This piece was originally published as “Judith Levy’s Best-Selling Series Inspires Grandparents to Record Life Stories” in the Forward.
Judith Levy met her husband, Herb Levy, more than four decades ago at the Concord Resort Hotel and Golf Club, in Kiamesha Lake, N.Y., which at the time was a famous Borscht Belt destination. A singer with a gig at the hotel, she was passing the time by writing letters in the lobby. Herb came over and asked her to write him one. “I’m lonely. Would you write me a letter?” he said.
“I fell for him right then and there,” Levy said. “He used the perfect pick-up line for me. I was attracted to his vulnerability.”
Levy, 79, and her husband have been together ever since. They raised three daughters, and now they have five grandchildren. Telling them how their grandparents met comes easily for Levy; she’s a natural storyteller with a quick wit and an engaging sense of humor.
Blessed with the gift of gab, Levy was surprised to discover, while attending a memoir-writing course at Florida Atlantic University some 30 years ago, that not all grandmothers have family tales tripping off their tongues.
“When I came into the class, the room was loaded with grandparents who wanted to put their memories down for their grandchildren. Many of them thought they’d become a voice on the phone or a present in the mail, and they really didn’t like that,” she recalled. “But I could see that they were having trouble doing it, because they weren’t writers — they were carers and sharers, but they weren’t writers.” That realization led to a best-selling book, “Grandmother Remembers: A Written Heirloom for My Grandchild.” It has been translated into five languages (including Hebrew) and has sold more than 3 million copies. A 30th anniversary edition was published this year, several months ahead of National Grandparents Day, the first Sunday after Labor Day. (Not everyone knows about the holiday, let alone celebrates it, but it is clearly an important calendar event for Levy.) “Grandmother Remembers” has spawned a series of related books written by Levy, including “Grandfather Remembers,” “Grandmother Remembers Holidays,” “Our Chosen Child” (to be completed by parents of adopted children) and “My Baby and Me” (a single parent’s journal), among others.
“Grandmother Remembers” is essentially “a baby book backwards,” as Levy puts it. An illustrated album, it has spaces for photographs, but its pages are mainly filled with writing prompts to help a grandmother put down her memories on paper for posterity.
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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.