Just the Ticket

Today is my mother’s yahrzeit. Today marks the 7th anniversary of my mother’s death. I can’t believe that it was seven years ago. Seven is a significant number for us Jews. We sit shiva for seven days after a person dies.  I’m surprised that there isn’t some ritual or blessing or special thing that one does when a person has been dead for seven years.

Somebody once told me, “When we are grieving, our hearts are open. When our hearts are open, it is a time to receive.” The same person told me you don’t get over grief. It is always there. Some times it is more active than others. Today it is active and today my heart is open and in my heart is where I found the significance.

So here’s the significant story.

My kids think that I am perfect. Or perhaps they think that I think I am perfect and expect the same from them. Alas, it is definitely not true. I am not perfect nor do I expect them to be. Nevertheless, I refrain from regaling them with stories of my not so flawless and somewhat adventurous youth. The mistakes and missteps I made along the way have led me to where I am today and I turned out pretty decent. So I see no need to tell them the nitty-gritty details of the fun I had straying from the path before my frontal lobe was fully formed.

Of the few stories that I have been willing to share, now that my girls are closer to the age I was when these events happened, one became significant this week.

I went to college in west L.A. where parking was at a premium: on campus, in public parking lots and on the street. I got a lot of parking tickets. Some were for expired meters, others were because I forgot to move my car on street cleaning day and a lot were just because I was too lazy to find a legal spot. In this instance I did not learn from experience. Ever the optimist, I continued to challenge the odds on a regular basis and park my car in places where it was not welcome. Of course the odds were ever against me and I collected a series of parking tickets.

Then I would forget to pay them. Yep. I’d put the ticket in a pile of things to take care of and forget about them as I immersed myself in my studies and also driving around L.A. discovering the city and new places to illegally park.

Since the car was registered to my father’s name and address, notices of unpaid fines were mailed to my childhood home in Buena Park. That’s when the phone in my dorm room would ring. My mom would call and tell me that the notice of an unpaid fine came and that she paid the ticket so that my father would not find out. There’d be some scoldings, but not really any threats of punishment. Considering how many tickets I got, it did little to deter me from my wayward parking habits.

I often drove the 40 miles home to visit on the weekends. My parents were always happy to see me. At some point over the weekend, my father would pull me on the side to inform me that a notice came in the mail for a parking ticket. He also let me know that he had kindly paid it on the sly so that it was taken care of before my mother found out about it. He was less likely to scold.

I couldn’t tell you how many times this happened, probably not too many or my parents would have gotten angry at some point. But in later years it became a favorite story that my mom liked to tell. Those parking tickets became a significant memory illustrating both my impetuous ways and my parent’s tolerance for their youngest and somewhat impudent child. On one occasion or more, my mother would cheerfully threaten, “I hope you have one just like you some day!”

Well, I had one, about twenty years ago. I don’t know if she is just like me. Neither of us is perfect, but so far she hasn’t gotten into too much trouble, except for the parking ticket last week. She recently moved to San Jose. Parking is at a premium in her neighborhood.

On Thursday I woke up to a text from her at 6 AM, “I got a parking ticket.”  All I could do was laugh. “Welcome to city life,” I responded. And then I offered to pay it for her, just this once. It seemed like the right thing to do since my parents bailed me out so kindly when I was her age.

I really missed my mom right then. I ached to call her and tell her the story. She would have laughed out loud.

The timing of this event is significant. My mom is always on my mind and in my heart and in my head, for sure. This week, however, she is more. I can feel that the grief is a bit more active and my heart has been a lot more open. They say that paybacks can be a bitch. But this one is a blessing. It is a story that comes full circle, connecting me to my mom and my memories and bringing the past into the present for us to enjoy in a new way.




6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Martha Gershun
    May 28, 2017 @ 12:46:30

    Beautiful, beautiful story.


  2. Barbara Dawson
    May 28, 2017 @ 14:04:46

    “Family” is much on my mind today. This story is sooooooo like both you and


  3. Noel Tenney
    May 28, 2017 @ 14:11:26

    Laurie Gershun. I was one of your first childhood friends, but I think I was a year older, perhaps the same age though. I am a ferternal twin, my name is Noel and my twin brother’s name was Kelly. Then my middle brother was Ward, and older brother was Jeff. My mom was is Mary Tenney, and my dad’s name was Jerry. My brother Ward and my dad have passed away. I lived almost on the corner of Fox Hills and your street. I have a pictures of you somewhere holding a puppy on a wooden locomtoive my dad built in the backyard, and when you were at my 4th birthday party at the animal park area of Knott’s Berry Farm. The party was in a train car, if you can remember. Some how I discovered your wonderful writings while I too was living in Hawaii. I just retired from the Honolulu Police Department after 27 years of service, and I recently moved back to California. How did I discover you? Well I was in Hawaii searching my old Elementary school, Emery Elementary, and somehow clicked on your post. I was trying to figure out a way to connect with you. I thought it so strange that a neighbor girl I played with when I was 3,4, and 5 years old, was a teacher at a Waianae school. I thought, what a small world. So I’ve read some of your work, and actually recognize some of your pictures, particularly those of your older sister. I do remember your dad and your mom, and she was so very nice. When I was 6 we moved to a house on Burlingame Street, but I know my mom maintianed contact with your mom for some time afterwards. You are such a great writer. Amazing. I am so sorry for your grief, as you now know I lost a brother and my dad and I have experienced loss as well. My mom is 87, so she is healthy but her short term memory is ver bad. When my mom passes, it will be extremely crushing to me. She and I are very close. Hawaii is very expensive, so being retired living back in the mainland on a pension is better. I am at noeltenney@gmail.com if you would like to connect. I admire the strength and consistency of your Jewish faith. Although I am a Christian, I believe our two faiths are closely linked. Good bye for now, Noel


  4. Toby
    May 28, 2017 @ 14:19:46

    May you have many more ‘parking tickets’ in your life


  5. Barbara Gass
    May 28, 2017 @ 16:21:09

    I’m glad you are posting again. I found this story so touching.


  6. ruthtberg
    May 31, 2017 @ 14:15:47

    Lorri, I loved this. I sent it to my mom.

    Can it really be 7 years already? Amazing.

    How can I hook up with you this summer?

    Love, Ruth

    On Sat, May 27, 2017 at 11:48 PM, Being Jewish in Hawaii wrote:

    > Being Jewish in Hawaii posted: “Today is my mother’s yahrzeit. Today marks > the 7th anniversary of my mother’s death. I can’t believe that it was seven > years ago. Seven is a significant number for us Jews. We sit shiva for > seven days after a person dies. I’m surprised that there isn’t s” >


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