubbe ever ceased to look at life through his eyes. Zayde was her life, the center of her home. She proudly watched him preside over Shabbos dinners, as children and grandchildren gathered ’round their ever expanding dining room table. Her devotion to her husband knew no limits. When Zayde left us—left Bubbe especially—it was almost like a light flickered out inside her.
Her daughter was eight years old when she and her five brothers and sisters arrived in this country. Mom had a tremendous desire to learn English, and my Bubbe encouraged her. Mom received most of her English lessons at the movies, where she would sit spellbound hour after hour. The family settled into a comfortable townhouse on Thompson Street in Greenwich Village. My mother immersed herself in the world of museums, movies and books. She devoted herself to the study and understanding of art, reading about the masters and viewing their artistry through the untrained eyes of one who was becoming acquainted with beauty for the first time.
When I was little, Mom would point to a tree and say, Look at how many shades of green there are” or “Can you count the colors in that field?”
My mother still views life through the eyes of her cherished tutors, especially Rembrandt. She works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where she devotes her energy to research and writing. She once told me that Rembrandt must have known the Messiah personally, to have created such a masterpiece as the “Head of Christ.” My mother sees the accents and shadows of life through eyes deeply acquainted with beauty, and the joys and sorrows which accompany it.
Then there are my two daughters—ah, what mother doesn’t love to talk about her children? Kayla Miriam is 5 years old, and Jessie Hanna is a year and a half (at this writing).…
They look at life as only children can.
The strange doggie they see down the street today can become a terrible monster in their dreams tonight. The sticky, mushy cookie Jessie offers me is the way she knows to say, “I love you.” Kayla informs me that sunsets are God’s way of painting beautiful pictures for us. Indeed they are!
As Kayla’s and Jessie’s mother, I have to answer an endless stream of questions, like “Is God Jewish?” The responsibility of being a parent sometimes overwhelms me. But the beauty of being their mother is that, while they are learning about life through me, I am also learning about life through them.
Kayla is already forming a picture of who God is, so she is especially impressionable regarding her ideas about him. Yet, as I see life through her eyes, I too, am impressed. She is teaching me much about the simple trust God desires of us.
My grandmother loved and trusted my grandfather so much that she viewed the answers to life’s uncertainties through his eyes. She devoted her life to following him. My mother, totally immersed in the world of painting and sculpture, views life through the eyes of an artist. She has made a career of sharing her love and knowledge of art with others. My children have complete faith in their daddy and me, and they see life, for now, through our eyes. Who knows what ambitions they will someday choose?
And what of my vantage point? How do I see life? And to what purpose have I devoted myself?
Fourteen years ago, the eyes of my heart were opened to see the truth of the gospel: Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah. My life is affected in every way by that reality. Yes, I am my mother’s daughter, my Bubbe’s grandchild and my children’s mother. But my view of life is not rooted in my husband, my work or my children. I consider myself a devoted wife, mother and daughter, but even more, I want to be devoted to God.
The prophet wrote, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13). If we are willing to look, we can see things God’s way. He has told us his plans and asks us to follow him. Though life still holds uncertainties, and parts of it remain a mystery, there is one thing I know. God has made me his own, and has given me the eyes of faith. I see some things dimly, as if I were looking through a sheet of dark glass. But I know one day that glass will be removed. I’ll be able to look back on the path God has asked me to follow and I’ll see how every twist and turn was somehow bringing me home.