My beshert moment on that unforgettable day wrapped me in so many memories of my childhood. In the early 1940s, as kids growing up in the Bronx, New York, we walked to school with our friends and played in the streets until dark without fear or worry. We enjoyed marbles, which we kept in our fathers’ old cigar boxes; jacks on the sidewalk, chalk to draw and play games in the street and so many more inventive ways to have fun. My best friend was Bernice Goldfeder from the time I was five until moves and marriages separated us.
Fast forward to the 2000s. I had left New York and relocated to Washington, DC in 2002. I made a happy life for myself there with a few wonderful new friends and the blessing of my daughter and two delicious granddaughters close by in Northern Virginia. I tutored reading in a local school and enjoyed the wonders of retirement at theaters, concerts, ballets, museums and more.
But something was missing. I had occasional intangible feelings of loneliness and displacement from my roots. My entire family and close relatives were gone. My only sister had recently died and there was no way to stay in touch with old friends lost decades before.
I truly didn’t realize the impact of all this until I experienced “beshert.”
One Monday in the summer of 2019, I took my “To Do” list and stopped at a local shop to pick up two gifts. After selecting them, I was handed over to another salesperson to check me out. We chatted a bit, which is my habit, and she asked me where I’d gone to school. When I told her, “The Bronx,” she asked, “Was it Taft High School?” That was where her mother had gone. Huge beshert! At that point, I literally closed my eyes and asked her mother’s maiden name. The rest is now history!!!
Her mother is my dear friend Bernice’s older sister! The salesperson called her mother and I was on the phone with her a moment later. She lives in Northern Virginia about 30 minutes from my home! Later that day, Bernice called from her home in Bethesda, Maryland, also about 30 minutes from my home. We were amazed to find that the day I moved to DC, they were both already living here and it took almost 20 years to find out we lived in the same place. The three of us had not seen or spoken to each other in 62 years!
That wasn’t the only beshert. It turned out that the daughter usually never worked on Mondays. She was there that day subbing for a colleague.
Soon after our joyous reunion, our families met at Bernice’s house for Rosh Hashanah. She and I have been catching up ever since.
Janet Nussbaum was born and raised in the Bronx and graduated from New York’s Hunter College. She worked in the insurance industry in both Manhattan and Long Island, eventually becoming an agency partner before she retired at 65 and moved to Washington, DC. Bernice Bernstein founded Heritage Tours Ltd., a Washington area tour company. The childhood playmates now have six children and eight grandchildren between them. (Janet: two and three; Bernice four and five, respectively.)
Top photo: The friends today. Bernice is on the left, Janet is on the right.