Thursday’s Pre-Publication Post: From Generation to Generation

One of the central themes that I’ve taken from my Jewish heritage is the concept of l’dor v’dor, transmitting our faith “from generation to generation.” The emphasis on l’dor v’dor may also have something to do with my soaking in and ruminating over the experiences of my paternal grandparents, events and circumstances in which so much of my story collection, Quiet Americans, is rooted. But this week, I was prompted to consider the forward-looking element of l’dor v’dor and its presence in the collection, and in my writing more broadly. This can be tricky, since I don’t have children of my own.

But it’s my great good fortune that my sister–we’re the only grandchildren on our father’s side–is the mother of two children. And I get to spend a  lot of time with my niece and nephew. They inspire me, too.

My niece’s influence has crept into one story pretty clearly: In “The Quiet American, Or How to Be a Good Guest,” I’ve essentially reconstructed a moment she and I shared in her babyhood. She’s embedded elsewhere as well, but I’d like to think I’ve handled matters a little more subtly in those pages and won’t say too much more about that now.

All of this is on my mind right now, I think, because The Christian Science Monitor has just published my poem, “Meteorology.” Although I’m quite aware that poetry need not reflect the poet’s lived experience, “Meteorology” is very much drawn from, once again, a moment shared with my niece.

What the poem doesn’t mention, however, is that during last week’s surprise storms here in New York City, my niece was the one who correctly diagnosed the hail that was shooting down from the sky. (I, with all my advanced degrees, objected: “That’s not hail!”)

Nor does the poem allude to one of my niece’s great-grandfather’s most endearing habits: Once I’d left home for college and beyond, and was living outside the metro New York area, he’d start his part of every phone conversation with the same question: “How’s the weather?” (Frankly, my father exhibits a keen attention to the daily forecast, too.)

L’dor v’dor, indeed.