Mommy and Daddy in Florida – Dobra Levitt

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           The end of winter in Jerusalem this year finds everyone saying, “What a long cold rainy winter this year!” quickly followed by, “Of course we need the rain.” That’s because no one wants to be caught complaining about rain in the Holy Land, Heaven forbid! Rain is our greatest blessing, literally and all that is meant spiritually. Truth is we all believe this and are deep down happy for the rain. It’s just that on a personal level there are challenges. (On my part, it may have been close to two weeks in total that I didn’t step forth out of the house because of the weather – not complaining mind you!) All of which when describing this past winter to a friend in the States brought to mind Mommy and Daddy in Florida.

       Mommy and Daddy moved from Philadelphia, our native city, to Pompano Beach, and spent their last decades in the Sunshine State. Their apartment was in a pleasant complex of three or four levels whose modest entrance lobby had on one wall a hand-painted mural of palm trees and pale pink flamingos. Each apartment on one side overlooked the meticulous mowed green expanse of a golf course. The golfers themselves were far beyond the residents’ vision – only the green swards, the sun pouring down, and reigning quiet was their benevolent portion.

     Like many others who retired under southern skies, Mommy and Daddy led a very simple life. They got up early and had their breakfast in the Florida-bright sun-lit kitchen. Daddy would then drive to the supermarket or the pharmacy for whatever was needed; during the day he would read the news, do his accounts, cut out coupons from the supermarket bulletin, have a chat with a neighbor. Mommy was content just being with Daddy; reading the fashion magazines or the occasional novel; and waiting for the light of her eyes – my brother’s daily visit (he drove in Every Day from Miami Beach, close to an hour each way). Except for the regular calls from family including our hold-out in Philadelphia, my sister, the only sound punctuating the sunshine and stillness (hardly any radio or television during the day) was the frequent woodpecker or tropical bird lighting on the evergreen trees outside. Daddy would stand at the open door of the patio with a smile and watch them. “Daddy loves animals and birds,” Mommy would always say. Later after dinner, the evening was reserved for the news, the weather report and programs they liked on television.

           The weather report in the States following right after the news and in some way overshadowing it, is an eye-catching production on its own. A huge map of the United States fills the television screen in unnatural blue-green color (the sight of those friendly states in their wide configuration from coast to coast is so familiar; one has seen them from a child; they might as well be the entire known world, and to many probably are). An impeccably attired weatherman or weatherwoman swipes the map with a pointer in dramatic flourishes, especially if anything ominous is afoot, showing you the weather systems across the country, while constantly moving graphics simulate heat and cold waves. “Storm surges throughout the mid-west today had states gearing up for possible tornado warnings.”

           Daddy’s place for viewing these nightly events was the sofa; Mommy’s was the roomy armchair by its side. The dinner hour was early so it did not preclude one or two after-dinner snacks. An eternity might pass and I would still remember how he sat in comfort with a piece of fruit or cake (Mommy never had fruit but would join him in the cake) visibly enjoying his good fortune living in the Sunshine State. “Snowfall up to two or three feet in upper New York and some parts of the tri-state area today had roads blocked and school closings …” Never could it be said that he gloated; not once did we ever hear him say how fortunate he was to be living in Florida; he was simply grateful for his lot, not to have to contend with snow, icy roads, freezing winter days. “Record rainfall in upper New York and New Jersey flooded roads and some major highways early today…”

         Nothing has yet reached its true perfection. Mommy and Daddy were very comfortable in balmy Florida, but there were wide gaps in their happiness. I like to picture them as I will see them again in Jerusalem. I say Jerusalem even if they should decide on a moshav, since at that time all of Israel will have the status of the holy city. I consider the possibility of a moshav because we always knew Daddy would have liked to own a farm. A moshav with open space, far-ranging views of the land, and neighbors close enough to walk to might be ideal for them. They could sit on their porch in good weather looking out on rows of cypress trees and beautiful yellow fields. Daddy would enjoy spotting the wild rabbit nibbling away at the grass. “Look, El!” he would say to Mommy, “that rabbit!” And his neighbor’s horses further off peacefully munching their morning hay, I can see him watching them in his silent inimitable way. “Daddy loves animals,” Mommy will say.    

           Having written them onto a moshav, I find myself asking if that’s their place after all – it might be a bit too quiet. From their earliest years they lived in the residential areas of cities. Born nine days apart just blocks away from each other, they grew up in what is now called Society Hill, renowned for their birth and other historic events. I don’t know if they ever did, but as children they could have walked down a few long streets and visited Convention Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed. From Second and New where Daddy was born to Third and Lombard where Mommy was born, it took another twenty-three years before they met and married. Then came moves to three other inner city neighborhoods before they moved to Florida. Our last house was in the northeast section of the city where my brother, sister and I had a long walk past tree-lined streets of semi-detached stone homes to get to high school. There are streets in a central neighborhood in Jerusalem that seem familiar because they’re similar – long tree-lined streets with spacious apartment buildings faced with Jerusalem stone. I picture them in just the right first floor apartment with a lovely private garden. Along with the fig and lemon tree already planted, they could add a rose bush and some honeysuckle. “Come outside, El – the first rose!” Neighbors would be close to strike up friendships (no seclusive living in that era) and they would have all the other advantages of the holy city.

         Big changes in their life will relegate Florida to the fond but distant past. Daddy would be going to shul regularly, sometimes on Shabbos accompanied by Mommy. Find me the words to describe how happy he’ll be with Mommy healthy and radiant at his side! (“at his side” is a bit of a stretch. He always walked a few steps ahead checking back; if my sister or I walked with Mommy, he was a good half-block ahead). Then, since Daddy is a Levi, he might have duties in the Beis Hamikdash two or three times a year. He and my brother will be spending more time together, learning about the Levites’ service in the Temple. “I’m so proud I just can’t find the words!” Mommy will tell everyone. Lots of company from relatives unseen for literal lifetimes will make life much more peopled than it ever was. And the greatest of all these blessings for them will be having their children well and all of us together again.

         As for the weather, there will always be a rainy season in Israel. But just as most of Jerusalem’s retired residents are not emigrating to more sunny climes now, how much more so in the future. The very concept of complaining will go up in smoke when the Temple is standing on the holy Mount again. The weather will remind Mommy and Daddy about the “good old days” in Philadelphia. And I see no reason why they wouldn’t still be interested in the world weather report. “Still snowing in Philly, El – eighty-six in Miami,” Daddy will say to Mommy. “What else is new?” Mommy will answer.

Dobra Levitt lives in Jerusalem where she has taught creative writing and literature. She has published a memoir, “The Fish in the Yellow Paper”, that can be seen on amazon.com, as well as other essays.

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