In first person…Joys of Ma-Ha-Yah Lodge: mineral pools, Yiddishkeit

I come from a long line of incredible women. My mother raised three children and then, at the age of 60, rafted down the Colorado River with an all-women's Outward Bound trip — only to return to re-educate herself as a teacher of English as a second language.

My mother's mother was also truly amazing. She went through law school while raising her family (unheard of in her day). She was a founder of the City of Hope. Finally, she and my grandfather, in their senior years, relocated to the desert of Southern California to build a hotel called Bertram's Ma-Ha-Yah Lodge, so named because, as guests lowered themselves into any of the three hot mineral pools, they would invariably exclaim, "Ahhh, it's a mahayah!" ["Mahayah" or "machaiyah" is Yiddish for "blessing" or "joy."] My grandmother named each: the Pool of Everlasting Love, the Pool of Everlasting Wisdom and the Pool of Joy and Laughter.

Those were days filled with fun, great food (my grandmother's Romanian cooking was unequaled) and hours of teachings about menschlichkeit, Yiddishkeit, politics, stories, jokes, and even Jewish cooking — all professed while bathing in the pools!

My favorite Ma-Ha-Yah story occurred one day when a group of Jewish mothers, including my own, sat in the whirlpool.

My mother decided to do an experiment. She asked each woman to describe how they made chicken soup. One by one, each told their different recipes. One part, however, was a constant: They each began with: "First I take `my' chicken…!"

Every Shabbat I also take "my" chicken when I make soup, and I remember how thankful I am to my mother, my grandmother and those fabulous days at the Ma-Ha-Yah that so greatly enriched my life.