She was one of The Greatest Generation.

She had eyes that sparkled and a face that, frankly,  I never saw not smiling.

She had a quite grace to her — a dignity, if you will.

Growing up Bogart our household — boys only — saw fathers grab all the headlines. I’m not certain if this was our home’s unique spin or just still the Mad Men mentality. After all, dads back then would play catch with us, teach card games, and (in Christian neighborhoods)  instruct sons on fishing.  Moms? They made lunch… and played board games when it rained outside…and…oh, and they’d perhaps serve as den mothers for Cub Scouts — at least until the troops were old enough to play Little League, of course, and run off with their fathers.

Still, some moms stood out…and Harriet Mandel was one of them.

Five plus decades I knew her, and our conversations in all those years were never long. They didn’t need to be. Some people, like Mrs. Mandel, let their actions speak.

I picture her at the old Negrelli Field, watching Bruce play for Hollywood. I see her too at Memorial.  Bruce and Doug were both White Sox. Always present …  always graceful … always smiling.

A decade later I detect her. On a cold Thanksgiving morning at Rowland School…bundled in a car just north of the end zone…she is watching not only Booey, but Dooey and Hooey play football. A dozen boys held the field; only a few viewed their mother. Yes, some moms stood out. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stayed this courier from completing her round.

Years would pass and our paths still crossed. The thread of friendship borne by a Harriet and an Elaine had sustained through to yet a fourth generation…

And yet some things: they never change.

Forty years past Little League I happened into a civic meeting in Solon.  Josh was speaking and this wasn’t a fundraiser, mind you— just a campaign stop in northeast Ohio.  Yet there she was that night…sitting alone…beaming up at her grandson.

I still see her that night, poised in a foreign community center, showing no wear or tear from that long campaign year. Recall I do, watching the kvelling grandmother across the room… wondering how she must have felt, what with some of our own community indeed taking shots. I knew how I’d felt of our “boutique friends”, but how did she feel?  Studying her sustained elegance, I could only but marvel.

—And I see her yet again … two years later, in the ziskite Taylor.  

They teach us in recovery that one key to life is just learning to show up. My friend Mrs. Mandel not only held the key, but with it opened the door for generations to come.

She wasn’t just one of The Greatest Generation; she personified it.

“A woman of valor–seek her out, for she is to be valued above rubies.”

Book Of Proverbs



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