customs/rituals, folklore

Las Cruces Pebbles on a Los Angeles Stone

Las Cruces pebbles on a Los Angeles Stone. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2013.  Mt. Sinai Cemetery.
Las Cruces pebbles on a Los Angeles Stone. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2013. Mt. Sinai Cemetery.

Placing pebbles on a tombstone is a Jewish tradition: 1) to leave a memento after visiting a loved one’s grave; 2) in ancient times when bodies were placed directly in a simple grave, mourners covered the body with stones so that animals might not unearth the body.  Later visitors to the grave would bring new stones to rebuild the monument and protect the physical remains.

Nowadays, the second reason no longer applies, but the first has become a commonplace tradition in Jewish cemeteries.

As many of you have read before, I had planned an October visit to Los Angeles, but medical problems prevented that trip.  Nonetheless, my family made a visit to my husband’s grave to bring him pebbles from New Mexico.

If you take another look at Harold’s memorial stone, you will note that the bottom half of his marker is empty.  According to Jewish custom, that part will be filled in one year after I am entombed with my beloved husband.  When we purchased out plot decades ago, we economized by buying a double-decker grave rather than two graves side by side.  We turned this into a running joke:  “Who gets to be on top?”  Guess I won.

Cemetery visits can be instructive.  In Los Angeles, Hollywood Forever is where the movie moguls of the past are buried.  Huge tombs have been erected to Douglas Fairbanks Senior and Junior, Tyrone Power and Marion Davies.  They also have Rudolph Valentino’s crypt that annually lures a Lady in Black bearing flowers on the anniversary of his death.

In 1952, when Hattie McDaniels died, she desired to be buried there with other Hollywood celebrities because she was the first African American to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress portraying Mammy in “Gone With the Wind.”  However, in those days, cemeteries were restricted by race.  The original owners of Hollywood Cemetery denied McDaniels’ request to be interred there.  Instead she was buried outside the city limits at Rose Hills.

When the new owners of the renamed Hollywood Forever discovered this affront, they offered to have McDaniels exhumed and reburied on their property.  The McDaniels family refused.  Instead, on October 26, 1999, a four-foot granite monument was dedicated to McDaniels.  A public celebration ensued that included a Clark Gable look-alike who wowed the crowd as he strode among them.

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who likes to visit cemeteries.


“You Certainly Didn’t Waste Any Time.”

The above criticism was from an old friend after I told her that I met a gentleman friend shortly after moving to Las Cruces, NM.

Herman Miller clock, circa 1952.  © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2013.How much time do I have anyway?  This was my thought but not my retort to this widowed woman older than me.  At the time of this reproach, I was 80.  How many years do I have left to be mobile and excited about having a male companion to try out new venues for eating, music and recreation?

Why should I wait around?  I’m not exactly dancing on my husband’s grave.  He died six years ago.

I have an issue about time.  In my head I hear, “I’m late.  I’m late for a very important date.”  There is an added urgency at this time of life — at least for me.

I think it’s genetic, inherited from my father.  When he and my mom were invited to a friend’s home for a social activity, they arrived extra early but waited in the car for at least a half an hour before entering the host’s house.  Consequently, they were too tired to last the evening and had to leave early  One time when he was rushing my mom to get ready for a dinner party, that it was time to leave, she admonished, “But the party is next door.”

When they went to the theater or any performance, they always arrived early but then my dad insisted on leaving before the presentation was over to avoid the parking lot rush.  Made no sense to me.

I don’t think I’m quite that bad, but I’m always early, especially to the airport.  I need to be when I go through security.  My three artificial joints set off the bells and whistles and security must pull me aside for a manual work over.

I don’t think any of us should waste time — young and old alike.  We never know our expiration dates and need to make the most of our allotted time.

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who obsesses about time.

able/disabled, mobility

Paging George Clooney in the ER. . .

ER delivery.   © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2013.
ER delivery. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2013.

But all I got was Dr. Butcher.  What a let-down.  Not that Dr. Butcher wasn’t competent and friendly, but he certainly doesn’t have the sex appeal of the former Dr. Ross.  After making three Emergency Room trips during the past two and a half weeks, I could have used that lift.

I’m not complaining only reporting.  Despite the trauma of the first ER trip caused by a severe head injury, and a day later having to return to remove a diseased gall bladder,  followed by a complication necessitating a second surgery, I am finally home.  I am anxious to get back on track and let you know why there has been such a gap in my communications.

My mom used to say, “God laughs while man plans.”  These past few weeks are a perfect example.  For months I had been organizing a return to California not only to attend my great-niece’s wedding but also to reunite with 30 friends at my favorite Armenian Pasadena restaurant.

Instead, my Las Cruces family flew to the wedding; my brother flew here to sister-sit, and I still have home health care 24/7.

Word got around quickly and the locals were very kind and responded with pots of chicken soup, covered dishes, cards and notes.

One friend warned, “Don’t let them remove your funny bone.”

Another cheered, “I hear you had twins.”

Norine Dresser is a folklorist recovering from surgeries and happy to be back in her own home.