My mother was the oldest and played mother to her younger siblings, literally going to their parent-teacher conferences and giving them allowance as their own parents were poor and busy working for all the kids. In her 20s, my mom worked with special needs kids doing art therapy (before that was even a thing); her medium was sculpture and illustration.
After meeting my dad in Israel, she moved to America and became an au pair in Chicago where he lived, they then got married and moved to New York where she studied Talmud at JTS, then moved to Miami shortly after to become the Rebbetzin (a term she disliked) at the University of Miami. A couple of years later she followed my father to San Diego as he enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a Chaplain, and as we moved from state to state and country to country (Japan, South Carolina, Italy, Illinois, Maryland), she took courses at whatever university was local as she raised us in the home. She eventually accumulated enough credits to sit for the CPA exam and went on to rise to the top of her profession. At the time when she took the CPA exam, a person had to study for and pass all four major tests at once.
For a native English speaker passing all four parts of the CPA exam proved almost impossible at least on the first few tries; however, even though she started learning English only in her mid twenties, she succeeded in passing all four parts of the CPA exam on her first try. As a CPA, she joined various firms and then eventually became a named partner in a public accounting firm in Bethesda, MD. It is rare for anyone to have such a strong hold on both the right and left sides of their brain, but my mom was not just anyone as everyone who came by to console us in our time of mourning said what made her so unique was that she was such a strong woman, but at the same time had such a soft and loving side to her, making all that came in contact with her feel warm.
I learned almost everything from my mother by just seeing how she navigated and loved the journey of it all. We connected on so many things, but one of the most special was going to concerts together; two in particular stood out – one was Buena Vista Social Club where we met one of the singers from the group, Ibrahim Ferer, after the show and he passed away shortly after. And the other was seeing McCoy Tyner at the Blues Alley in D.C.; I had him sign the cover of my all time favorite album which he was such a big part of with John Coltrane, “A Love Supreme.”