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“You’ll know when he’s ‘the one’,” my mother said. She died when I was 20, leaving no further guidance. At 23, I was stale inventory by Jewish matchmaking standards. Despair settled in. Until one Shabbat afternoon when Phil, an old friend of my roommate, breezed into our 93rd Street apartment. He was cute, interested in my aspirations and favorite author. My roommate asked how his birthday had been. “When was it?” I asked. He replied, “September 14.” My mother’s birthday. Serendipity or shidduch (a match)? I know which. He was her gift to me. Twenty-three anniversaries later, I still know. — Gila Pfeffer

I met him in Queens outside a bodega. I had a plane to catch and was looking for someone to bless with my subway pass. Chris thanked me with a 99-cent bottle of vodka. Recently 50, I felt like a rebel standing outside drinking with an 80-something-year-old man. We laughed about random stuff, then exchanged numbers. He asked to marry me and I said yes. I went home to Ohio and haven’t seen him since, but we keep in touch. Chris still says he loves me, and I say it back. I mean it. His wise spirit inspires mine. — Franki Kidd


Plenty of parents don’t like their children. It’s less often discussed than children not liking their parents. But I know, firsthand, how it feels not to be liked by a parent. My mother made it clear. In her eyes, I was too fat, too private, and later, too gay. In turn, I found her to be too materialistic and eager to conform. But, we actively chose to remain in each other’s lives. Again and again we return to this painful relationship. Scarred and still biting, we persist. That, too, is love. — Kimberly Dark

Raising sons in Brooklyn, I never took them to my annual Kentucky family reunion. Camp, jobs and inertia kept us away. But when our nation started splintering, it felt urgent. Surrounded by country warmth and mountain laurel, my sons traded TikTok videos and fishing stories with newfound kin. Cousin Sylvia, now silver haired, clutched my younger son’s hand and purred, “Love you, darlin’; you have people here.” Generations of love transcending politics, my son gently admonished me: “You shouldn’t have waited so long.” Later, when my extended Appalachian family visited Brooklyn, he said, “You have people here, too.” — Caroline Aiken Koster



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