By Sharon Wisch-Ray
This is not the first time I’ve found myself in this position, writing what I will always think of as my beloved mother’s Around the Town with Rene column.
After her death 2½ years ago, I wrote the column for awhile, but with handling Dallas Doings as well and my myriad other responsibilities here at the TJP and at home, I truly didn’t feel as though I was doing it justice. Amy Sorter was kind enough to step in and take the reins July 28, 2011 and has been doing an admirable job. In January, Amy told me that other responsibilities were going to prevent her from continuing the column long-term.
I contemplated a number of ideas … bringing in someone new from Fort Worth was one, and we had some very good candidates apply. For sentimentality sake, however, I couldn’t bring myself to make that change and take the column “out of the family” again. In fact, I think that’s just what’s been missing. So in an effort to evolve, I’ve come full circle.
My sister Linda, who many of you know, has agreed to take on the Dallas Doings column, something she did ably for more than two decades in the ’70s and ’80s.
And here I sit, literally in my mother’s chair, penning Around the Town with Rene. I wonder if this is how Jeanne Phillips felt when she assumed the mantle of Dear Abby?
When people ask me how long I’ve worked at the Texas Jewish Post, I usually answer 47 years. I was literally born in to this business Sept. 2, 1965. And like the dutiful daughter that I was bound to be, arrived well after that week’s deadline.
Here’s an excerpt from mother’s column dated Thursday, Sept. 9, 1965.
Dateline: Room 214, Harris Women’s Hospital
“It was only a few columns ago that we wrote about all the summer high school graduates and reminisced in general about the way a child fleets through one’s hands like a precious wind that one is unable to grasp. And to top it off we spoke about our own daughter, Linda, who was among the crop.
“These are the children who are really and truly ‘TJPost Babies.’ We’ve reported their births, their naming ceremonies, there confirmations, their engagements and now have made the full circle and reported some weddings and new citizens of our own TJPost readers.”
Of course back then, the TJP was in it’s own young adulthood — a mere 19 years old. Fast forward 47 years, and now in our 67th year, we have not only reported on these folks themselves, but on the lifecycles of their children and grandchildren. Trust me, it’s easy to get lost in some of these old volumes of the TJP and their vivid descriptions on Jewish life in Fort Worth at the time.
“Well the doctor told us that it was unlikely that we’d have another child of our own and we took that for granted.
“Suddenly, oops, some stomach pains came creeping around the end of May and TJP’s Jaw insisted on an immediate visit to the doctor. ‘Mrs. Wisch,’ said the competent and compassionate Dr. Robert McDonald, one of the cities top gynecologists, ‘I have a surprise for you.’
“‘What is it?’
“‘Mrs. Wisch, I believe I hear two heartbeats.’
“‘Doctor! I’ve got a child going into college in September!’
“‘That’s just about when I think the baby will be born from what you’ve already told me. Sometime in September. Perhaps the latter part. But one never knows.’
“‘Well. Then to tell the ‘boss’ editor, publisher, father and director of the mint, my husband, Jimmy.’
“I’ve got a surprise for you I whispered after returning home from the doctor’s since I was confined to the house for serious leg complications.
“Jaw looked at me. I didn’t know if he was going to ask me if I had my column ready or who was going to replace me on the advertising staff. Instead he walked over, kissed me tenderly and said, I hope it’s twins. Don’t worry, You’ll be fine.”
From what my mother told me, from that moment, she had six months worth of pregnancy symptoms in the next three. I’m not sure how she didn’t realize she was pregnant after already having had four children. I think she was just too busy with work and family to notice. I guess, at age 42, she never considered it a possibility.
Her column continued from her Harris Hospital bed, and though it’s too long to reprint in its entirety, there are some priceless moments that capture the spirit of the time.
“Last Tuesday,(Aug. 31) night I felt horrible. I had the feeling something was going to happen. When Jim got up in the morning, and asked me what I was doing I told him I felt water gushing from me. ‘Call Dr. McDonald immediately,’ he ordered. Dr. McDonald’s nurse asked that I go to the hospital as soon as I could. Meanwhile, I knew that this was paper day, the day the Texas Jewish Post had to be ‘put to bed’ ready for printing and that Jimmy had already received several calls from the office that all the equipment had broken down.
“It was past 11 a.m. I’ll get Ruth Rapfogel, he said. She’ll get you down. It will be the first time that I haven’t. She’ll get you down. It will be proud. She’s always helped out with pregnancy carpooling. Ruth, for those of you who don’t know, is the wife of our dear friend, Dr. Irving Rapfogel. Ruth wasn’t home. But Bernice Rapfogel was. She came over immediately and drove me to Harris Women’s Hospital.
“Soon the news was out. Rene Wisch was at Harris Hospital. She was going to have a baby.”
The column continues for some time. It is a gift to me to be able to read almost exactly what was going through my parents’ minds when I was born. Of course, the TJP is an historical record for all of us.
Around the Town with Rene was the heart of the TJP for as long as my mom was alive. Mom had a gift of making everyone feel comfortable. She never met a stranger. She touched people and impacted their lives in a way that is difficult to articulate in words.
Suffice it to say, she was easy to talk to, warm, dedicated and hard-working. She was a tremendous judge of character. I’d consider myself lucky if I had even one of her many qualities and gifts. I hope that I can share your news with mom’s ease and grace. I don’t know if I will do the job that she did, but I’ll aim to try.
I mentioned that I feel as though I’ve come full circle. Our oldest son, Benjamin, is a senior in high school himself and preparing to head to Texas A&M in the fall. Middle son Sam is earnestly preparing for his bar mitzvah in August; an announcement in the TJP will be forthcoming. When he’s not playing baseball, he plans to work in the TJP office this summer answering phones and calling folks for New Year greetings. I warn you now. Sam is a gifted up-seller.
Finally, when our youngest son, Jimmy, was born on May 16, 2004, he caught me a little off-guard by arriving a full month early. As my mother did before me, I finished my work from my hospital room and got the TJP safely to bed that week.
We love to share our readers’ news. Send it to me however you feel comfortable: email at firstname.lastname@example.org; snail mail to me at 7920 Belt Line Road #680 Dallas, TX 75254 or give me a call at 817-927-2831. I look forward to talking to you.