A Homeland In The West

Utah Jews Remember

In the summer of 2009, this wonderful book caught my eye and I bought it for $20. I didn’t know why, but I couldn’t let it go unpurchased. I kept meaning to read it. “I have got to read that book!” I chided myself again and again. I thought it would make the most thrilling conversation-starter coffee table book. It’s about Salt Lake’s Jewish pioneers.

This year, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by and claustrophobic in all my stuff. How can one woman have so much STUFF, for the love of all that is holy!? This summer I participated in The Greatest Yard Sale of Time and All Eternity. I put that book up for 2 bucks. “Clearly, this doesn’t belong to me,” I thought as I imagined the true owner finding it in the library. I could feel the excitement of sharing in that magic and joy together.

No one bought it. “Huh. I guess it’s mine, after all.” I was confused. I felt it finding home.

I found her! She moved here from San Francisco and joined my African Dance class. We went to lunch and she told her story and ancestry. It was well after my Saturday nap that I remembered that neglected book. I took it to class the next week. It was Hanukkah!

Not only was it appropriate for the little gal whose grandparents helped found Salt Lake’s Jewish Community, they were in it! She looked in the index. “Oh, yep. Here they are,” she said, turning to the page with their story and WEDDING PICTURE here in the SLC!

Thanks, angels. It’s not the first time I bought something for a future owner other than myself, but it was certainly the best one. I can’t sufficiently capture the thrill and humility.

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The Sordid Story of My Book

I’m so glad I have a photocopy of Abigail’s story. Mom sent it to me a couple of years ago, when my co-worker Teresa became excited about Abigail after I shared her story.

Over the last 20 years I created the false memory in which her husband was killed by an anti-Mormon mob, ha! Now, I research my facts and tell the unexaggerated truth. And Mom still flatly refuses to give me the family history in which I found Abigail’s story. I “met” her face first, in a photo-lineage of my people on that side. It was amazing!

Azalia, my paternal grandmother, did the work, compiling the stories, photos, and genealogies, creating a fat book of my family through hers. I’m in it! On my beautiful mother’s lap. My dad’s in his uniform. My sister and brother are the cutest toddler and Kindergartner!

My mom divorced that clan, but she paid $20 for that book, by damn. It’s hers, not the property of Abigail’s rightful heir – ME – her “latest generation,” which holds her “in honorable remembrance,” just as she wished.

She’s mine. I want my book! It’s a button. I pushed it in my last battle of the War with Mother, in November 2011. I hadn’t pushed THE button for 15 years. It went that far. It was the punch in her face from 19-year-old me, and, just like then, I’m out. They’re not speaking to me, for the umpteenth time.

I’m secretly terrifed she’s destroyed the book since then, but I just can’t see Mom doing that. She’s such a good person. That’s something I might do. Instead, I proceed with gratitude that she has my book in her safe keeping. It exists because she holds it for me. It would not have survived my suicidal years, which claimed my scrapbooks and journals. I have that blessed xerox of Abigail’s story, and my book will come, eventually.

I am grateful. My aunt says she might be able to find an extra in the family clutter. It won’t be necessary. Mom’s still caring for mine. She’s a worthy woman, too. She’s holding it ’til I’m ready. It has blessed her life, helping her tell stories of faith and endurance in church, where she feels connected to her personal truth, which I love and celebrate. So I’m glad she continues to enjoy my book. I’ll read it cover to cover, someday.