Jeri Cohen

Ode to Olga aka Holly

I can’t compete with Ferdowsi
and compose a Shahname;
Nor can I compete with Aeschylus
and write you a play.

Ι can’t compose fifty thousand couplets
and ninety-nine chapters you will not see;
But I was asked to contribute to your Festschrift
even though an academic I was not fated to be.

When they asked me to contribute
I had no idea what it meant;
But I googled it immediately
and gave my consent.

Our friendship has spanned forty-three years
and you still look the same (and so do Ι);
So in celebration of your beauty
I will honor your name.

I still can’t say why we met
the very way that we did;
Α WASP and a Jew studying Arabic
It was really quite taboo.

We loved to torture Merlin
he really was a hoot;
But he did teach us Arabic
and some Islamic literature to boot.

That’s where we met Margaret
we had a very small class;
She fell in love with D.
that neo-con ass.

You were an elite
you spoke French and German too;
You even could draw
oh, what couldn’t you do?

Ι was in awe of your beauty
and your alternative way of life;
Ι was fascinated by your family history
that sometimes was filled with strife.

We were inseparable
we hung out nearly every day;
We went to gay and trans bars
and disco danced the night away.

We loved to go shopping
and gad about town;
We had several groupies
who followed us around.

You fell in love with Herb
we didn’t pronounce the Η;
I think he was gay
Because he was oblivious to the chase.

We thought he was sophisticated
the sexiest guy around;
But when we visited his apartment
it was the dirtiest dump in town.

We were wild and crazy
but very smart as well;
We shared all our secrets
Some I cannot tell.

And then we moved to Cambridge
to pursue a higher degree;
And soon you met Greg
when you were only twenty-three.

You said that you were getting married
I thought you were insane;
But you knew what you were doing
and with whom you would remain.

At first it was intimidating
Greg was older and brilliant too;
But he won us all over with his charm and his derring-do,
(Derring-do you might say,
Yes, he married you!)

You gave him a wedding present
dare I disclose;
He got a peek at my breasts
painted and sans clothes.

Sarah and you were tattoo artists
untrained experts in body art;
But it enhanced the whole experience
and it came from the heart.

We were one big family
Stuart, Sarah, Joseph me and you;
But our favorite was Richard
He was gay, but who knew.

When I reflect on all the laughter
and the deep affection that we shared;
I’m nostalgic for that time in our life
When things were simple and free of strife.

You moved to Princeton
and studied Arabic and Farsi too;
I stayed at Harvard
and tried to be an academic like you.

We talked on the telephone
late into the night;
I missed having you close
But Richard played the host.

The years flew by quickly
we went our separate ways;
But you were always part of my history
And my carefree younger days.

You gave birth to Laszlo
and then Antonia aka Toni came along;
You were a PhD and a mother
You made it seem easy as a song.

You became a professor
At Brandies and Boston U;
An expert on the Shahnameh
and you created the Ilex foundation too.

Even when we went for long periods
without communicating at all;
The distance soon evaporated
after just one long telephone call.

We consulted over the years
about family and children woes;
It wasn’t always easy
but we handled it like pros.

Greg and you shared children
who were not always easy to raise;
You were more laissez-faire
Greg tried to be sage,

Toni was a terror
Laszlo didn’t want to talk;
But Toni gave you Adelia
Α princess to take on your walk.

Toni became a writer
and married a talented man;
They stayed close by in Dublin
and Wes often gives you a hand.

You rolled with the punches
always optimistic to a fault;
But that just kept you beautiful
a lesson on how not to let life be fraught.

Greg and you shared your professional lives
loving ancient language, poetry and prose;
Through your contributions,
to the top of your fields you rose,

Your many homes are elegant
Α tribute to your style and taste;
I love to visit them all
And relish in your grace.

Whether in Boston, Dublin or Washington
you are the grand dame of your domain;
You are the hostess with the mostess
and a visit with you is never boring or tame.

Dear dear Holly
you have aged without a hitch;
I can’t believe you don’t use botox
or haven’t had a stitch (are you sure?).

I still remember your belly dancing
we all had to take a lesson too;
But only you could master it
You see, there really is no one quite like you!

We both share a love for politics
we are progressive to our core;
We didn’t see Hillary make it
But you’ve convinced me this means war.

You were born with a silver spoon
Merck and Clyde’s restaurant made you flush;
But instead of eating bonbons
you’ve made a difference for all of us.

You are very very loyal
you have a forgiving heart;
You put things in perspective
and believe people can make a new start.

You hold your siblings together
and keep everyone in line;
You step up to the plate for their children
whenever they are having a hard time,

And then there is your mother
you held her while she died;
Despite the hard times she gave you
at the end, you remained true and tried.

We just spent a magical day together
learning history and discussing politics and TV;
We’ve watched the world change dramatically
but girls at heart we will always be.

And that is why Ι love you
And I’m glad you’re in my life
You’re my friend forever
Happy Birthday scholar, mother, grandmother, sister and wife.