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October 20th, 2021

Personal

Same family, different experience

Rebbetzin Faigie Horowitz

By Rebbetzin Faigie Horowitz JewishWorldReview.com

Published March 8, 2021

Same family, different experience
When you are the oldest of your generation, you probably didn't grow up wearing clothes that were passed on to you by older relatives. Certainly, you got new ones that later got a lot of mileage from younger siblings and cousins.

When you are the oldest of your generation, your milestones were firsts for everyone. They were celebrated with great fanfare and are still recalled with great relish. You were the one that made someone a grandparent and perhaps a great grandparent. The name you were given was of great significance to a lot of people.

You are generally the one with the most photos of your childhood. You are the one that spent a lot of early time with parents and grandparents.

When you are the oldest of your generation, you grew up aware of a strong family faith and work ethic. This is the way one did things, no matter what. And you didn't talk about it much. You just did.

And as the family grew, you began to wonder why certain rules and limits with which you grew up were disappearing. And you kept quiet and didn't comment. After all, who were you in the face of all those before you?

When you are the oldest of your generation, you sought opportunities to be around the older ones, no matter that you were an accomplished adult in the big world outside the cozy closeness of family. You were content just to be around the elders and listen.

When you are the oldest of your generation, you go to more funerals and shivah visits than the other members of your generation. You also get invited to more weddings than your siblings and cousins.

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When you are the oldest of your generation, you know the old lore about generations past and are interested in hearing more. You also begin to question certain stories. Are they true, you wonder? And you ask where you safely can.

When you are the oldest of your generation, you feel compelled to keep the links across the branches of the family strong and healthy. You also get tired of being the family historian and communicator but you do it anyhow.

You are the keeper of the flame and the tender of the candle. You take charge of the care of the previous generation and make sure that matters are attended to.

When you are the oldest of your generation, you accept that there are those who are interested in family connections and those who are not. The reality of today's stressful life impacts your judgment of others and you are more tolerant of those who don't attend family functions.

When you are the oldest of your generation, you share more about the family past than non-family members are interested in hearing. You just can't help yourself.

When you are the oldest of your generation, you understand your parents as people, not just as parents and grandparents. You accept their idiosyncrasies and vulnerabilities. And you begin to hope and pray that your children view you generously too. Perhaps this happens (or should) to all children as they become mature adults. It is not exclusive to the oldest.

When you are the oldest of your generation, you feel supported by the presence of the older generation. And it gets very scary when you look around for support and there are fewer left. You have now become the older generation. You are now one of the senior aunts and cousins who attend all the family simchas and are regularly approached by unfamiliar young people who introduce themselves to you.

When you are the oldest of your generation, your sense of responsibility defines you. You wonder if that sense of responsibility is overdeveloped and disproportionate. Nevertheless, your role shapes your personality and reactions.

When you are the oldest of your generation, your identity is wrapped in the past. And it is a good comfortable fit.

(COMMENT, BELOW)

A former nonprofit management professional and now freelance writer, digital marketing strategist and political advocate, Faigie Horowitz has cofounded a shelter for homeless girls, a synagogue on Long Island, and mostly recently JWOW!, Jewish Women of Wisdom, a community for midlifers. She holds a Masters in Management and nests on Long Island with way too many closets.


Previously:
Making grandparents great again
I'm an addict, but NOT in treatment
My Book of Life will not be an artifact

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