By Beverly Peck
Moving Furniture and Poem: A Forest were written by teacher/poet/writer Beverly Peck about her mother, Ethel Zwerdling z”l. Ethel, who passed away in 2007 at the age of 93, lived her final years at the Jewish Home for the Elderly in Fairfield (now Jewish Senior Services in Bridgeport) where says Peck, she “found pleasure from time spent with her many visitors and newly made friendships.”
Beverly Peck and her husband, Irwin, live in Shelton and are the parents of three children, and the grandparents of many. Peck and her sister-in-law Claire Peck of Atlanta, Georgia recently collaborated on Moon Tales, a book of Beverly Peck’s poetry and Claire Peck’s art and photography.
When I was a young girl living with my family in the house on Taft Avenue in Bridgeport, there was one thing on which I could always rely. I never knew how the living room would be arranged when I got home from school! Sometimes the couch would face the big picture window across the room. Sometimes it would be up against it. A chair would either be angled near the fireplace or would sit comfortably across from it. Our cocker spaniel, Penny, liked it best when the couch was placed just under the picture window. She’d sit on it and occasionally poke her nose through the curtains and bark at people passing by. Sometimes I’d sit with her, a co-conspirator to her being on the couch where she wasn’t supposed to be.
Mom, tiny as she was, was always strong enough to move furniture. Eventually, I came to understand that this simple, though maybe not so simple, act had meaning. If Mom was having a bad day, not that kids necessarily notice things like that about mothers; if she needed a pick-me-up or a change, she didn’t always have a whole lot of options. She was busy being larger than life to a family that depended on her to be, well, dependable. Two things Mom would say when things were not going well for her daughters were, “Everything will be all right” and “Don’t lose yourself.” It was as if she wanted to remind us to trust in the future and not lose hope and that she deemed our “selves” to be worth keeping.
By Mom’s act of rearranging the living room furniture, she taught me an important lesson. It’s not always possible to change things in life, to make bad things not happen or make good things last forever. In other words, we can’t always redecorate our lives. We can, however, rearrange furniture and see the same things from a different point of view.
POEM: A FOREST
Is This the Fate of Trees? (Reflection on a Nursing Home)
is thicker here.
The branches of the trees are gnarled
even in springtime. The trees shiver
even in summer.
Bent trunks have long since given up
hope of receiving
solace from sunshine. They moan and groan
under the weight
of time gone on.
to these woods,
I find it hard to accept a forest so
Being more accustomed to walking
briskly among trees
in their prime, this gloomy landscape is
“Is this the fate of trees?” I ask
as I sway beneath
my heavy thoughts.
I look for a clearing,
find one in an unexpected place,
right in front of me and all around.
There are caregivers in these woods.
While there is darkness,
there are light touches. While there are
groans, there are soothing responses.
This time when I look, I see.
This time when
I listen, I hear.
I am drawn
to these woods,
one old tree in particular. For the
I put away my questions, busy myself
like the caregivers,
and become one with the forest and its
many trees which is
after all teeming with life,
pulsating, pulsating with life.
Main Photo: Ethel Zwedling z”l surrounded by her grandchildren at her 90th birthday party.