Orange you glad I didn’t say banana

My mother was a bright woman, both figuratively and literally. While it might be impolite to comment on her figure, I intend to discuss an aspect of such–without disregard of how incredibly brilliant she was too.

At some point during my childhood in the late 1960’s, she redecorated the house in which I was raised. While I can’t remember the exact year, the ensuing results among which I lived  until I left for college in 1980, shine like a beacon in my memory.

The front of the house was painted half black and half goldenrod. The front door was bright orange. That’s how we’d tell people to find our house, “5081 Somerset Street–with the orange front door.”  Neighbors called it “The Halloween House,” not ‘cuz it was spooky, but because of the thematic colors. It certainly was not because they thought that any of us resembled witches or pumpkins or ghouls.

Gershun girls with ma in front of somerset house2

A favorite spot for family photos, our orange front door is the backdrop for this portrait of me and my sisters posed with our paternal grandmother, Selma Gershun.

 

What became increasingly apparent  upon  entry into our humble abode is that my mother loved the color orange. The wallpaper in the front entry could only be described as a refined version of some far out, stained glass pattern in bright oranges and amber tones with black borders.

entry way

Further inside, above the bookcase that held the beginnings of her nutcracker collection, along the far wall of the  family room, next to the T.V.,  was a poster that said, “Peanut Butter is Love. Spread Some Around Today.” The font was that groovy, bell bottoms 60’s style and the letters were browns and tans and (you guessed it) orange.

Peanut Butter is Love

Beckoning from the center of the room was the main attraction,  the piece d’resistance, the family room couches. These famous, orange vinyl sofas flashed prominently right in the middle of the parlor as well as sparkle somewhere in the center of my childhood memories.

As I hinted earlier, my mother was smart. As a decorator she was able to combine practicality and style.  She liked to keep a reasonably orderly and clean-ish home. She had three children who trooped in and out of the house with neighborhood friends on a daily basis. Our small hairy dog was a beloved family member, allowed on the furniture and in our beds. Vinyl was the perfect answer to her sofa decorating needs. If we spilled milk, smeared peanut butter or left cracker crumbs, she could wipe down the couch in an instant with no stain left behind to tell the tale.

Kelly, our dog

Kelly, our dog, on the famous orange vinyl couch.

When the dog did her circus trick by walking along the upper edge of the back of the couch, perfectly balanced on the narrow edge, it was no big deal. My mother’s carefully appointed decorating scheme was designed to be comfortable, easy to clean as well as an expression of  her original and lively spirit. Orange was her spoken color.

table cloth

Notice the orange table-cloth!

Little Lorrie

She even picked orange for our clothes!

Her habit of applying lipstick at the end of every meal that used to try my patience and annoy me to no perceivable end has transformed into a fond memory, a family joke between me and my sisters. Even as adults, long finished with our own meals, her daughters were expected to wait until she was done with hers. We knew that the meal was finally over when she took a last sip of coffee, opened her purse and pulled out the orange lipstick. She applied it with careful precision, readying her otherwise clean aspect to be seen in public.

Gloria

While not in color, you can see that from a young age her bright smile lit up her beaming countenance.

My mother didn’t wear make-up, but she did not step outside of the house with bare lips. Her bright smile was the shining feature of her open and cheerful face and the lipstick outlined her vivacious and animated grin.

smile

My teenage rebellion appeared in many forms, my refusal to wear lipstick among them. Instead, I experimented with eyeshadow and foundation, mascara and eyeliner, but left my lips bare–much to my mother’s chagrin.

As most young, impetuous women of my generation, I was determined not to be like my mother. Of course we all know how that story goes, famous last words. Little did I know that I was kind of putting my foot in my mouth, or maybe hers.

I did not see even a faint resemblance to her in my penchant for choosing bright colors when I decorated my own room, painting the walls “Lemon yellow and lime green,” later picking bedding and curtains with rainbows and wearing my favorite red, cowl neck sweater as often as possible. I couldn’t help being outgoing and animated, just like her.

Little did I know that it was the beginning of my inevitable transformation. I have become another version of my  mother in many way. Lately you can spell it just like the color: O R A N G E!

It started innocently enough. I went to Target to get a bath mat to match one of the colors in our shower curtain and there it was-bright orange and fluffy and soft. Perfect. After that, orange hand towels appeared on each of the racks in both the master and guest bathrooms.

It has spiraled from there. If you take a peek into my closet, it seems that I have adopted the phrase from that Netflix show “Orange is the New Black.” Many of my dresses and shirts and shoes and even purses have a touch of orange. My iPhone case is orange as is the sleeve in which my Kindle rests. I did not do this on purpose. I swear. It just seems to have happened that orange has become my “Go To” color.

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IMG_1549 DSC_0358

As cheerful and smiley as I tend to be, I still don’t wear lipstick, except for on special occasions. I rarely reapply. But it’s been years since I’ve gone without a pedicure. My toenails are always decorated. In Hawaii, we wear sandals all year long. One simply must put her best foot forward. For the longest time I only used a natural color, but lately I’ve changed. You guessed it, I choose a bright orange polish, kind of making me like my mom from head to toe.

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While writing this blog post I did a quick search of the internet for what a favorite color choice says about a person. What does orange say about me? my mom? I was pleased to read the descriptions and found myself comfortable with the adjectives: social, adventurous, warm and cheerful, outgoing and kind. Sounds good to me.

If it is inevitable that I am going to be like my mother, at least it turns out to be generally bright and sunny. Orange you glad? I certainly am.

Who says you can’t go back in time?

I met my oldest sister in Los Angeles a few weeks ago for a good old fashioned trip down memory lane.

Even though we grew up in the northern Orange County area, we stayed in Santa Monica so we could be close to LAX and enjoy the trendy shopping and entertainment that the Los Angeles area has to offer.

Our hotel was conveniently located right near the I-10 Freeway, allowing us to easily address prominent items on our itinerary that were in Orange County: specific landmarks in our home town of Buena Park and neighboring towns of Fullerton and La Mirada.

We made two separate trips along the I-10 Freeway eastbound to the I-5 Freeway southbound in order to travel 35 miles and 35 years back in time to visit the neighborhood, Synagogue, schools and favorite foods of our childhood.

There is so much to share that I will separate it into several posts so as not to overwhelm anybody with TMI, including myself.

First stop on our journey: Temple Beth Ohr in La Mirada, California

We were excited to attend Friday night Shabbat services at Temple Beth Ohr in La Mirada, the shul of our youth! We went to Religious school, became Bat Mitzvahs and were confirmed at this small Synagogue on the border of Southern California’s Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Both of us were active in the Temple youth group, BOTY, during our high school days and I’m pretty sure we each managed to aggravate a Hebrew school teacher or two on the small faculty there with our talkative tendencies.

Through the magic of Facebook, and the fact that I keep in touch with several of my former Hebrew school classmates, 5 members of the Confirmation Class of 1978 were also in attendance. We sat together during services, chanting the prayers and singing the songs to the familiar tunes of our kinderhood, uniting the past and present in mutual celebration.

Posing on confirmation day with my sisters

My official confirmation photo from 1978

At the Oneg we reminisced about Religious School teachers, youth group days and whipped out our cell phones to share photos of our own kids who are presently in college and high school and having their own B’nei Mitzvahs.

When I describe what it was like to grow up Jewish in Buena Park, California in the 1960’s and 1970’s I tell them that it is very similar to my own children’s experience in Kapolei, Hawaii. I was one of few Jewish kids in my school, along with Jon Sherman and Jason Oxman. There are only a few Jewish families on the west side of Oahu and significantly fewer in the state of Hawaii than in California then or now.

Temple Beth Ohr had a small congregation of about 200 families. Temple Emanu-El of Honolulu’s congregation is of similar size.

I would also tell you that the facilities are of similar dimension and that is where I would be wrong. You know how you remember things from your childhood as being much bigger and then when you go back to visit them you realize that your perspective has changed? That happened to me a few times on this trip. I was surprised at how in reality both the sanctuary and the social hall are much smaller than memory serves. They look the same, they are lovely, just smaller than I remember.

BOTY Shabbat service held before new sanctuary was built circa 1973

My youngest sister's official 1974 Confirmation photo in front of the stained glass window in the old sanctuary which is now the social hall

My oldest sister and I in front of the same stained glass window which is now in the new sanctuary.

Confirmation Class of 1978 Reunites: Lorraine Gershun, Jon Sherman, Suzanne Atlas Skorheim, Lisa Grossman Bloch, Stacey Ellig Campbell, Don Bloch

While we enjoyed the sumptuous Oneg sponsored by the Sisterhood, we got to talk to Ellie Ursis who was the youth group advisor when my sister was in high school, Rhonda Atlas who’s home I spent as much time in as my own hanging out with her daughter when I was a teenager, Harley Rockoff who was the Temple President when I was a kid and who’s son is still a friend of mine and Sandy Bloch who’s husband was also a Temple President of my childhood and son a classmate and Facebook friend.

Then benefits of small town Jewish life shined as 1978 classmates Lisa Grossman and Don Bloch come now as a unit, Mr. and Mrs. Bloch and the new Rabbi, Rabbi Goldfarb is cousins with one of our Temple Emanu-El congregants. Jewish Geography at its best.

It was truly a Shabbat Shalom and a great way to start a nice long weekend connecting with my sister and our past.

Who says you can’t go back in time?

I met my oldest sister in Los Angeles a few weeks ago for a good old fashioned trip down memory lane.

Even though we grew up in the northern Orange County area, we stayed in Santa Monica so we could be close to LAX and enjoy the trendy shopping and entertainment that the Los Angeles area has to offer.

Our hotel was conveniently located right near the I-10 Freeway, allowing us to easily address prominent items on our itinerary that were in Orange County: specific landmarks  in our home town of Buena Park and neighboring towns of Fullerton and La Mirada.

We made two separate trips along the I-10 Freeway eastbound to the I-5 Freeway southbound in order to travel 35 miles and 35 years back in time to visit the neighborhood, Synagogue, schools and favorite foods of our childhood.

There is so much to share that I will separate it into  several posts so as not to overwhelm anybody with TMI, including myself.

First stop on our journey: Temple Beth Ohr in La Mirada, California

We were excited to attend Friday night Shabbat services at Temple Beth Ohr in La Mirada, the shul of our youth! We went to Religious school, became Bat Mitzvahs and were confirmed at this small Synagogue on the border of Southern California’s Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Both of us were active in the Temple youth group, BOTY, during our high school days and I’m pretty sure we each managed to aggravate a Hebrew school teacher or two on the small faculty there with our talkative tendencies.

Through the magic of Facebook, and the fact that I keep in touch with several of my former Hebrew school classmates, 5 members of the Confirmation Class of 1978 were also in attendance. We sat together during services, chanting the prayers and singing the songs to the familiar tunes of our kinderhood, uniting the past and present in mutual celebration.

Posing on confirmation day with my sisters

My official confirmation photo from 1978

At the Oneg we reminisced about Religious School teachers, youth group days and whipped out our cell phones to share photos of our own kids who are presently in college and high school and having their own B’nei Mitzvahs.

When I describe what it was like to grow up Jewish in Buena Park, California in the 1960’s and 1970’s I tell them that it is very similar to my own children’s experience in Kapolei, Hawaii. I was one of few Jewish kids in my school, along with Jon Sherman and Jason Oxman. There are only a few Jewish families on the west side of Oahu and significantly fewer in the state of Hawaii than in California then or now.

Temple Beth Ohr had a small congregation of about 200 families. Temple Emanu-El of Honolulu’s congregation is of similar size.

I would also tell you that the facilities are of similar dimension and that is where I would be wrong. You know how you remember things from your childhood as being much bigger and then when you go back to visit them you realize that your perspective has changed? That happened to me a few times on this trip. I was surprised at how in reality both the sanctuary and the social hall are much smaller than memory serves. They look the same, they are lovely, just smaller than I remember.

BOTY Shabbat service held before new sanctuary was built circa 1973

My youngest sister's official 1974 Confirmation photo in front of the stained glass window in the old sanctuary which is now the social hall

My oldest sister and I in front of the same stained glass window which is now in the new sanctuary.

Confirmation Class of 1978 Reunites: Lorraine Gershun, Jon Sherman, Suzanne Atlas Skorheim, Lisa Grossman Bloch, Stacey Ellig Campbell, Don Bloch

While we enjoyed the sumptuous Oneg sponsored by the Sisterhood, we got to talk to Ellie Ursis who was the youth group advisor when my sister was in high school, Rhonda Atlas who’s home I spent as much time in as my own hanging out with her daughter when I was a teenager, Harley Rockoff who was the Temple President when I was a kid and who’s son is still a friend of mine and Sandy Bloch who’s husband was also a Temple President of my childhood and son a classmate and Facebook friend.

Then benefits of small town Jewish life shined as 1978 classmates Lisa Grossman and Don Bloch come now as a unit, Mr. and Mrs. Bloch and the new Rabbi, Rabbi Goldfarb is cousins with one of our Temple Emanu-El congregants. Jewish Geography at its best.

It was truly a Shabbat Shalom and a great way to start a nice long weekend connecting with my sister and our past.

Confessions of a Jewish Mother–My daughter rode the bus

Now that I have claimed my identity as a Jewish Mother I am compelled to share my adventures in this arena of my life.

Today was a prime example. My 14-year-old daughter rode the bus all by herself for the first time today. For her, it was not a big deal. For me, it was monumental.

I am finding that  her blossoming busy schedule is coming in conflict with my generally robust line-up  of commitments quite often  lately and I just can’t be in two places at once.

I have resigned myself to the role of chauffeur rather than escort as my children reach adolescence (not to mention ATM machine.) But I cannot be at their beck and call every hour of the day. I do have a life of my own, you know.

Summer vacation brought a change in her schedule which added some conflicts with mine. We had to find a creative solution to get us each to different locations at the same time. Thus, the bus.

I often look back on the privileges my own parents afforded me and at what ages they were bestowed. My mother was pretty over-protective and I figure if she let me do it, then I should probably extend that opportunity to my own daughter.

I was allowed to take the bus from Buena Park, CA to Huntington Beach with my friends the summer before ninth grade in 1974.

Today I let her ride the bus to the local park where she is a Day Camp Jr. Counselor–15 whole minutes–so that I could attend my weekly meeting at the Rotary Club of Kapolei.

Like I said before, I was nervous. When I asked her what she was worried about, the only problem she foresaw was finding the right timing to pull the string to signal the driver to stop at her desired destination.

I told her that she was perfectly capable of handling the logistics. I gave her the printout from The Bus website that delineates her route. I reminded her that she is the one who usually navigates the airport when we are traveling on the mainland. She is usually the first to find the way to the ticket counter or baggage claim.

I told her that the thing that concerned me was, “Stranger danger.” This is when she reassured me.

“I’ve got my iPod for that,” she said.

That’s when I  knew it would be okay. My daughter would ride the bus to her volunteer job, she would ward off contact with any predators with her iPod headphones plugged snugly in her ears and she would pull the string at the right moment to disembark and cross the street and start her day.

I put bus fare on the counter, reminded her to text me when she arrived and went off to my meeting.

I won’t tell her that I checked my phone every few minutes until she got there. Or that I was tempted to text her and check on her progress, remind her to be safe or put on sunscreen. I simply waited for the words, “I’m here.” I replied, “Have fun” and relaxed to enjoy the rest of the meeting.