My Mother, Hillary, and Bernie

Rosenbaum family, 1938

Rosenbaum family, 1938, Vienna

A few years after my father died, and after the initial shock of his loss by massive heart attack had worn off, I asked my mother if she would ever remarry. She looked at me like I was slightly insane. “Why would I want to spend the rest of my life taking care of another old guy?” she asked in her thick Viennese accent.

A once devoted housewife, my mother had gotten rebellious. Or, I should say, she had regained some of the independence that had been thrust upon her.

When she was 23, my mother been forced to leave her parents behind in Austria. After the Anschluss, the Nazis confiscated the Rosenbaum family’s money, leaving them with only enough for a single passage to America. They sent the daughter; she was the future. By the time Rita had saved enough money from her sewing for her parents’ passage, the borders had closed.

She met my father, another parentless exile from Vienna, at a school to learn English in Brighton Beach. Paul Jarolim was a landsman who knew exactly what she’d gone through. He was a companion, an often difficult one, but hardly a financial savior. My mother returned to work, as a fur finisher and then a seamstress, as soon as her two daughters were in school.

No complaints.

The Political is Personal

In some ways, my mother would have seemed like a natural Bernie Sanders supporter. She was a Jewish refugee from Europe, like Bernie’s father was. Our family lived in the same Brooklyn neighborhood as he did. I even went to James Madison, the same high school as Bernie, though a decade later.

My mother was anti-war; she proudly wore the “Another Mother for Peace” button I gave her one year, and cheered my decision to march on Washington against the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. She resented income inequality; she was a member of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and boycotted lettuce in solidarity with Cesar Chavez, Delores Huerta, and the United Farm Workers.

But she loved America, the land that had taken her in, even though it wasn’t perfect. She loved the Democratic party, flaws and all. And she’d had more than her lifetime’s fill of shouting, angry men looking to shake up the government.

My mother at the Jewish Vocational Workshop-001

Informed Speculation

Rita Jarolim died in July 1991, a few months before Bill Clinton’s election as President. She would have voted for him. This I know because one of her last wishes was that I never vote Republican. She had pulled the lever for Reagan–only once, she would want me to tell you–and regretted it for the rest of her days.

My mother didn’t have much education. She earned a GED by correspondence. Nor was she a sophisticated political thinker. She wouldn’t have understood why a woman getting paid a lot of money for political speeches that men also made was a problem. Quid pro quo for political favors? Wall Street? She had put some of her hard-earned money in stocks. She didn’t think that was a terrible thing to do.

She had an innate sense of decorum and fairness. She would have strongly disapproved an actress shouting in the face of 85-year-old Delores Huerta, or anyone calling John Lewis “establishment.” She would have been appalled by people throwing dollar bills at a former Secretary of State, by the use of the term “corporate whore” to refer to her–or even to elected members of the Democratic party.

My mother would have wondered why the other guy shouldn’t have to show his tax returns.

She had two daughters, both of whom worked hard to get ahead–even the rebellious one who marched on Washington. She would have been mad as hell if any guy had shook his fingers in their faces, insulted them, and tried to jump the line to get ahead of them. Especially an unqualified guy. She’d been a Daily News reader in New York; she would would have been appalled by Bernie’s interview with the paper, and by the chutzpah it then took for him to question his opponent’s credentials–even though my mother was anti-war.

This year, she would be voting for Hillary. My Mother’s Day gift to her is this absentee ballot.

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About the Author

Edie Jarolim is a writer and editor living in Tucson, Arizona. Sign up on this blog to get updates about her humorous tell-all/memoir, GETTING NAKED FOR MONEY: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All.

6 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Our famililies look so different on the surface–Jewish/evangelical Christian; recent immigrant/Puritan settlers; democratic/republican. …but the women in both families assumed equal!ty and assertiveness were their right.

    When someone asked my grandmother if she would remarry after my grandfather died, her reply was”Why would I want to do that? I just got the cigar smoke out of the house.”

    My great grandma wanted to live long enough to get to vote..and she did.

    My mother, a life long worker for the Republican Party, would cross party lines to vote for a woman, or a pro-choice man.

    • Edie says:

      Thanks for sharing! You’re right. Our families do have a lot in common, surface dissimilarities notwithstanding. I especially like the comment that your grandmother made about the cigar smoke.

  2. Anna Redsand says:

    I love your Mother’s Day gift, Edie, and the gift of the story & the reasons to your readers. I have refrained from posting political articles for several reasons, except once, though I’ve itched to uncounted times. I’ve appreciated yours very much. I am daily stunned at the vitriol flung at Hillary and can only attribute the degree of it to misogyny. My vote for her will be my gift to the nation and the world.

    • Edie says:

      Thanks very much, Anna. It was a gift to myself too. I actually reserve most of my political posts for my closed Supporters of Hillary group on Facebook but I figured only the most mean spirited would say negative things about my personal essay on Mother’s Day. So far, so good 🙂

      • Anna Redsand says:

        Well, you’ve shared quite a few excellent articles I’ve benefited from. I think? Anyway this is very well done & seems unlikely to invite negativity. But then, I’ve been wrong before. And I’ll be there again. ?

        • Edie says:

          I did share some that I thought were fairly neutral and got dissed nevertheless so I began to migrate over to a more hospitable space. But I’m glad you benefited from the ones I shared on my timeline.

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