♪♪ ♪♪ -I said you have to put your seatbelt on.
-It's not -- -...ride in my car.
Shall we go?
-Why are we going?
-We're celebrating life, actually.
This is five years ago today you were given a new life.
That's how I felt.
Off to the beach.
♪♪ ♪♪ -I never set out to make documentaries starring my mother.
-But in the early 1990s the camera helped us stay connected.
-The umbilical cord!
[ Laughs ] -Oh, the headphones.
It kept us talking during times that were hard to navigate.
♪♪ I feel good with you.
-I always feel good with you.
-Today feels really good.
[ Waves crashing ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -I miss her -- and the house.
-[ Laughing ] -I miss her voice... her looks... her skinless chicken... her long pregnant pauses... And her uncanny intuition.
-Lots of things happen in life and changes are made, and we have to be able to adjust to it and roll with it.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Her wedding ring.
I was really worried because I knew it would kill her.
I mean, she's already dead, but it would really kill her if it was lost.
-Turn it off!
-You have a present for them?
-Turn it off.
I want to see!
Just -- -Come on!
I want to see what the present is!
-Just some money.
You don't want anyone where -- [ Both laughing ] -Turn the damn thing off!
♪♪ -You're a nice lady.
-I think so.
-I like you.
I'll keep you.
-I hope you will, for a long time.
-"Hong Kong" -- like, I wouldn't have known which restaurants my mom went to for delivery.
"Pizza and pasta."
But then somehow it says "Chinese restaurant" on top.
This is, like, this amazing time capsule!
So, do I take it apart, or, you know, do I keep it?
-Father says analyze everything.
And you -- and you try to tie it together, make it significant.
[ Cheering, laughter ] -Can I keep that?
-I want that.
I've been obsessed with family history and probably more interested in the past than I've ever been in the present in some way.
These are these little elephants that they bought as, like, talismen.
Cannot throw this out.
I could get married.
I mean, but I -- that doesn't really look like that's necessarily going to happen.
I mean, as my mother would say, you never know.
But still, you know.
I don't think so.
-Judy, let's say good night.
-Turn off the lights.
-Over and out.
-But you're not, you're still filming me.
[ Laughs ] ♪♪ -This is really, like... ♪♪ [ Inhales ] ♪♪ ♪♪ July 2013.
My brother David was visiting from Eugene, Oregon.
-You in, Judith?
Our dad had passed away five years earlier, which had prepared us... a little.
We were all there, so we all know what she said, right?
I just don't feel like I'm ready for this.
It's just hard to believe that I'm actually... [ Laughs incredulously ] I will go to Heaven because I've been such a good person, right?
[ Laughs ] -Absolutely.
-My soul will rise... to meet your dad's.
-Up until this point, our mom had been living well with metastatic colon cancer.
But after two and a half years, it was time for our mother to stop treatment and for us to turn her apartment into what we like to call "Shea Helfand hospice."
Lookit -- lookit -- -Look this way please.
-It's the family, get in.
Right, oh, all right, I'm getting in too.
-Put your camera down.
No, no, no, put your camera in your pocket.
-Okay -- ouch!
♪♪ The only good thing about time running out is that it pushes people to find the strength to show up.
-Hope I see you again.
-I hope so too.
-Or, in my case, finally follow through and face the hard stuff, like talking with my mom about how we'd observe the Jewish rituals of mourning for her.
We're going to sit Shiva.
We're going to do a really good job.
We will all say Kaddish.
And I promise I'm going to do it for a year at that place that has shul for me way too many hours.
-You go Friday or Saturday morning.
You go every morning if you want to.
-And then that way I'll walk with you every morning.
-A power walk to shul.
-You'll walk to, uh, shul?
And you'll lose weight.
-Just -- that's not going to be your last words to me, right?
[ Laughs ] -Ever since she was first diagnosed, my mom had been asking me to do two things: she wanted me to spend weekends with her going through all her stuff... And she asked me to lose 50 pounds while she was alive so she could die knowing I was healthy.
And I didn't do either.
Why give her all that peace of mind and license to detach?
She might use it.
Remember I had two little kids and a husband.
So I guess that helped a lot.
And we went on, you know?
-Yeah, you know what?
-Went on with our lives.
-And I'm sure I'll meet someone really wonderful.
And -- and I'll have a partner.
And I'm just -- -That what I'm mostly concerned about.
That you won't be alone.
And if you don't have a kid, it's okay too.
Kids are not the whole life.
They aren't, really.
Maybe I shouldn't say that -- look at you three!
♪♪ -Even at the end of her life, my mom was trying to help me see my situation in a different light.
Because, for years, I had wanted to become a mom.
[ Indistinct excited chatter ] ♪♪ We had worked hard to be happy for our loved ones' simchats and life-cycle celebrations.
But ironically, the happier we were for others, the harder it got for us.
-I had always hoped that you would have children.
Every mother dreams of that.
But you're still gonna have children.
And they'll be my grandchildren.
♪♪ -I actually started the adoption process in my early forties, but never saw it all the way through.
♪♪ When my mom got sick, I fast-tracked the process -- because my becoming a mother through adoption was something we'd both been dreaming about for years...
Ever since 1990, when I was 25.
-Unfortunately for your daughter, the cancer is on her cervix.
And there are two choices: standard radiation therapy or standard surgery, which would be a radical surgery.
-You've done a lot of these.
-Yes, I've done lots of these operations on DES-exposed women.
-Diethylstilbestrol, otherwise known as the wonder drug DES, was the anti-miscarriage pill my mother was prescribed when she was pregnant with me.
♪♪ It wasn't until years later, when I was eight, that she found out that it had caused irreparable reproductive damage to the millions of children exposed in utero.
And some -- one in a thousand -- would get a rare cancer.
That's why I had to have an emergency radical hysterectomy.
♪♪ ♪♪ I went home to heal, to the very same room that my parents had brought me home to as an infant.
But this time I brought along a video camera.
How are you doing, Ma?
-I feel very badly that this happened to you.
I would rather have it -- had it happen to me.
-But I'm okay.
-I know you are.
-Gimme a kiss.
[ Kiss ] ♪♪ But neither one of us was really okay.
♪♪ ♪♪ And documenting what was happening to us was the only thing that made me feel better.
♪♪ ♪♪ -You lost your productive organs.
-No, Ma, I lost my reproductive organs.
-Reproductive, I'm sorry.
-I have very -- My organs are still quite productive.
Your reproductive organs.
It's sad and it's a tragedy.
But who knows?
I don't know what right words.
-Look, Ma, who knows what the future lies for anybody?
But I'm dealing with the present right now.
It's just, someone came into my body and they took out what was mine for all these years.
-But, Judy, he took it out so that you would live.
If he didn't take it out, you would, maybe in five years you wouldn't be here.
You've got to think of it that way.
-Mom -- [ Rain pattering ] My mother had a hard time dealing with my grief, and I had a hard time dealing with the fact that all this was happening in private.
And that's what pushed me to make "A Healthy Baby Girl," my first personal documentary.
I wanted people to see the emotional cost of what the pharmaceutical industry had done, because the drug companies had known DES was carcinogenic and kept it on the market for years.
♪♪ Making the film led us to other DES cancer daughters, some of them even facing recurrences.
And that's when we realized this cancer could come back.
♪♪ Look at you go.
-[ Chuckles ] -You're going.
-I want my feet up.
-Do you have to point at it?
... [ Buttons clicking ] -Look at the little arrow that says head up.
No, we want feet up.
-I mean feet up.
The two of us -- [ Laughter ] ...put our heads together.
Here we go.
Here we go.
Here we go.
Taking care of my mom had become an unexpected "parenting one-on-one" class, including every once in a while having to take a break.
So I was at a film festival giving a workshop, which they happened to be documenting, when I got the call.
There has to be something at stake.
[ Cellphone ringing ] Oh, my gosh.
That's my adoption agency telling me if my birth parents are saying yes or no.
[ Audience gasps ] I think.
But I'm not going to take it right now.
You got to!
-No, it's okay.
[ Audience clamoring ] -Do it.
Oh, come on.
-They want to what?
They want to move forward with me?
All right, so, okay, so I'm just -- I'm busy for the next two hours.
I'm busy for the next two hours, but then I'm free.
[ Applause ] Okay.
-I got some news.
-Those birth parents?
Changed their mind?
-Changed their mind about what?
-They never made up their mind.
-Oh, they're keeping the baby.
-No, they made up their mind.
-They want to give it to me.
Timing is never right.
Is timing right?
David was born, my mother died.
Timing's never right.
One thing I do know...
If this is already over, it'll be easier for you because you'll be concentrating on taking care of this baby, and, uh...
It'll help you through it, maybe.
Having been through that experience myself, I know, so...
It's a very weird experience.
-I think the hardest thing will be when I want to call you to tell you things.
[ Telephone ringing ] -I know what you mean.
[ Chuckles ] I know you what you mean.
[ Ringing ] Hello?
Yes, it's Florence.
Yeah, with the pain in the waistline?
That was Friday afternoon.
Off and on every day.
-But just as I was starting to establish my relationship with the birth mother and father, my mother started to really decline.
Do you want to sit in the chair for a little bit and see how that feels?
In one of her last big acts of parenting, she looked at me and said, "Judy, maybe I'm your baby right now.
And then she reminded me that her mother had died three hours after my brother David was born.
"I didn't get to go to the funeral," she said.
"I couldn't sit Shiva.
I never really grieved.
And you need to."
♪♪ It was hard to accept that my mother would never get to see me as a mother, but I had to.
So I parted ways with the birth parents, hoping that if the chance ever came around again, I'd be ready.
[ Wind chimes ringing ] ♪♪ [ Leaves rustling ] [ Tearfully ] Just tell me something.
How -- how do you live with your mother?
You'll learn to.
[ Upbeat music playing ] -Isn't that great?
-Would you get up and dance with them?
You know what?
I promise you, next year, I promise I'll dance.
[ Music continues ] ♪♪ Maybe even with a baby in my arms.
♪♪ She was conscious to almost the very end, and then she slipped into a very deep sleep.
And then she let go.
And we let her go.
♪♪ ♪♪ My mother's shiva -- a week surrounded by loved ones and friends, was comforting, exhausting and punctuated by babka, brought to me by almost every visitor who lovingly said, "I'm so sorry for your loss, I brought you the best babka in New York City."
"Thank you," I'd say, "do you mind putting it in the kitchen?"
Every night that week around 4:00 a.m.
I woke up to grief, the kind that gets you out of bed and leads you to the kitchen, praying not to break into the babka.
She's not in the babka.
Step away from the babka.
So could you get a long shot of this?
♪♪ ♪♪ After Shiva, my brothers and I had just a few weeks to break down my mom's three-bedroom apartment.
♪♪ I don't know.
There's like a Harry and a Sam and a Solomon.
And my grandmother, like, didn't get along with their wives, so we all lost touch.
♪♪ Oh, Mama.
♪♪ ♪♪ -Manischewitz -- God knows what year.
-Maybe it's good by now.
Before you -- you know what?
Don't -- I'll keep it.
Our brother Alex, a computer engineer and competitive sailor, came in with a mission.
He had razor-sharp clarity about what we needed to do to get out of there, and what he wanted to keep.
Our brother David, a musician and recreational therapist, only wanted a conch shell.
-Would you mind if I took the shell?
-As for me, I didn't know where to start.
Well, a green label means it goes home with Judy.
It's a green label.
And then, of course, there's this piano.
[ Gentle piano music playing ] ♪♪ ♪♪ -All right.
Pass it around.
♪♪ Mom, this is perfect clothing.
Everyone dresses like this.
-Okay, well, that's what I thought.
All right, so -- and I should take this dress?
Worst case scenario -- -Don't wear it.
-You don't wear it.
-[ Sighs ] I know that she wore this to some, like, weddings or bar mitzvahs.
And I -- you know, I don't really want to...
I'm not going to wear this.
And I don't want to give it to anybody, and I want to keep it -- it's so ridiculous, I have no roo-- I have no room!
[ Laughing ] I don't know if I should laugh or cry.
It's like -- it's like, she's not in the skirt.
She also wasn't in all the other stuff I couldn't bear to part with.
These were the last thing she had touched.
And even though they could be filed under "icky," "spooky," "gross" or "used," they still held traces of my mom's DNA.
And it was precisely the mom-ish-ness of them that made it impossible for me to throw them away.
Kind of like her gloves and her shoes -- the ones she loved to buy again and again, the one she forgot she already had.
So when I ran out of time and we just had to get out of the apartment, I threw the stuff I still needed time to think about into boxes, promising myself when I got them to my place, I would mindfully go through it all.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ So 63 boxes, one dry sink, the love seat I grew up with, my mother's prized mahjong set, and the piano she learned to play at 65, moved into my already cramped Upper West Side apartment.
♪♪ ♪♪ [ Labored breathing ] I wasn't exactly power-walking to shul every morning like I had promised my mom.
It was hard enough to get out of bed and leave the house, much less get up the small hills in my neighborhood.
I kept thinking, "I have to call her, only to remember she wasn't there.
♪♪ And then, seven months to the day after my mother's death, on the way to the first Passover Seder without her -- a Seder I was dreading -- I got a phone call.
A baby will be born tomorrow by C-section.
And it's a girl -- a healthy baby girl.
We think your mother sent her.
Walking into the hospital 72 hours later, I couldn't really fathom the unspeakable grief the birth mother must have been feeling.
But somehow she found the strength to place her three day old healthy baby girl in my arms and take this picture, which she sent me.
Subject line: "Your daughter."
And this is the first image I took of Theo.
And to be honest, despite 25 years of fantasies of motherhood, this was really about as far as my fantasy got.
[ Wailing ] [ Indistinct cross-talk ] -Your mother sent you the baby.
She wanted you to have it, and she sent her [indistinct].
-My friends and family came right away, each one assuring me I wasn't doing this all on my own.
-Oh, look at the beautiful little toes.
-But recognizing that, on some level, I actually was a very good friend, generously said, I'm calling a 24 hour baby nurse who specializes in newborns, please make some room for her.
Okay, I'm scared out of my mind.
-Can I show you first?
-Your first shampoo!
-Shouldn't we have a baby bathtub?
-No, because it's not a full bath.
-My God, I don't know anything.
Are you wearing elephants?
Because your last name means elephant.
Dad, do you think I'll be a good mother?
-I know you will.
I know you will.
It's a nurturing process.
And I've seen you with -- with children.
And you have this quality.
So I'm not worried about that.
-What are you worried about?
This is supposed to be her room.
Oh, that was the light.
Yeah, the only thing that's really ready for her is the lamp.
This is like film stuff, business stuff.
Detritus of many, many movies.
Then my dead mother's stuff.
A lot of it was in the living room thinking if it stayed in the living room and I saw it, I would deal with it.
I really just wanted to be with Theo in my bedroom...
Instead of taking care of the air purifier in the living room.
Aren't I supposed to be bonding?
-Yes, but you are setting up an environment in which you will be bonding for many years to come.
-That's a good way to think about it.
-What you need here, Jude, is -- -Serenity.
-Is serenity, right?
That's a really good way to put it.
You have friends who are going to offer to help and do things, and you're going to be really honest, and you're gonna say, "So what I'm going to ask of you may not be what you were thinking, but this is what I need."
"This is what I need," yeah, you say, "What I need is to not have anything brought in my house.
I need things taken out of my house," all right?
So, "I'm going to get a -- I'm going to rent a storage space, and I need everybody to come and help take things to the storage space, A.S.A.P."
-Thinking about the hospital.
-And then this environment.
You know, it's a spectrum.
♪♪ -And where -- where will the Judaica go?
-Oh, my God.
Such a good question.
Where will the Judaica go?
It's the age-old Jewish -- the age-old Jewish question.
Where will the Judaica go?
Once we left the desert, we were like, "...now we need to find places for our stuff."
[ Laughs ] Oh, this was like my mother's entire library of low-fat cooking.
That was my dad's.
That's his straight edge.
-I don't think we have to spend our time on -- -Wouldn't it just be easier, honestly, just to, like, keep it all in this thing?
This was Grandma's sewing kit.
Well, I can't throw out her teeth.
-What if -- really?
-Please do not live among a bunch of dead people artifacts, Judith.
-This is not an archeological dig, it's your life.
-Knowing my resistance, a friend sent over a compassionate soul who, after the death of a very famous civil rights singer, was entrusted with organizing the stuff of her estate.
Now, my -- my mother's stuff isn't exactly Odetta's stuff.
-Oh, my God.
Did she have a giveaway box?
-I should have a giveaway box.
Look at the button my mother had.
[ Laughs ] As soon as my parents started downsizing, my mom started warning me, "Do yourself a favor, please don't get too attached to stuff.
-One drawer empty.
-So while they were busy packing, sorting and purging, I was busy filming everything that could not get packed before it was gone.
♪♪ ♪♪ -Whoa.
-How does this feel, Ma?
-It's a piece of tin and wood.
That's all it is.
It doesn't mean a thing to me.
-What, I have sentimental attachments to a hunk of junk?
♪♪ -Get a little piece of that?
For, um, familia, like, memory?
Como se dice "memory"?
You feelin' sad yet?
-It's not totally like, "Oh, the house!"
You know, there's a lot of heavy things, too, you know?
So, it's not simple.
It's just not like, "Oh, the great, beautiful house," you know, I mean...
-Like you said, I have some weird attachments, so I'm attached to the sound of the front door opening, when you or daddy would come home at the end of the day.
So, um, do you think you could do that?
-Open the door?
-You just put your coat on and stuff, and walk in.
You don't have to say anything.
It's just that sound.
[ Door opens, alarm beeps ] -I'm home!
[ Laughter ] -Mom?
Don't get comfortable.
I finally started to take my mom's advice and donated some of her stuff, mostly her clothing.
I brought my work stuff to a storage unit in Brooklyn, which I'd had for years.
Oh, my goodness.
It's like air rights in Manhattan.
There's a lot of real estate up here.
This is going to be your room!
-This is going to be your room!
See what Mommy's doing for you?
That is your closet!
That's your clothing.
That's your future crib.
[ Indistinct chatter ] -...here on this very special day.
Okay, then, proceed.
-Please state, for the record, the name by which the baby shall be known as.
-Theodora Feyge Peysah Sabrina Helfand.
And just so you know, Theodora is for my dad, his name was Theodore, and Feyge's from my mother.
Her name was Florence.
These are my mom's scarves from, like, 40 years.
We, um, wrapped her in this for her baby naming.
We're keeping Sabrina because that's what her really extraordinarily -- [ Choking up ] wonderful birth mother wanted to name her.
And, um, today is the one year anniversary of -- just so you know -- of, um, my mother -- today was the last day that she was conscious.
And I know that she -- -Absolutely!
-...made this happen.
-I lost my mother too.
And little things that they still -- they're just letting us know, "I'm still here, I'm still watching you, and I'm still present."
All the documents have been fully executed by the power vested in me in the state of New York.
The adoption is completed.
[ Cheering and applause ] [ Singing in Hebrew ] [ Judith laughing ] [ Singing continues ] [ Camera shutter clicking ] ♪♪ -It was official, and I was officially a new old mom... who was a half-century older than my kid, posing under that sign in the judge's chambers, all I could think was, Oh, my God, they trust me?
♪♪ ♪♪ And that's when all the fears and doubts I'd been keeping at bay became unavoidably present.
As I listened to her breathe, I wondered how old would she be when she'd be listening for my breath?
I started doing the math: when she's 20, I'll be 70.
When she's 30, God willing, I'll be 80.
And when she's 40, I'll be 90.
How do I get to 90?
How long could I literally be present with her?
[ Striking keys ] Just as I was getting used to having a newborn, she was growing.
She started to mimic my heavy breathing and learned one of her very first words.
♪♪ -It was getting difficult to pick her up and carry her up and down places that had steps.
♪♪ ♪♪ Hi.
-Did you go?
-Waiting for you guys.
♪♪ So as I watched my young, svelte, fit, blond friend carry Theo effortlessly up the steep brownstone steps, I could hear my mother's voice.
-Are you going to the gym at all?
-I just haven't been able to get a day in.
-It's that you don't have time?
-I could make time.
-It's not that all these years my mom wanted me to be skinny.
-For my main, I'm going to try that broiled steer liver with onions, burn the onions.
-Corned beef hash and eggs.
French fries, and I want rye toast.
-The small Greek salad.
Your arteries will get clogged.
-You like stuffed or broil?
-What do you stuff it with?
-No, no stuffed, no stuffed, no stuffed.
-The truth was, we were always talking about my health.
I've healed to the point where I pretty much feel like I did before.
I mean, in order to have comfortable sex, I have to use a lubricant, I just can't... -So there's nothing wrong with that.
-Do it otherwise.
-I have to use it too.
That's because of menopause.
-[What] kind do you use?
-I have a couple of different things.
-I have a good one.
What's it -- why are you mention-- -Foreplay -When do you get it?
-At a place called Condom Nation.
-[ Laughing ] -Every once in a while, my health oddly brought us together.
But most of the time, my mom was just worried about my getting a recurrence.
-You run yourself ragged.
You're not ta-- I -- I don't think you're really taking care of yourself.
-All right, so, this is the AC adapter, that's for the light.
And she was right.
I was living and working as if I was going to die young.
But then I didn't.
You know, like, my long term goal is I should be able to sit on one of these chairs with Theo.
And be able to get up.
It's really hard.
-You know it's possible, right?
Claim it, envision it.
-This is the thing: I'm not 100% -- I don't -- I have let myself down so many times, so, I don't know -- -So, you need accountability.
-I mean, can I do this?
I have to.
-There you go.
-So, it doesn't -- but I don't really believe I can.
But I have to.
-You have to.
Let's give it a shot.
I'm not going to be able to get up.
-This is here.
Let's just see.
-I can't do it.
-Yes, you can.
-This is your "before," right?
This is your "before."
And even if it's a struggle right now to get up, it doesn't matter, because we're working on getting better.
The desire that you want to get better is exciting.
You're going to use every strength that you have.
Up, up, up, up, up, up!
Up, up, up, up, up.
-Do you want another one?
Okay, good job.
-No more crackers.
-You're not hungry.
-Have a little more milk.
-You really want a cracker?
-[ Sighs ] -Okay.
Take this one.
You don't like it?
-You know what?
You're not serious.
She was completely serious.
She's a baby -- they get hungry, especially if they are up in the middle of the night.
A love/hate relationship with late night comfort food was her mama's problem.
-So much of it is really, like, not mental-mental, but so much of it is in the mind, besides the body.
-I mean, I tried a number of different things.
It's just like, right now, I'm, like, running out of time.
Like, I'm going to be 52.
Theo's going to be two.
I could keep trying.
Like, I need to drop a bunch of weight and get to this other side.
I hear you.
Makes a lot of sense.
[ Air hissing ] -You don't think of this as, like, giving up.
-Giving up on what?
-Giving up on what?
What do you mean, giving up?
-Giving up, like, "Okay, I can't do this."
-Diet, you mean?
-No, that's not true.
You want to achieve something.
No, that's not giving up.
-Hi, Judith, we met earlier, so how are you?
Dr. Kurian, again.
So at this weight, I can't live to be 90 or 95, right?
This weight, even if the average is 81, 82, I would expect it to be 75 or less.
So Theo will be 25.
-That is young.
-This has kind of crept up over many, many years.
But I -- I'm thinking...
I mean, I probably gained 80 pounds since my surgery.
More -- more.
So it's embarrassing because it's like I belong to a gym.
I pay a monthly fee.
I have gone to Overeaters Anonymous.
I've sort of -- I've tried all sorts of stuff.
I never have the discipline.
I just don't.
-Many men and women who have done everything that you said and more -- or maybe even a little less, but are still in the same spot, where they've not been able to lose the weight.
-What is this surgery actually -- how does it -- how does it work?
-With a sleeve gastrectomy, we're taking out about 70% of the stomach and removing it -- it's an irreversible procedure.
You're already making faces, you're like -- -Sounds risky.
-Well, because I said irreversible.
-Do you think this is insane?
-It's the irreversibility of it that's scary.
-I think it's really scary, but I also think nothing else has worked.
-To expedite your call, please have your insurance card available.
-The surgery was scary, but I had to do it.
I also knew that it was time to face something that was probably even scarier.
-...choose from the following options... -Whatever it was that got me here, both with the weight and the stuff... [ Hold music ] ...but lucky for me, I had other stuff to deal with first.
Because in order for the insurance to even approve the surgery, I would immediately have to start a six-month regimented weight loss diet and therapy program.
Don't touch it.
-I am brave now, I am brave now, I am brave now.
I am blessed with all I need.
-I am blessed with all I need.
I am blessed with all I need!
-This freaks me out.
-Can I just say it internally?
-One more, one more.
Just get out of your comfort zone.
[ Labored breathing ] -Don't say, "Oh, I have to give it up, I can't do it."
Just pick it up again, just start all over again.
Does that look like ounces to you?
-It isn't a quick fix, and to me, the critical moment psychologically is about ten months to a year down the line.
You have to struggle with exactly the same issue.
-The next step I really have to master.
[ Indistinct ] -I definitely can't run.
It's not going to happen.
[ Theo speaking ] -Yeah.
-Come on, crawl up there.
-You going to swing?
Theo, you have to go to bed, come on, here.
-Oh, that's your camera?
-Denise, who had come to help me with a few boxes of my dead mother's stuff, had wound up staying around and had become Theo's favorite babysitter.
-Okay, time for bed.
-And the closest thing to a mama mentor for me.
[ Theodora crying ] -Mommy!
[ Indistinct whispering ] Mommy!
-[ Wailing ] Mommy!
[ Indistinct whispering ] -Okay.
Okay, I'm here, I'm here.
-She's not strong enough.
You got the crying, and then she's going to stop.
You know, when I'm putting her to sleep?
I just talk to her, "Okay, you have to go to sleep because there's school tomorrow.
So give me a kiss.
[ Chuckles ] [ Judith and Theodora speaking indistinctly ] -What's happening?
[ Judith speaking indistinctly ] -She wants some milk.
-Theo, what you doing?
You're not going to sleep?
-You moved things around.
-We moved the piano there.
-Isn't that better?
-So now, though, now I could see all the stuff I have to give away or go through, so I'm going through... -Uh-huh.
-The last of my mother's... Well, the last of my mother's stuff that's in my house.
-Um... To try to...
So I'm having surgery April 3rd.
-Paul said, But he didn't say why.
-It's bariatric surgery.
It's called a gastric sleeve.
Are you really?
-I'm just trying to, like -- -Have to get everything to -- -Well, I -- you know what, it's like they -- they all go hand in hand -- like, if I could get rid of stuff and make the place really sane -- -Yeah.
-Before I go.
-Which unfortunately, is now down to two weeks.
It's like no time.
Think these were my mom's sunglasses.
[ Denise mumbling ] Oh, Denise.
Those are yours.
-They look good?
-They look great.
I am filled with unfinished projects, and now I'm holding onto my mother's unfinished projects?
Do you think this would be a real drag to see on someone's wall, an unfinished clock?
-You're obsessing with this, and I just can't handle it.
And I think you're reacting to this like it's a loss in your life.
You're going to lose a lot of other precious things in your life as time goes on.
-I had never needed the Jewish holiday of Purim more than I did that year, where we try on costumes and personas that help us take on our foes and face our greatest fears.
Do I look like a runner now?
-Yes, you look like a runner.
But mama is running in the 2017... -Yeah.
-Here we go.
[ Cheering ] [ Audience chatter ] Okay.
Do not leave the room, okay?
[ Crowd chattering ] Theo?!
Oh, God, there she is.
Theodora, come this way!
♪♪ ♪♪ [ Officiant reciting ] ♪♪ As I struggled to get up, I thought, "What if we hadn't been in synagogue?
What if we were near a busy street?
What if we'd been almost anywhere else?"
♪♪ [ Theodora squeals ] Hey, hey, hey!
♪♪ ♪♪ -I got you!
But for a moment, while walking up our favorite steps in Riverside Park, I tried to stop worrying about weight and stuff and how many years we would or wouldn't get to have together.
And I was just present for her.
Do you see see the lights?
-You're gonna be fine.
You have a new -- new, renewed life.
In about 25 or 30 years, you'll say to yourself, "Gee whiz, I can't believe what happened to me when I was 25.
Look at me now."
You're gonna have a very fruitful life.
I just know it.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Water splashing ] -Wait.
-[ Babbles ] Mama!
-[ Chuckles ] -[ Babbles ] Mama.
[ Babbles ] ♪♪ ♪♪ -27 years later.
This is like a personal rebirth.
I mean, beyond getting healthy, it's a way for me to really make peace.
This is the closest thing I have to giving birth on my own terms.
You know, I chose the doctor.
I had to prepare for nine months.
You know, when you think about it, right?
But I'm giving birth to a mother.
[ Chuckles ] A healthy mother.
Healthy baby mama.
-Thanks for everything.
[ Smooching ] ♪♪ ♪♪ Bye.
-You got it, baby.
♪♪ [ Waves crashing ] -Come on, get it, Mom, get it.
[ Theodora squeals ] Wow!
Look at all the leaves!
Come on, come on, come on!
Ooh, look at all these colors.
-[ Squeal ] -Oh, can you go this way?
Go this way.
Come on, come on, come on.
-[ Giggles ] [ Squeals ] -Okay, okay, okay.
I smell freedom.
-[ Laughs ] -You look wonderful.
At least it's a good feeling.
-No, I think it's the wind.
-I don't think it's the wind.
[ Laughs ] ♪♪ -Ahhhhh!
The year after surgery was filled with new freedoms and lots of firsts, things I thought we'd never get to do, like finally letting Theo scoot to school like all the other kids because I could keep up with her.
-Not a hill.
-That's not a hill?
-No, that's a hill.
It's a slope.
-Here you go.
We're having a tea party at her table, knowing that I could sit down and get up.
I want to do it.
-Here, you do it.
-I spread it and then I have some more.
-I need more.
Amber, you have to sit down.
You have to sit down first and eat.
-You want Mommy in the picture, or do you want to do it by yourself?
-Um... By myself.
You have to sit here.
And Mommy's gonna go, and Mommy's gonna come over here.
Three, two -- [laughs] two, one.
That's not a smile.
That's an open mouth.
-Where's my card?
-Well, it takes five minutes, so we have to wait for a minute.
But would you like to draw in the meantime?
-What's your favorite thing to draw?
-Uh...um... my mama.
-Oh, that's good.
Do you want to show me how you draw her?
-I have to make this line.
-And then alllll around.
Look at me!
I drawed my mommy.
-[ Gasps ] Wow!
-[ Speaks indistinctly ] -A different kind of mommy?
At the pool.
I was a different kind of mommy because, ironically, it was in the water that I could count on us not drowning.
[ Clanging ] Ah!
I push it here.
-And my pretending it was a "PAW Patrol" adventure wasn't going to last forever.
[ Theodora speaks indistinctly ] Nor would my basket system for her ever-expanding collection of toys... ...because the more Theo grew, the more she outgrew.
♪♪ And the more stuff of hers I wanted to keep.
♪♪ And even though I was able to give away some of my mom's stuff, she was still unmistakably around.
But would I ever use the pewter or those green etched shot glasses, her favorite pressed-glass cereal bowls, or my mother's mother's meat grinder?
♪♪ -Ready, set!
[ Squeals ] -Guess what?
That's your great-grandmother's egg -- egg cutter.
-I know that!
You told me that already.
-So take the onions.
-And then add the liver.
-Press it down.
-Hey, what are you doing?
-I-I'm making -- I'm making chopped liver.
-Mommy, can I do it?
Is it coming out?
-Well... -What do you think?
I don't think it's working.
What do you think?
Maybe my mother made it with beef liver and it was harder.
-I think it was beef.
Oh, I wanted to use the meat grinder.
[ Laughter ] I've been waiting all year for this.
Wait, come here.
-You have a little hand chopper?
-[ Laughs ] All right.
Plan B, Plan B.
-Come on, come on.
-For better or for worse, I had perfected being a daughter who could come home for holidays at the last minute, knowing there would be the parents, the food...
Happy New Year!
-[ Speaks indistinctly ] -[ Laughs ] That's right.
[ Indistinct talking ] ...our heimish extended families... [ Indistinct talking ] -Because on Friday night, we start up here, top of page nine.
-It was instant holiday without my having to follow a single recipe.
-All I had to do was show up.
-You arrived on time, and for that, we're pleased.
-[ Laughs ] What are you really trying to say, Dad?
Oh, you look beautiful.
-Why, thank you.
And how are you?
[ Indistinct talking ] [ Whirring ] How will I create that kind of home for Theo?
[ Whirring ] I knew I had a bit more stuff to let go of.
Well, maybe a lot.
-No stuff on the living room!
I have to play here!
-Guess where you're gonna play instead.
I'll show you.
Look, look, look.
Look in your room.
Look, look, look, look, look, look, look.
-Whoa...you have a big play room!
You have a big play room now!
-I wanted to play in the living room.
But you know what?
Let me explain what's going on.
Can Mommy explain?
All I did was move it, okay?
All I did was move it.
Do you know why I moved it?
-I'm gonna go play in here.
-Theo, let me explain.
[ Banging ] Let me explain.
Turn -- Come to me and let me explain.
-I guess you don't like change, huh?
-Don't follow me!
-Don't follow you?
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Second I walked in, I said, "This is home."
And Mrs. Benz's son, is like a 20-year-old kid, showed me around the place and showed me the closets, and then he showed me all around.
And I was just so amazed at this 20-year-old boy had grown up there and felt so good there as a baby.
And, uh -- can I have the keys?
[ Elevator dings ] ♪♪ ♪♪ This is the office.
My whole idea was I was moving into this house that I could sort of put a completely new skin on.
Come on in.
Welcome to my new house.
-It's a pleasure to come in.
Look at me, laden down with all these things.
♪♪ ♪♪ -So what do you think?
-I think it's very nice.
-So mazel tov?
-This should be a good beginning.
-Where's the other door?
-Should only be... mazel and [speaks indistinctly].
Here's the bread... -It's a staple.
-...so that you have the staples in life -- salt, bread, and sugar.
And just press against the wall, not too hard.
-When I first moved in, I painted the apartment ochre.
-Ma, I think -- -No, no, no.
Put the mask on.
-[ Laughs ] Hard work, right?
-Years later, when I needed some inspiration, I painted the beams coral dust.
I'm coming to the end of the wall.
-What do you think?
But then there was the day when Theo looked up and said, "Mama, I want everything to be white."
♪♪ ♪♪ Wow.
♪♪ -I want everything to be yellow again.
-[ Sputters ] -[ Laughs ] -Now I just want everything to be like it was the same again.
It's too late.
♪♪ ♪♪ -Ah!
We got the light.
-[ Squeals ] -Okay, okay, okay, okay.
Beware of the dogs and the leashes, okay?
Don't get between the dog -- the leash and the mommy walking the dog.
Whoa, whoa, whoa!
Wait for me!
♪♪ Today's the 100th day of school.
-You're gonna come to the pizza party?
-No, I'm not.
It's -- The parents aren't invited.
I brought her lunch just in case.
Transitions and goodbyes are notoriously difficult for everybody.
I guess it's a good thing we get so much practice.
-[ Smooches ] Hi.
-[ Laughs ] Yeah.
[ Bells tolling ] At least let me know where you are.
-You got it, Mom.
When you going away, call up and say, "Ma, I'll be away for a couple of days.
This is where I am.
I have my cellphone.
You need me, call me and leave a message."
You know, days go by, we don't know where you are.
We start to worry.
-So that's the least you can do.
I don't expect you to call every day.
That's not normal, but... [ Chuckles ] -[ Laughs ] -Every other day.
-[ Laughs ] ♪♪ -Can I put "movie done"?
M. -O. V. I. E. -Over!
-From your grandma's house, eight years and seven months ago.
You know what?
-Anybody have a pair of scissors?
-[ Laughs ] Some people always have everything.
-No, honey, no.
-It's... ...[whispering] beautiful.
[ Blowing horn ] -[ Laughs ] ♪♪ -That's a wrap, people.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪