Archive for March, 2012

Sarah’s Tree

Posted in Family History, Life and What about It with tags , , on March 27, 2012 by Louise Steinman

Coming from my house
To Sarah’s house
With a weary heart

On my walk in Griffith Park this morning, puzzling over a dilemma, I thought to ask myself what my mother would say. An answer readily came, and it made sense, as my mother’s suggestions often did.

I should consult my mother more often.
My friends often sought her advice. She was wise.

“A gifted teacher, she loved all children,” is inscribed on Anne Steinman’s plaque in the Beth Olam cemetery in the heart of Hollywood. She loved her work as an early childhood learning specialist, Head Start teacher and advocate for children. She maintained a youthful exuberance her entire life. Her handwritten letters included many exclamation points. She was a wildly creative and unpredictable cook. (who else would make red snapper, green chiles, with slivovitz and dill?) She loved being a mother.

She met my father when she was fifteen. They married when she was just shy of twenty and they were together fifty-one years. They raised four kids, treasured their grandchildren. They were together through wartime and peacetime, thick and thin. They argued, they loved, they lived.

My parents both died in 1990. A heart attack felled my father in January. My mother’s pancreatic cancer returned in April, after a three-year remission. By October, after months of terrible suffering, she was gone. Too young, Too soon.

It’s difficult to comprehend that it’s been nearly twenty-two years since they left us.

My mother had always wanted to write a childrens’ book. She satisfied that goal just days before she died. Morphine eased the cancer’s pain; perhaps it also eased the story from her imagination. “I’m ready,” she told me one afternoon, without warning. “It’s called ‘Sarah’s Tree.’” I scrambled to write it down as she fluidly narrated her tale. I promised to illustrate it and I finally did, though to my sorrow, she never got to see the finished little book.

In “Sarah’s Tree,” my mother uses the simple metaphor of her frequent drives across L.A. to visit Sarah Rebecca, her then-youngest grandchild, firstborn of my brother Ken and his wife Rhonda. Tiny blond Sarah Rebecca (born a premie) with her huge soulful blue eyes was my mother’s great comfort during that annus horribilis.

Recently Sarah Rebecca, now 23, drove to her old house in the Valley to see if she could find the tree. She wasn’t sure which one it was. Perhaps we’ll go look for it together someday soon. What matters is that my mother saw it, that it’s possible to find such inspiration in a scraggly tree on a traffic median in the middle of the city.


the limbs of Sarah’s tree
are arms and legs,
buoys, guiding stars,

They direct me
to where light and love exist.
That’s what Sarah’s tree’s limbs do.

There is so much to say about my mother.

Here is Anne in a dreamy moment, sitting at the yin/yang table in my kitchen in Portland, Oregon in the seventies…

Sunday afternoon, March 18

Posted in Life and What about It on March 18, 2012 by Louise Steinman

Some Angelenos ran the Marathon, others of us went to the Farmers Mkt in Atwater and bought almonds, fresh eggs, cauliflower. Some of us stood on the deck at the top of the hill and looked out at moving clouds, kite tails wriggling over the meadow, sky darkening then dazzling, snow dusting San Gabriels, dangling lemons, budding apricots, hummers in the salvia. We talked to a friend in Rome, made cabbage soup, potted succulents and thought about stories we were trying to write.
Others had their legs blown off in Kandahar,
or smoked cigarette after cigarette in the PX in Kabul.
Torn limbs. Floating clouds.
Dead lovers. Lost friends.
Tender spouse. Snoring felines. Agile niece.
Present satisfactions. Lingering anxieties.
Full blown terrors. Utter stillness.
All merge on a Sunday afternoon.

(word drawing: Susan Banyas)

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