01 My Jewish mom? Stoneware!


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Mom has a very mysterious personal history. I know only very little. As far as I know, she was officially Catholic before I was born. Everything points to her being born and raised Jewish. And even as I conjecture that to be the case, recent condemnations of her from someone are ringing in my ears. That person has enlisted the help of others through the years and right throughout the country to attack my understanding that she is Jewish.

I’d like to present a rather nostalgic series on mom, highlighting this or that indication of her Jewishness. I’m told that I will fail before I even begin, that nothing can be proven, that it is all futile, that I am foolish, that it doesn’t make any difference anyway (for one), that this needs to involve eugenics (for another), that this must mean that mom is… (and this is where violent condemnations come into play for yet another).

This is a quest, of course, for my own family identity, something I cherish. I invite you to come along for the ride in the detective work.

Let’s start with that which is mundane, white stoneware with two blue stripes. That was mom. There were a number of occasions through the years that she ever so nostalgically, reflectively, thoughtfully mentioned to me that this style was her favorite style of stoneware, going out of her way to – out of the blue – bring my attention to this or that artistic piece, as if she wanted to say more, and using these as a conversation starter. It had to be roughly white. Heavy. Solid. With two blue stripes, two mind you. It didn’t go without notice. I remember occasions when she did this, in the living room / dining room / office of the house I grew up in after we moved from when I was one year old until I was twelve years old. The same stoneware followed in a move outside of town, and then again with another move into a suburb just before both mom and dad died.

When I was older and knew something of the world, I mentioned to her that the double blue stripe on white on rough and heavy stoneware reminded me of the Israeli flag. That immediately put her into a gentle, quiet, reflective mode and, though agreeing, she didn’t expand on this, being ever so subtly evasive. I knew there was more to the story. Once she almost told me something, taking me from the stoneware in one room over to a hand painted portrait of her mom in another room. But then she fumbled for words, looking wistfully at the portrait in its antiqued frame. Yes, thought I, there’s more to this story.


Filed under My Jewish Mom

6 responses to “01 My Jewish mom? Stoneware!

  1. Gina Nakagawa

    This path cries out to be followed, Father

  2. sanfelipe007

    I am breaking my lenten fast from the internet to tell you you are not alone. My mother had the same “thing” for white and two blue stripes, as well as my aunt. It would show up all over the house. stoneware, linens, clothes. I, myself, preferred white sneakers with two blue stripes. Now one must ask, why were they able to find all these items with two blue stripes, anyway?

    Of course, Mother Teresa of Calcutta had the same preference: her choice of two blue stripes for her order’s uniform was even challenged by Israel! But her choice was made years before they chose the theme for their flag, I understand. I would say (as Father G put it) that these are common strands in the tapestry of God.

  3. Aussie Mum

    That some are so set against your mother’s history being known suggests there is something important to know. I look forward to hearing more about her.

  4. pelerin

    Fr George – there is a website which gives a world map showing where various surnames are most common. Not foolproof obviously but if you were to type in your mum’s maiden name it might reveal a clue.
    I did this with my mother’s maiden name which she always believed was German (and consequently was not happy in revealing it!) and discovered it was most prevalent in Switzerland.

    • Father George David Byers

      Yes. I’ve been doing a bit if that. I may have it narrowed down to a particular city…

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