A Jewish Story of Three Women, Three Generations

    May 2011          
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Opinion & Society


Three Women

By Doreen R. Burnston

They sat at the kitchen table; three women from three different generations. It was strange to listen to each one's perceptions of life in general and specifically of their own lives. The oldest had two sons, one a doctor and the other a lawyer. She had just faced major medical problems; a simple mastectomy and two cataract surgeries. She was widowed many years ago and never sought male companionship. Her sons are there when she needs them.

The middle woman had two children, a son who became an attorney and a daughter who became an actuary. She suffered with herniated disks and osteoarthritis. She felt isolated from her children and life in general. She was divorced and was desperately seeking male companionship but seems to attract the wrong men.

The youngest had two sons young enough to still be in school. She is healthy and happily married. She enjoys the fruits of her labor and is very much into material things. She is self centered and doesn't realize there are other people in the world besides her immediate family and friends.

They ate a simple lunch. The oldest one had already eaten her peaches and cottage cheese before the other two arrived at her apartment. They brought a sandwich and a salad from a local store and black and white cookies for dessert. The oldest one made instant coffee and the other two shared a can of ginger ale.

The conversations went the way they always do…in multiple directions. They talk about their children, their medical problems, other family members, both dead and alive, designer handbags, and on and on.

The oldest one takes out a picture album of her grandson's wedding. It was a beautiful day in August. He is the son of the doctor who is also a doctor who married a physical therapist he met in school. The youngest wants to know who everyone is in the pictures. She has not met these people before. The oldest points with pride to her sons and their wives and her grandchildren. When the youngest points to a good looking man in the picture the oldest is upset. This is out of character for her. She is usually poised and self assured and is not easily rattled. She explains that he is a young man that her granddaughter brought to the wedding. She met him at work. She pauses and says, "But he is not Jewish." The other two women easily understand what she means. And then she adds, "His name is Chris." That is descriptive enough.

All three generations are Jewish and have raised their family in that religion and felt secure that the tradition would continue. There is a solid foundation of faith in this family that now might have a loose stone. The irony is that this granddaughter had attended religious schools from nursery through elementary and high school and some of the best schools since her parents are both doctors and money was never an issue. Of course, no one really knows where this relationship is going but the mere fact that it could blossom into something permanent has unnerved the oldest one. You could feel her disappointment. You could feel her pain. You could feel the hurt from all the generations that preceded her. There was a sanctity of religion and marriage in this family and the middle woman knew this best since she had broken the vows and gotten divorced.

What could one say? The oldest is the one you look to for advice and consolation. She is the wisest with all the years had given her. The middle woman still feels that solidity of religion of family since her children followed in the tradition. But now we come to the next generation and no one knows what paths they will take. The youngest thinks of her boys and can only pray they will stay the course because they are too young for that yet. The middle woman will also have to wait and see which path these boys will take. It was a wonderful day for the three women to sit and eat and talk but it left everyone wondering what the future would bring to this traditionally Jewish family.


from the May 2011 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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