Last week we made an expected trip to Florida for my mother June Rosenberg’s funeral. Although it was expected because she was 94 years old and had an incurable heart condition, whenever you receive The Call, it’s always a shock.
My mother was born in Brooklyn, New York and was a talented artist. She attended Washington Irving High School when it was the art high school in those days before The High School of Music and Art was opened. After that, she finished a program at the Parsons School of Design and then attended classes at the Art Students League both in Manhattan. Her walls were full of her paintings and she worried what would become of them when she passed away as if they were her children. In a way, I guess they were. We'd try to calm her while inwardly I'd be struggling to imagine where I'd put all of them. "There'll be a place for all of them," I'd tell her.
I could talk about all the loving things that most parents do. My mother did them for sure. What made my childhood somewhat distinctive, however, was my parents’ political activism. To this day, it is the lodestar that shapes my life and dictates what I do and how I live.
My parents June and Jack Rosenberg got married right after World War II on September 22, 1946 and always had a wonderful relationship. We moved to Long Island in 1951 and they were active there in the Comm. for a Sane Nuclear Policy, the Civil Rights movement, and several other social-economic justice causes. During the era of crouching under school desks during air-raid drills, I was happy to tell my friends that my parents were in Sane.
One thing I am most proud of my parents for is founding a Fair Housing Committee with a few other couples in our Long Island suburb to promote it becoming racially integrated. This was not a popular idea at the time -far from it, but they knew it was the right thing to do. As a teenager, I went with them to many civil rights rallies and marches. One of my friends at the time would say that when I became a parent, I would have to give my children something I never had - something to rebel against. I remember my mother laughing at that.
My parents moved to Florida to retire and my mother loved being there. She moved to Brookline, Massachusetts in 2009 to be near my sister albeit reluctant to leave the Florida sunshine and quickly embraced her new community. We knew she was accepting the move when she wrote up petitions and got them signed for the Affordable Care Act.
At the end of her life, when my mother had mobility problems, her activism was confined to writing letters to The Boston Globe most of which got published. I’d have people take pictures of me whenever I attended any anti-war or social justice event and then I’d send the pictures to her. She’d always say, “It makes me feel good. You were there for both of us.”
June Rosenberg was interested in the world throughout her life. My parents didn’t have money to pass down to me, but I inherited my mother’s AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) pen. I’ll think about her every time I use it. I’ll have to keep doing it for both of us.
To see my mother’s recipes, visit my blog Recipes for a Better World http://www.recipesforabetterworld.blogspot.com. Or better yet, read my book Breaking the Fall available on Amazon as a Kindle or paperback. You’ll find her between the lines.