How Great Thou Part

How Great Thou Part

My Catholic Mother’s Jewish Best Friend

We sit nestled under an umbrella. The late August sun peeks out around us. We are jabbering relentlessly because far too many years have passed between us. The waiter stops to take our order only to be ushered away while we chat some more.

For me there are not enough hours in this visit. I am thrilled to be sitting next to one of my mother’s very best friends and her son and his partner. So happy to be reunited with them.

She is a Brooklyn girl just like my mom which brings forth a familiarity that comforts me.

As we talk she reaches for my arm. It too, reminds me of my mother. It is a familiar gesture and brings with it the type of understanding empathy that my mom would offer me in this moment.

In the throws of this thing called divorce which ravages the heart I am missing my mom. She is the only one that could truly absorb my hurricane of tears, chase away my fears and make me believe that everything will one day be okay.


Though many years have come and gone since Babs has moved to the West Coast she is just as I remember her. She is warm, kind, and loving with a spirited ‘joie de vivre’ and a constant smile.

Babs once fondly told me of their first meeting. After her move to Washington, D.C., she went in search of a few Jewish girlfriends and in the midst of that she met an Irish Catholic girl from Park Slope, who spoke a little yiddish and brought her Jewish penicillin when she was sick.

We find ourselves laughing over my mom and her yiddish.

We dig into the food in front of us. There are stories and memories. For a few hours my mom is present. A bit of her brought to life by a friend who loved her.

I am in the moment grateful for this gift. I am in that short time lifted to the twelve year old sitting at the table watching my mom and Babs trade rapturous laughter and happy to be in the middle of it.


I pour out a bit of my heart as the lunch nears an end. I share a few of the fears I would have told my mom.

Babs imparts a bit of wisdom and offers me a hug.

I watch her walk away. I am left with the same combination of love, hope and moxie that my mom would have gifted me.

I may be the only Irish Catholic girl who hears someone talk about Jewish Penicillin and responds, “Hey, my mom made that!”

Then again, my mom was always proud to say that she spoke a little yiddish.

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