(dedicated to my granddaughter, Lara Levine – age 3)
A few months ago, I was watching a local NJ news program on the television. Steve Adubato came on and announced an interview of two guests. I cannot begin to tell you how surprised I was to see that one of those guests was my daughter in law, Kerri!
My younger son married Kerri in 2014. I was not invited to their wedding. But my ex husband held the honor of being present and a featured guest among hundreds in attendance at the New York Public Library affair. Since that blessed event, I have met my daughter in law on 2 occasions. I mention this because I recognized her face on the screen as soon as it appeared. Her beautiful beaming face.
I watched the interview as Mr. Adubato asked her questions. Kerri was cool, collected and calm. And as I watched her lips move, not paying attention to all the words at first – all I could think of was does my granddaughter look like her.? Yes, that was what I was thinking as my heart ripped open a little more every second the television screen captured my attention.
I have never met either of Kerri’s children, Chase nor Lara. And they are both my own grandchildren. My adult alienated son and my daughter in law forbid these young souls from knowing that I exist. Chase is 5 years old. Lara is 3 years old. It is a tragedy that stems from a cycle known as domestic violence by proxy, or parental alienation – tragically seen orchestrated by abusive spouses in high conflict divorce.
I am many things. A domestic violence survivor, a mother, an artist, a preschool teacher, a woman who believes in equal rights, an animal lover and rescuer, a vegetarian, ….and Kerri made me a grandmother to two children.
After the initial shock of seeing her face on my tv screen, I listened to what she had to say. Very carefully. She spoke of such topics as the rights of young women, the opportunities young women should be afforded in our world. And I kept thinking of all the irony that echoed in those words.
As proud as I am that my daughter in law is involved in a program called “Girl Talk Takeover,” as well as her philanthropic stance in so many other avenues, I kept thinking how my granddaughter deserves so many opportunities that her own mother is prohibiting. Children deserve more love, not less. Lara should know her grandmother Julie. My daughter in law’s father once told me that Kerri is protecting my grandchildren from me. How absurd – but common warped thinking when parental alienation is passed down generation to generation.
A few months after first viewing the television segment, I decided to sit down and write to Kerri about it. It was not the first time I have written her. In all the years, she has never responded to me – so as much as my letter meant, I sadly knew all too well it would likely go unanswered.
The television segment can be seen online at GIRLTALK #Takeover Exposes Young Girls to New Opportunities
I praised her, commented on how wonderful her work is, and never heard a reply.
I stayed positive, did not mention my broken heart, and focused on the wonderful effect she has on the future of my grandchilren.
It’s never an easy situation when you are faced with the choice between confronting a situation, speaking your mind, or taking the high road. And damn, that high road is a lonely place so often! But as I sat with this video clip, watching it again, I realized that my pain required action. The kind of action where Kerri knew I saw the interview, and I shared some positive thoughts as a viewer. A viewer who is her mother in law, none the less. Someday, perhaps Lara will come across my writing here and know that she was always in my heart. She is the young girl I think of…when I hear about Girl Talk Takeover.
Life’s a balancing act.
I choose to respond intelligently, even to unintelligent treatment.
Below is the letter I sent my beautiful daughter in law last summer, and never heard from her. May she continue to do good and spread her good will throughout our community.
July 8, 2021
I hope all is well – or at least as well as can be during this pandemic. I think of you, Jared, Chase and Lara always.
There are not many days when you aren’t in my thoughts or prayers, and I am finally gathering my emotions to write to you at this time. Chances are you will toss my letter in the trash without so much as reading a word, but what is life without taking chances? I hang on to the possibility that you may actually read my words. And feel what they try to convey.
I’d like to tell you how proud I am of you. Over the last year, I have repeatedly seen your name and face in the local New Jersey media. You are an amazing woman as you raise two young children, pursue a career, and still take on so many charitable causes. On so very many occasions, I have said I am beyond proud to have you as a daughter in law and the mother of my grandchildren.
I’ve thought so much about what I wish I could say to you – for too long. All through the pandemic and even before that….All the days I’ve contemplated writing this, are turning into years.
I’ve read various articles on your achievements and have even seen you being interviewed on the Steve Adubato show, New Jersey News 12. I can’t help but look at you on the screen and wonder what my grandchildren look like. I wish I knew – and I wish they knew me, too.
Just last month, I was invited to a ceremony on Zoom. It was to award a local rabbi with the Jewish Heritage Award of Essex County, New Jersey. An honor.
And I read that you, Kerri, were a previous recipient of that award only 3 years ago. An honor that encompasses so much.
Your face is shown proudly on Essex County pages as you accepted the county’s award for Jewish Heritage.
I’m positive your philanthropy regarding our Jewish faith has benefited many. “Heritage” – a legacy. It’s our past, our present and our future as Jews. Our lineage.
And as life only moves forward, I have followed your wonderful volunteer work during the Covid pandemic. All you have done for the essential workers in our hospitals and communities is to be applauded. Outstanding work.
Last January, I observed you on New Jersey television discussing the program you installed to afford “young girls opportunities.” You referred to a program you developed in Newark.
You are setting an extraordinary example for so many girls…especially my granddaughter. Lara has a wonderful role model, may she follow in your footsteps.
You spoke of the importance of exposing young girls to various experiences – opportunities they should have. I believe the goal was to empower these young girls whom you were referring to. That is without doubt an integral and important endeavor. Kudos to you for realizing that and trying to act upon it. I wish I had such a role model to have influenced my own life.
As you spoke, so many thoughts ran through my mind. You understand that the voices of young women everywhere matter and are vital to a healthy outlook and future. Choices. Not under control of others demands and opinions. But knowing they have choices – that is their right.
Those are wishes and prayers that should be afforded to young girls everywhere, as they are exposed to endless opportunities. What someone may consider their ceiling, let these young women consider their floor.
Kerri, you are a very strong role model for my grandchildren. That is absolutely wonderful. You are teaching them so much.
As I watched your beautiful persona being interviewed by Mr. Adubato, I carefully listened to each and every word you spoke. The importance for personal growth and exposure to different venues affords the young girls in your program “opportunities” that all young girls should experience. It should not be looked at as something rare, but should be normalized. What a wonderful world it would be.
Well, I thought of these points many times over the last few months. I guess I can’t talk to you at this time, but I can write. Whether you are receptive or not, all I can do is try. And hope.
Thank you for reading this far. This letter is essentially about all that we are and the next generation.
Children do not learn by words alone, but by example. In so many ways, I am grateful for the examples you are setting.