Monday, June 05, 2006

Farewell to Frieda

My Great-Aunt Frieda, who died recently, was a force of nature -- witty, accomplished, good-hearted, impatient and very, very fast. She had an explosive laugh and a true presence. Her last five years were robbed by Alzheimers, but I was heartened to realize that everyone remembered Aunt Frieda in her frenzied, inimitable prime. She was the last of my grandparents siblings. Uncle Abe (Savta's brother) died last year. It is the end of an era of titans. Below is what my mother said at Aunt Frieda's funeral:
Frieda Pusin was my beloved aunt, one of the first people in my life. She and her twin sister Rose, z'l, lived with my parents in Durham, North Carolina, when I was born. I adored them. Frieda became my friend and mentor. She took me to my first play, and made me feel like a grown-up when she let me stay in her apartment in the village during my teen-age years. She also was my personal historian. Frieda used to say that if she hadn't been there, nobody would have believed that I could talk before I was 10. She claimed to remember and she repeated all my "hochmas"; actually, with her wonderful and incisive wit, I think she made most of them up.

Frieda was an extraordinary resource & model. She was the person to go to if you wanted a recipe or a word to complete the Sunday crossword puzzle, or advice on a serious problem, or the telephone number and the latest news of a relative anywhere in the world -- from NY to CA, from England to Israel & Australia. She was the glue that kept the family connected.

And she had a wonderful talent for friendship. There was no better friend than Frieda. She was a model of hahnasat orhim - of generous and giving hospitality. Her dinners were legendary - not just because she was an such an excellent cook - Uncle Max said that it was the Peking Duck that first enticed him - but because everything was prepared with love.

When Jehiel and I got married, we asked Frieda to be our Maid of Honor. She was a radiant and beautiful one. I realized only much later how hard it must have been for her to be in the wedding in that capacity - she was not married at a time and in a family that made a single state difficult for a woman. But she was so happy for us that I never suspected. It's not that Frieda didn't have many opportunities - I can give you a long list of names - but Frieda would not compromise until she met her beshert. And, of course, she was right. One of the smartest things she ever did, one of the greatest, most precious gifts that Frieda ever
gave us, was to marry Uncle Max, whom my Bobe, Frieda's mother, called her "brilliant" her diamond. He is just that. And because of Frieda's determination and wisdom, Jehiel & I and our children have also been blessed with having Rusty & Nikki & Steve & Sam & Marin & Aliza & Jenna & Molly & Noah as part of our closest family.

When I was a very little girl in Durham, Frieda taught me to sing the Star Spangled Banner. My mother later told me that when I came to the last line, what I sang was - "From every mountainside, let Frieda ring." That may not have been what Francis Scott Key wrote, but it was correct. Like freedom, Frieda was a major force. Her talent & intelligence & goodness rang loud and true, & will continue to serve as a model and inspiration for me and for all those who were ever lucky enough to know and love her.


Anonymous J. E. Howard said...

Dear Aviva,

I have just found your wonderful tribute to your great-aunt Frieda Pusin on your blog. I would be most interested to know if your aunt was the former Frieda Mowshowitz for a book I am writing. If you would be so kind as to contact me by e-mail at, I would be most grateful.

7:45 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home