The Arbor Vitae 2013

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AFTERMATH

November 2, 2013

Tags: mother, memorabilia, Egyptian exodus, generations, Cataract Hotel, Aswan

Monogram of Esther and Nessim Mosseri

One month since my mother left us.
It has been an intense month of accelerating pressure to examine and accommodate the minutiae of almost one hundred years of multi-faceted living on three continents. We must vacate the rental where she lived for the past 30 years by the end of November.
Sharing out the memorabilia saved from the Egyptian exodus is the least of it. Anything bearing the distinctive monogram of Nessim and Esther Mosseri, my great-grandparents, is tumbling down the generations to our children. How did so much survive unchipped, intact, through so many years, so many departures, so many displacements, following my mother and father on three continents, smoothing my mother's way with their familiar elegance through each new chapter of her life? Certainly, Nessim and Esther could not have dreamed that the beautiful dishes, crystal stemware and silverware that graced their palatial residence in Cairo would be divided up and scattered to small apartments in Paris, Budapest, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle, where their great-great-grandchildren will wonder where they could possibly find the room to store them.
Many arms open to welcome these treasured remnants of family history, but the hands that pick and pack are scattered, and the hands on the spot - my hands - ache from the task, just as my heart aches as I sift through bundle after bundle of my mother's papers written in her distinctive, pretty hand. I can hear her voice in the quick notes and information she has been careful to include in as many places as possible. I have her neatly kept notebook of household hints. Who knew she cared about such things? She kept the bill addressed to my father from their honeymoon at the Cataract Hotel in Aswan. They were married in February, and I was born in early December of the same year. I caught my breath as I skimmed mysteries of my own beginnings. She kept all our letters, all the past of her three children who are now in their sixties and seventies. We all three lingered in awe over a small sweet bundle of love letters written to my father when they were engaged; our futures concealed in the happy reflections of a twenty-one-year-old in love, in 1937.
So much that she treasured has had to be cast aside, and I realize that each of us keeps signposts of our lives written in a code that no-one else understands. We each have claimed objects that remind us of her, but the true gifts she left us are gifts of laughter, of love, of memories, of good and bad times shared.
I miss her smile, her energy, the sound of her voice, the penetrating gaze of warm brown eyes that instantly caught any unsaid unease in me and coaxed it into the light. As the days pass and the piles of books and furniture, paintings and photos, letters and papers dwindle, I miss her more. This aftermath of death is a cresting wave, an ordeal beyond imagining. Soon, it will be past, and only debris will remain, faintly shadowing the living image of my mother in my heart.



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