Some days are meant to be sad ones; this one seems to have been pre-ordained. It is Yom HaShoah — a day chosen by the Jewish people to pay tribute to the lives of our brethren taken during the Holocaust. It is a day of introspection, of reflection, of reverence. It is very much our own day: not specified by G-d, not referencing another faith or culture into which we’ve found ourselves immersed, by dint of the paths our ancestors were forced to take in the course of our exile along the roads of our history.
We’ve seriously felt the pangs of this struggle in our experience of isolation in our collective acceptance within the larger society. The rejectionism is duly noted, as well, when you see, on an individual basis, patterns left evident in repeated avoidance of Jewish subject matter, fully negating heritage, faith and identity, in the process. Guilt by association toward those of the Jewish faith, along with the cowardice to stand by fully-invested toward those of the same, tells me more in silence about the person it reflects, than it does about anything else. It tells me, really, all I need to know.
I paid my respects yesterday to the ancestors of all my people, the six million who were murdered through the callousness of others. I’ve already known this pain, which sears itself into my heart. I relived the collective memory of the Jewish people.
In Happier Days (Randyjw; April 23, 2017)
Through the slavery of Egypt;
through the auto-da-fe’s; the pogroms;
through the Inquisition; the Crusades;
and the exile of Babylon.
The destruction of our Temple
was more than the razing of a building;
it was the attempt to destroy through deicide
what they couldn’t destroy within.
The burning of our skin
in the synagogues
as they torched us alive in flames
worshipping false G-ds with idols
and blaspheming the Good L-rd’s name.
They eradicated us en masse in genocide
and overtook the Holy Land,
What they didn’t take, through Holocaust,
was that G-d would foil their plans.
G-d knows how to make it rain,
blessing, in its proper times.
As much as is done for the earth,
He has done, as well, for our minds.
Today I woke up to the cold, grey sky that such a day deserves. A chilly rain was falling, as it had been for awhile. And not to mix the profane with the Holy, but rather to integrate the lessons we learn through living, within our societies, I was struck by the recognition of my life (and mortality), by observing it, as if an outsider, in the story of the brief life of Erin Moran, who has come to the end of her life, here on earth, at the age of 56.
Erin Moran was an integral figure in our society, featuring as a star amongst one of the top-rated, most-iconic television shows of all-time. The American classic, “Happy Days”, created by Garry Marshall, started its 11-year run on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) network, beginning in 1974. The show became synonymous with the definition of situation comedy, shoring up the wildly popular format and spurring the successes of other such t.v. shows, like “Laverne and Shirley” and “Mork and Mindy”.
The show was set in the timeframe of the 1950’s and progressed through the 1960’s, as well. Centered on the fictional Cunningham family, it portrayed a small-town atmosphere of close-knit friends and family life. Erin Moran played Joanie Cunningham, daughter to Howard (played by Tom Bosley) and Marion (played by Marion Ross) Cunningham, and sister to Richie (played by Ron Howard) and Chuck (played by two, separate people in only the first two seasons). Other ancillary figures included their friends, Warren “Potsie” Weber (played by Anson Williams), Ralph Malph (played by Don Most), and Arthur Fonzarelli (a.k.a., “Fonzie”, or “The Fonz”; played by Henry Winkler); Fonzie’s cousin, Charles “Chachi” Arcola (played by Scott Baio), whom her character would later marry; and drive-in diner owners, Matsuo “Arnold” Takahashi, of the diner’s namesake, “Arnold’s”, and later, Al Devecchio (played by Al Molinaro), who would replace Arnold when Arnold later married, and left the diner.
Television, in those days, was also a simpler affair; they certainly don’t make ’em like they used to. Thankfully, the choices were great, because everybody, pretty much, watched the same thing. Unlike the move to today’s individualized programming with a choice of 800 offerings, there was more unity, with less diversity, since there were less than eight t.v. stations on our channels, and we all had a common frame of reference to the same societal cues coming from our t.v. sets.
With less choices, people engaged in much of the same activities, as did everybody else. It led to a sense of more cohesion, even though not all voices were always included. In those days, though, minority characters did find a role on these programs, whether in singular roles or series, such as “The Jeffersons”, “Good Times”, “Sanford and Son” and “The Cosby Show”. Diner owner , “Arnold”, was played by Hiroyuki “Pat” Morita, who also famously played Mr. Miyagi (“Wax on; Wax off”) to Ralph Macchio’s character, in “The Karate Kid”.
I saw Pat Morita in-person, once, and also had the opportunity to meet Henry Winkler, once, when I directed him to a phone, so he could call his wife. Back in those days, there were no cell phones, either. Imagine the inconvenience, when we had to walk a slight distance to find one. He was a really sweet, kind man. He kissed me on the cheek and called me “doll”, in thanks for helping him accomplish his mission. Yay! I think how sweet he was for wanting to think of his family and being so kind. In typical star-fatuation, I told my mother I wasn’t going to wash my cheek for a week! (Of course, I did, though…)
Several decades later, this is kindof my turn-around “thank-you”, to pay a favor of kindness in return, for being so kind to me, back then. I’m sorry to learn of your loss, Fonz. You were a pillar of support for millions of us out there, in the days. You were a guiding compass and a beacon of ethical morals for a world finding their way, both in real life and in the work you relayed. I know, because I have read about it in the past, that your personal life helping others found its way onto the big screen, and into our lives, as a result. I admired that then, and still do, today. To you, on Yom HaShoah, I send you a big “thumbs up” and a long, heartfelt “Aaaaaaayyy!!!”
I think of the sadness of Erin’s apparent life, living in a trailer park home, where she was discovered upon her passing. It is reported that she had fallen on difficult times, of late. I, too, have lived under such circumstances, even finding myself living in a cheap trailer home as I sought a divorce. I had one hot pot and one burner to prepare my meals, and the bathroom floor had been repaired from previous occupants, but was still in need of bolstering. It wasn’t even a whole trailer; it was subdivided with a separate entrance. It was just one, small room.
Those were very tough times for me. Consequently, they were also the time when I began to make a more concentrated effort to be more mindful of my religion and its practices. My television received just over-the-air signals and seemed to offer limited choices, such as “Friends” reruns, or religious programming. Since I had never watched “Friends” to begin with, I decided on the religious programming. I could glean bits and nuggets, which sometimes related to Jewish teachings, and Seventh Day Adventists followed similar dietary commands and offered wonderful recipes, had I had sufficient money for real food. But, I didn’t.
What little I could afford at the cheap stores was often shared with the skinny, hungry dog on the park’s corner lot I would feed in the evening at the return of my shift. Those neighbors finally left and brought the dog with them. There were a plethora of abandoned animals that found themselves a fit with our little community, including one black cat that thought I was their mother, since we had shared similar features; the woman who had been her owner had taken ill, and soon passed away. My neighbor watched over the cat. A hard life is so soon cut short.
I made myself a tinfoil menorah at Chanukah. Although I didn’t attend services, I adopted a more proactive do-it-yourself approach to religious observance. I also started to really read the Koren Tanach I had brought with me from Israel. Line by line, slowly and very carefully, I worked very hard at trying to learn the Hebrew which I had begun to fail in my Ulpan classes. I was doing pretty well with this, and it was helping me greatly. It was also a breakthrough time for me in being able to pick up a pen and write, again.
I enjoyed writing, when I was a child, and then rediscovered my love for it in middle school. But it eventually became something which my mind endeavored to block. It would take several more decades to unleash the creative juices, again. The ironic portrayal of a group of young Jewish girls, described by CNN as “extremists”, while huddled together as police forces were removing their families and other Jewish citizens from their homes, infuriated me enough to the point of some kind of mental severance of the writer’s block, which my mind had previously erected. It erupted in my release, and in my poem, “V’Atah/After All”. I think it had been some kind of shutdown to deal with other prevailing circumstances, which had overtaken and overwhelmed my capacity to place myself in a creative capacity. I used this period and channeled some of my feelings during this time into some further poetry about Israel and my former husband.
This ability to write seems to relate proportionally with my coping skills in the handling of emotional issues or life’s often overwhelming, and frustrating, difficulties. I hope I can hold onto this gift, and not let it slip away, again, drifting in and out of consciousness, as if it was its own comatose mind of some other being, and not my own sentient self. I do often dissociate and fly off into escapism, when realism becomes too overwhelming. I’ve always done that. Books were that world, for me.
I need it; this ventilation of expression has become the air I breathe. And you’re right; writing about “it”, whatever that “it” might be, does help, and I do need to do more of it.
Eventually, with time, and continuing even beyond that environment, I eventually started to buy only Kosher products, and learned which products in the markets were Kosher. But, I’ve been lately letting more and more of my diligent practices slide. When I’m ready, I suppose I can pick up at any of the multiple places I’ve left off, if I desire.
Erin’s life leaves me smack dab in the middle of “hanging on”. It’s incomplete and was never fully realized, yet it’s over. Things didn’t gel or coalesce, the way they should’ve; no further opportunities came her way. It’s a life, left too soon, in incredible sadness. Her aloneness in her last years are evident that she really had no-one. Yes, people care, in a sortof abstract way, but look at what happens. An American sweetheart to many, with a painful realization her reality. I see you, Erin. I see me reflected, also, in the mirror that is you, Erin. And I’m sorry for the life you have, unfortunately, led. Thank you for your life, Erin. I’m hoping mine will be better, because of you. In fact, it already is.
Goodbye, Sunshine; Hello, Rain…
In the days following this post, further media reports have painted a different picture in their portrayal of Ms. Moran’s last days, based on the words her husband has since relayed, since that time. He (Steve Fleischmann), was with Erin, holding her hand until the end. That is really good to know. It’s also nice to learn that they’d first met about a quarter century ago. That makes me feel better that she, at least, was not quite so alone, as had been originally portrayed. But, it was revealed that she had had squamous cell carcinoma, discovered in her throat, and that the treatments had been pretty devastating further to her body. Knowing this, I really feel your pain, Erin. I hope the ongoing squabbles and behavior will subside now, and that you’ll receive your praises in heaven. Keep being the sunshine, Sunshine.
“Happy Days”; Wikipedia.org:
Oldham, Stuart. “‘Happy Days’ Star Erin Moran Dies at 56”. Variety.com; April 22, 2017: