Broken Birds, The Story of My Momila
It's about me, the child of Holocaust Survivors and how their experiences during the war influenced the way they raised me.
In Broken Birds, The Story of My Momila, I delve into my family, the Poltzer Family, and what happened to the generation after Mom and Dad's...the second generation.
Unaware of our chips and fractures, my four siblings and I believed we were a happy family. But, the seeds of intense sibling rivalries planted when we were too young to remember were sprouting and flourishing just beneath the surface. We ended up lying, cheating, begruding and emotionally harming each other over and over again.
When Mom unexpectedly died, the biased and problematic will she wrote caused all hell to break loose. It was a no holds-back slugfest. The battles raged in our attempt to resolve our new issues, while the old scars were bubbling to the surface.
When the battles were over, I was able to see my family clearly.
In the end, the Holocaust not only broke Mom and Dad, but indirectly us too.
After focusing so much on my role as a mother at Laura’s wedding, I thought a great deal about my role as a daughter, and of how my own mother and I were getting along at the time. Mom could be so disapproving. She was quick to judge and objected to my parenting decisions. So much so, that I decided the only way to protect my children, and myself was to restrict certain subjects of discussion with her.
“Are we going to talk about nonsense again?” she would ask when we spoke on the telephone.
“Yes, Mom,” I answered, feeling sorry that it had to be this way. We chatted superficially about the weather and Hollywood gossip. “Did you hear about Joan Rivers and yet another facelift?”
Unlike Mom, I applauded my children for their undertakings. When it came to my own accomplishments, however, Mom made it clear that she was unhappy that I had been so successful. When she said it, I could not believe my ears. “I need you to need me,” she explained.
“But Mom, I will always need you.”
“But I can’t help you. Your problems are too big for me.” She confessed.
It was such a blow – my own mother was not happy that after all these years, all that work, we had made it. Then and there, I made a personal vow not to do that to my children. I tried very hard to accept the fact that Mom and Dad were broken birds, with a difficult past that continued to haunt them and shape their relationships. Her torturous past would always make her suspicious of the future, and the present was simply a state of anticipation as she waited for everything to go to pieces around her. She was simply not capable of enjoying the moment.
Mom’s lack of trust—although understandable in so many ways—had done permanent damage to her relationships. Even Dad was not her blood, and therefore, in some paradoxical way, still a stranger. She adored him, but also feared and mistrusted him, all simultaneously and in equal amounts.
Mom’s fears and paranoia had leaked down to me, turning me into a fearful person as well. I rode horses, but was laden with anxieties of what injuries I could sustain at any moment. Once, on a ski vacation, I took a ski lesson, and the instructor mentioned that I was leaning too far back. “If you are going to ski, you have to commit and lean into it,” she told me. However, that was how I lived my life, never truly leaning into it, but leaning back and never putting my full heart into it, always fearful of losing it all.
Mom’s handiwork could be found on all her “five children.”
It was as if Mom had successfully created one giant body—hers—with many heads—ours. Although we spoke separately, we were intimately connected. Injuring one would injure all. It was very difficult to do or think anything without the family voicing opinions, and those opinions were very powerful, affecting all our thoughts and actions. Even as we grew older, we could not separate ourselves.