That's me, Pattie Weiss Levy.

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Monday, December 5, 2016


A Word From The Weiss


      With Hanukkah on the horizon and Thanksgiving still visible in the rear-view mirror, no doubt you are expecting to hear about all the gifts I am gathering, or the fabulous turkey feast that I prepared for my family last week – what sorts of side dishes I served, and whether I cooked the stuffing inside the bird or out. But as much of a balaboosta (good cook) as I may purport to be, I am afraid that stuff far more substantive than stuffing continues to take precedence in my life.

      OK, I'm sure you must be growing weary by now of hearing about my daughter’recent calamity. But not nearly as weary, I can assure you, as I am of living through its aftermath and seeing her continue to suffer.

      As I have related here more than once now, Allegra was walking home from work one evening in mid-October when she slammed headfirst into a formidable tree branch that stretcheacross her pathA neurologist diagnosed her with a mild to moderate concussion and predicted that her long list of symptoms – including severe headaches, dizziness, neck and back pain, pressure inside her skull, blurred vision, mood swings, extreme weakness and fatigue, and loss of balance -- would dissipate in about two months.

      Two months!?! At the time, we were horrified that her recovery might take that long. Now I only wish it had actually been that short. After recovering slowly but steadily for three weeks, Allegra suddenly suffered a dramatic relapse, returning in most respects to square one. Along with all the above-mentioned symptoms, she has trouble standing or even sitting for long periods of time and eats most meals lying in bed. She has extreme sensitivity to sound and light. We need to speak softly around her and keep all the lights off. And even then she still often needs to wear sunglasses, even indoors on a cloudy day.

      As you can imagine, we began to grow extremely concerned and to wonder why no one – either in the emergency room to which she initially went or at the follow-up appointment – had ever deemed it necessary to perform an MRI, CT-scan, or other diagnostic test. But her concussion specialist assured us that the setback in her health was not at all unusual and merely indicated that she had attempted to do far too much too soon.

     Indeed, given her normal indefatigable nature, she had not only returned to work three days after the incident, but also continued, as a young jazz singer, to push through several scheduled performances as well. Clearly, all this had been counterproductive. So she took the entire week of Thanksgiving off from work, and I brought her home to Connecticut.

      During that time, while I made homemade pumpkin pies and cranberry sauce, roasted a 16-pound turkey and cooked the stuffing (outside the bird, if you must know), my daughter did virtually nothing – nothing, that is, but lie on the couch and do the only thing that doesn’t seem to hurt her brain: binge-watch old episodes of The Gilmore GirlsOur hope was that after 10 days of complete R&R (and Rory & Lorelei) she would be ready to return to work after the holiday break.
      But it was not to be

      Within minutes of arriving back at the private school at which she essentially runs the music department, it became clear that she was in no condition to function in a hectic work environment.

      Fortunately, we quickly learned that she was entitled to up to 12 weeks of paid medical leave. The plan now is that she will take off the three until the school’s holiday break begins. Then she will have until after New Year’s to recover.

     That, we are hopeful, will do the trick – provided that from here on in she does what we now know she should have been doing all along.


     Toward that goal, I’ve been living with her in her New York apartment ever since, taking care of her full-time. We can’t go home again -- not because Thomas Wolfe said so, but because she has to remain in NYC to attend physical therapy appointments.

     I must admit that it’s a little awkward for us both, to say the least, and not only because Allegra, at nearly 27, is extremely independent, and the last thing she wants is to revert to the days when she needed her nice Jewish mom to do virtually everything but wipe her tush.

    The other awkward thing is that she shares her apartment with three other young people. I’ve been living with them now, more or less, for nearly seven weeks. And as tolerant and understanding as her roommates have been, no one really wants anyone else’s mom to be underfoot for more than the occasional weekend, even if she brings dessert.

    Or beer.

    Feeling awkward, of course, is the least of it. Aside from the constant worry about my daughter’s health is having to watch her endure pain and not be able to do much to help.

    Then there's the heartbreak of having to repeatedly tell her she cannot do anything that she wants to do, and first and foremost on that list is getting to pursue her dreams.

    Allegra was scheduled to perform four or five gigs in the next two weeks, as well as to record what will be her third album on a record label. But the only way she's going to have a reasonable chance of recovering at last is by not doing any of those things.

     To our relief, the head of her record label proved to be extremely understanding about her condition, and he readily offered to reschedule the recording for early February.

     Allegra remained particularly heartsick about one of the gigs, however. It was at a classy, popular New York club at which she had never appeared before, and there was no guarantee that she would ever get a chance to perform there again. A musician friend had booked her to sing there, and we both cried the morning she called him to bow out. It felt to her as if she was giving up what could prove to be the chance of a lifetime.

     But then, one night last week, a small miracle occurred.

     Someone apparently chose to schedule a private party at the club for the night that she had been slated to appear. The club called her friend to apologize for canceling last-minute and promised not only to give them another date soon, but to pay them for the night anyway!

     Forget singing. Now I found myself restraining my daughter from getting up and dancing around the room.

     Best of all, I’m happy to report that with constant rest -- coupled with a continued steady diet of motherly devotion and, yes, Gilmore Girls -- Allegra is finally getting a little better every day.

     I still feel awkward imposing on the other inhabitants of her apartment. I also must admit that I have begun to miss my normal routine and what until now I thought was my rather boring life.

     I miss my friends. I miss my dog. And yes, I must admit, I even miss my husband.

     I also miss having something more interesting to tell you, my readers, about than this.

     But this is a blog about being a nice Jewish mom. And right now, awkward or not, nice or not, my kid needs me to be there for herI can only hope that you've missed me as much as I miss you. But sorry. Gotta go. I don't even have time to add pictures as usual. Drop me a line if you have a chance. I will write again when I can.

12:28 am 

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That's me. The redhead on the right. But that is NOT my baby.

     No, sir, that's not my baby. How could any mother smile beatifically while her own child wailed? Never mind that neither of my offspring ever cried so plaintively, as far as I recall (not while I was there to nurture them through their every perceptible need... although my son still complains that I often dressed him in garish and girlish color schemes, scarring him FOR LIFE).
     Besides, I'm distinctly beyond prime delivery age ("Kitchen's closed!" as my mother might say), and my kids had departed the diaper stage by the dawn of the Clinton Administration. Now in their 20s, both are currently living on their own, in not-too-distant cities, although each manages to phone me daily. In fact, to be exact, several times a day, then sometimes text me, too. (That may sound excessive, and emotionally regressive, but I subscribe to the Jewish mother's creed when it comes to conversing with kinder: Too much is never enough.)
     Two demanding decades spent raising two kids who are kind, highly productive and multi-talented, who generally wear clean underwear (as far as I can tell), and who by all visible signs don't detest me are my main credentials for daring to dole out advice in the motherhood department.
     Presenting myself as an authority on all matters Jewish may be trickier to justify.
     Yes, I was raised Jewish and am biologically an unadulterated, undisputable, purebred Yiddisheh mama. I'm known for making a melt-in-your-mouth brisket, not to mention the world's airiest matzah balls this side of Brooklyn. My longtime avocation is writing lyrics for Purim shpiels based on popular Broadway productions, from "South Pers-cific" to "The Zion Queen." Then again, I'm no rabbi or Talmudic scholar. I can't even sing "Hatikvah" or recite the Birkat Hamazon. Raised resoundingly Reform, I don't keep kosher, can barely curse in Yiddish, and haven't set foot in Israel since I was a zaftig teen.
     Even so, as a longtime writer and ever-active mother, I think I have something to say about being Jewish and a mom in these manic and maternally challenging times. I hope something I say means something to you. Welcome to my nice Jewish world!   
In coming weeks, I will continue posting more personal observations, rants, and even recipes (Jewish and otherwise). So keep reading, come back often, and please tell all of your friends, Facebook buddies, and everyone else you know that NiceJewishMom.com is THE BOMB!
The family that eats together (and maybe even Tweets together): That's my son Aidan, me, my daughter Allegra, and Harlan, my husband for more than 26 years, all out for Sunday brunch on a nice summer weekend in New York.

Comments? Questions? Just want to kvetch? Please go to GUESTBOOK/COMMENTS.