My two sons live in France. I have been a resident in Atlanta with my fiancé for a year. Since then, we created a WhatsApp account over which the whole family communicates. I never have long phone conversations with them, since they’re not very talkative; let’s just say they’re boys.
On March 15, we all bought flights to New York for May. Confinement in France started on March 17. All our projects fell through overnight. The French had 48 hours to decide where they wanted to be locked down, and for two months they were only allowed to go out for one hour a day, not further than 1.6 miles from their homes.
I would have given anything to be with my children. I would have loved to be able to share their fears because I could feel they needed to be reassured. My 30-year-old son Antonin confined himself with his wife Anne, which was fine, but my other, 26-year-old son Victor, who is single, does not know how to live alone.
Every night I would call him, and every night, repetitively, he would open a can of soup and cut cold chicken in it for dinner. So, I sent him a shopping list.
I even guided him on Skype on how to make Osso Buco. And though it wasn’t something we usually do, we decided to have a family Kiddush via Zoom every Friday night. Once a week, we would eat together – dinner for them, lunch for me with the time difference – cooking the same thing to feel like we were all together at the same table. Today the French lockdown is over; my younger son has informed me that it is not necessary to call each other as much. He now knows how to make Osso Buco by himself.
From Caretaker to Gardener
Ursula Blumenthal shares how she mothers two sons in Israel; one in Dallas, Texas:
I’ve always been a typical Jewish mother. I found the wife of my eldest son, Philippe, in a synagogue in Israel. He was 36 years old; it was time for him to get married! I was born in England; I lived in Switzerland and have been living in Atlanta for 42 years. My American husband David occupied the first chair of Jewish studies at Emory University.
I am very good at managing long-distance relationships. The best solution?
FaceTiming each other all the time. With the confinement, nothing changed. The phones are always ringing between Atlanta and Israel, where two of my sons live, and Dallas, where my other son Benjamin and his wife have settled recently.
Phone calls are less frequent with my son Jonathan because he’s ultra-Orthodox. We get along very well and respect his choices, but he doesn’t have a smartphone since it’s forbidden in his community. What is permitted? Just a basic phone with an internet connection, created for and by the ultra-Orthodox. He lives with his wife and daughter near Jerusalem, in Ramot, a city where the percentage of infected people was one of the highest in Israel. I asked him to not kiss the mezuzahs anymore.
This period was difficult for us because my son Philippe’s daughter Keren, 14, was hospitalized with spontaneous pneumothorax in Israel. It was very hard not being able to get on a plane to be with them. Therefore, I planted flowers here in Atlanta, and take care of this garden in place of taking care of her.
We did Passover together via Zoom with those in Dallas and those in Israel. It was midnight for us and 7 a.m. for them. A first! We’re adapting.
Gifts Reduce Distance
Marianna Taymanova describes her relationship with her son in London:
My son and I are very united by what we shared together. We left the Soviet Union in 1989, when he was barely a 7-year-old child, to move to England. My husband died 10 years ago when my son was 27. Since then we are very connected, while very different. I’m a university professor; he’s a businessman, [head specialist in IT and operations]. Five years ago, my son married an American, and they have settled in London. The same year, I married an American, a brilliant scholar at Emory University, and I agreed to follow him to Atlanta.
I don’t teach anymore, but I’m a translator. Before the lockdown, my son and I did not speak much. I don’t blame him. He’s very busy. I’m busy, too. And often he is more of a Jewish mother than I am: I am never careful enough; I should avoid going to the dentist since the virus; I should install an alarm system. He’s very protective, and very generous.
He sends me presents for Mother’s Day, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot to celebrate my husband’s birthday. It’s his way of showing his respect and love, because I know he doesn’t say it with words. Yet since he has been working at home because of the pandemic, he takes the time to FaceTime while my little granddaughter Mila eats or plays next to him. To share these moments with me is new, and it makes me so happy. Strangely, it makes me look on the bright side and enjoy the good things about this period.