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Turning Tides: Always a Daughter

As told to Leah Gebber

When Mom was 17, she hitchhiked across America, ending up in Hollywood, outside a film studio at the precise moment when they needed an extra. She was whisked into costume, made up, and shoved on-set. I think it was a restaurant scene. She sat in the bright lights, eating cold spaghetti. From that moment, she was sure some celestial force had guided her to be in just the right place at the right time, and that a dazzling career awaited her. It didn’t.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

After a few months of serving hot spaghetti at a budget diner, she let go of theHollywooddream. She returned toBostonwhere she married my father, had me, and spent the rest of her time painting her nails, dyeing her hair, and hosting dinner parties where she boasted about her stint as an actress.

How my father — an intellectual, a surgeon, a refined and thoughtful man — ever married my mother is a mystery, but the marriage didn’t last. Even after the divorce, Mom seemed to continue with her carefree lifestyle, and by the time I was nine I knew I would never make her happy. By the time I was 11, I spent most of my time at my Hebrew school teacher’s home. When I turned 12, my teacher asked me if I wanted to take on a mitzvah in honor of my bas mitzvah. Shabbat, I replied.

“Beautiful,” was the response. “Shabbos is called a matanah — a gift, stored up by Hashem in His treasury. It’ll be your birthday gift.”

At 14, I threw out my pants and short-sleeved shirts and picked out a whole new wardrobe. In the process, I blew an entire year’s worth of babysitting, shoveling snow, and vacation jobs. At 15, I issued an ultimatum: I was transferring out of public school to a Bais Yaakov, or I was calling up my father inNew Yorkand asking if I could go live with him.

Mom responded by having me committed to a psychiatric unit.

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