Atlanta Jewish Times Editor Michael Jacobs is on his second stint leading the AJT's editorial operations. He previously served as managing editor from 2005 to 2008.
“At My Pace: Lessons From Our Mothers” might be the perfect book for Mother’s Day, but not necessarily for mothers. Instead, it’s ideal for anyone who needs a reminder that it’s a gift to have a mother.
Jill Ebstein, who collected and edited the 38 stories as a follow-up to an “At My Pace” anthology of women’s stories, made several excellent decisions in the book’s structure: limiting each writer to one story of 1,000 words or fewer to convey one lesson; organizing the stories by the ages of the writers (under 40, 40 to 60, over 60); and, most important, including sons among the writers, a choice Ebstein credits to her own son.
Too often, we think of mothers passing wisdom to daughters and sons learning from fathers, but that’s not the way parenting works — fortunately in my family, in which daughters have been scarce through the generations and we have depended on the gifts women have brought and passed down through the Jacobs line.
I don’t want to say every Jewish man will be able to relate to the opening story of the collection, Noah Gardenswartz’s “Life’s Not Fair,” about the lesson his mother imparted at his bar mitzvah celebration. But I can’t think of any who wouldn’t nod and smile while reading it, and I suspect the same is true for Jewish women.
Ebstein, the sister-in-law of my rabbi in the years when I transitioned to adult, husband and father, writes that she sought a diverse group of contributors, but more than half are Jewish. That lineup might not work for everyone, but it does for those of us who are Jewish.
Some stories are colored by the Depression, the Holocaust or the immigrant experience. One memorable mom from Florida never was apart from her husband for 65 years, except for one night in Atlanta for a Hadassah meeting. Not all the stories are positive, especially the three from anonymous writers.
Reading this book won’t make you love your mother more, but it should help you realize what she gave you.