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From Generation to Generation

From Generation to Generation

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Several months ago, four to be exact, I went to Brooklyn to visit my newly married daughter. Her husband answered the door and greeted me with a question. "How are you feeling?" he asked. There was something odd in his tone.

"Fine," I replied, throwing him a quizzical look.

"You're not nauseated, or moody, or gaining weight?"

"No," I said, confused.

"Your daughter is," he answered, grinning. When I saw my beaming little girl standing before me with a proud, shy smile, I knew exactly what he meant. They're having a baby! I am going to be a grandmother, G‑d willing, for the first time.

I was Mom, and there was no way they could keep it from meAccording to custom, they didn’t want to tell anyone else in the immediate family until the end of the first trimester, which was still over two months away. The rest of the world wouldn’t hear the news until the beginning of the fifth month. But I was Mom, and there was no way they could keep it from me. After all, my daughter had to have someone to share her excitement with, and just as importantly, someone to complain to. "I'm fat. I'm nauseous. I'm pregnant!"

This is the same girl who didn't pick up the phone for the first month of her marriage. Now she's calling me three times a day with question after question. Every one begins with either "Is it normal to...?" or "When you were pregnant did you...?" My answers to the questions about normalcy are almost always the same: "Yes" or "Ask your doctor." But to the queries about my own pregnancy, my memory is a little fuzzy. I do remember being tired in the first few months, and I never had real morning sickness. The only thing that made me queasy was the smell of sesame oil, which shouldn’t have been a problem except that when I was pregnant in New York City twenty-one years ago, you couldn’t walk down the street without passing a Korean deli with a salad bar. I’d get one whiff of that telltale scent and have to run behind a bus for a quick dose of exhaust fumes.

My daughter, on the other hand, was nauseated every day for three solid months, and I had no advice to give her except, "It will pass."

I knew there was one person who would have more answers than me. My mother. Grandma. Soon-to-be- great-grandma. Trouble was, my daughter wasn't ready to tell her the big news and I knew my mother would never forgive me if I let three months go by without telling her that her only grandchild was pregnant. I'd made a promise to my daughter, but I had to get around it. Somehow there must be a loophole. “Well, if she guesses,” my daughter admitted. I told my daughter she had no choice. We were going to visit her grandma. Immediately. Sure enough. All my mother had to do was take one look at her granddaughter's face. "When's she due?" she mouthed to me silently.

I laughed. "I knew you'd guess.

"I didn't guess," my mother huffed. "I knew."

All my mother had to do was take one look at her granddaughter's faceMy mother shared my confusion: why couldn’t we stand on the nearest rooftop and scream out the good news? My daughter gave us the kabbalistic explanation. "Some blessings are better when they're hidden," she said gently. The peace and sureness in her eyes told me she was right. This was her blessing, her secret. We needed to protect it a little longer.

Still, I couldn’t resist the temptation. I tried to work on my daughter's moral code. "You don't want me to lie, do you? What am I supposed to say when people ask, ‘Is she pregnant yet?’” I thought I’d stumped her. No such luck. She replied with quiet wisdom.

"Just tell them we don't discuss these things till the right time."

Most people left well enough alone and kept silent. My two best friends, however, weren't fooled. "That means she is!" I made them promise not to spread the word, adding, "We're not even supposed to talk to each other about it yet." That was too much to ask. They had so many questions. After all, my daughter is the first among all our children to marry, let alone to have a baby.

"How is she? How are you?"

I assured them my daughter was fine. I'm still not sure about me. All kinds of thoughts are racing through my head. The first one -- that I'm too young to be a grandmother -- goes away the moment I read a statistic that says that the average age of an American grandmother is forty seven. The other obsessions are too intense to brush away. My little girl, who just yesterday was crawling on my kitchen floor, is going to be a mommy. How is that possible? She can’t even make dentists appointments for herself. How will she ever take care of another person?

My little girl, who just yesterday was crawling on my kitchen floor, is going to be a mommyAnd then there’s the baby. The baby. I truly don't care if it's a boy or a girl. But I worry constantly about everything else in his or her little life. Will he or she be healthy? Will he or she be happy? Will he or she be everything G‑d wants him or her to be? These are truly life's unanswerable questions, the ones that can really keep you up at night. I’ve come to understand that the only solution is prayer.

I find myself praying morning, noon and night. I pray when I lie down and when I rise up and when I walk upon my way. I pray to G‑d to protect my daughter and her unborn child. I pray for her health, and for the baby's. I pray for their bodies and their souls. And then I pray some more.

I pray that G‑d will guide the hand of my daughter and my son-in-law, and that their child will be a Jewish child who’ll grow up to love and trust both parents and G‑d.

I pray for the strength to love but not to interfere, to help but not to meddle.

I pray for everything that every grandmother has ever prayed for since the beginning of time.

And then I say a special prayer of thanks to G‑d for simply being there to pray to, for standing beside us, as we usher a new life into His world.

I'm going to be a grandmother. And I'm trembling with joy and awe at this holy opportunity.

Jessica Klein Levenbrown is an award-winning television writer and producer. She began her career at Sesame Street, was the head writer of the daytime drama As The World Turns, and with partner Steve Wasserman wrote and produced the television series Beverly Hills, 90210. Jessica created the teen television drama Just Deal, partially based on her own experiences as a Jewish mother, and most recently produced the series Scout’s Safari.
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Anonymous August 6, 2014

You keep making them and I'll keep sending Mazel tovs!!! Reply

Jessica Klein Levenbrown August 6, 2014

I love being Bubbie Jessica! My first grandchild, a wonderful little girl, is now 7. Her brother is 2. And another is due in September, 2014. Reply

Anonymous August 5, 2014

Mazel Tov! Although I can not find a date of this article...mazel tov...bubby! Reply

Sharon Evans Coral Springs, Fl. via coralspringschabad.org May 8, 2011

Grandmothers What a beautiful, heart-warming article! Reply

chana gittle deray pgh, pa February 13, 2008

your happiness comes right through!! i wish you all joy, and health. thank you for sharing your thoughts!! Reply

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