The chair is damp. It’s a sticky dampness that clings to my skirt when I stand up. It’s really only water, or milk. Or it was once milk, or orange juice or water, and now it’s all steeped in the yellow spongey cushion inside the chair. Knew I should have put on plastics. Or not have gotten fabric seats, vinyl is all the rage these days. Idiot. But when I got married and bought these chairs, I wasn’t considering children, and their propensity to spill, just that these chairs were pretty, and plastic protector were ugly. Well, they still are ugly, but I’ve gotten pragmatic in my old age. Ugh.
I’ve been lying to myself for years. Yesterday though, it knocked on my door so nicely, and I couldn’t deny it. I’ve come to accept who I am as a person, it’s hard, it’s always hard acknowledging something you’ve tried to hide and deny. The time has come, and I hope I’ll be better for it.
“I booked you tickets to Florida for Shabbos,” my husband called to me from the couch. There was light intensity in his pitch, and I knew he wasn’t kidding.
“You what?” I asked like I honestly hadn’t heard what he said.
“You need a vacation, you’re dying to go – I booked tickets?”
“Tickets?” I stressed the “s”.
“Ye, I spoke to Roo today, you’re going with her.”
“But, but, what about you and E, and where we gonna stay, what are we gonna eat, I have to teach…” I started protesting, even though I AM dying to go to Florida. And I ruined it, the whole happiness, surprise and spontaneity. That’s it, I am not a spontaneous person as I had led myself to belive. I like to plan and consider. I like to know my options, know I’m doing what’s best and right for me. I don’t jump into things. I’d rather miss it, lost in consideration, than make a hasty decision.
I always thought I was spontaneous, or I always wanted to be light and free – but I’m not, I’m serious, intense and I think too much. Yes, I would walk to my friends on Shabbos with out calling ahead. But I think that’s where it ends
I cant just get up one day and buy my husband a present. I can get up one day and think I’d like to do that, but it’ll take me a while, to find the right one, the right deal, will he really like. Nike is not for me, I NEVER just do it. I never wanted to be that person, they seem so stuffy and rigid, but I really get thrown for a loop when my schedule changes without ample notice. I try to roll with the punches, but it’s a real effort on my part.
My day is always scheduled and planned in my head, what I plan on doing when, how much time I allot to do certain things, and when emergencies come up – not my emergencies, somehow I handle those, but if someone needs an immediate favor from me, it’s very difficult for me to rearrange things in my head, to realign my expectations of what I planned on doing. Going to Florida is wonderful – not on such short notice it just stresses me out!
I remember yelling at my mother when we would run errands, we’d have a list of things to do and then towards the end she’d remember one more stop she wanted to make. I’d get really agitated. In my head I was ready to go home, I was home already doing everything I planned in my head, and the extra 10 minutes, or even two would upset me.
“You’re messing with my head!” I’d tell my mother. She didn’t really get it, because she quite the opposite of me, drop everything, and do something better that comes along.
I equated spontaneity with happiness, and youth. A careless abandon, and truly living life. That’s how it is in books anyway. And the inflexible scheduled people were stuffy bores with no lives, and ruined everything. No wonder I wanted to be spontaneous.
And when I talk about how I feel, it sounds so much worse and severe and stifling than I feel my life is. I love my life, and I think it’s time to graduate from my dreams and recognize that there are worse things in life than slow to transition.
“Tell your husband to be nice to mine, he doesn’t know anyone.” I said lightly and gave her a big smile. She returned the smile, and let out a small laugh. I left the office and headed to the teacher’s room to make a coffee. The secretary followed in soon after,
“Did she say her husband was coming?” she looked at me intently. I shrugged a little bewildered.
“I just assumed so, she didn’t say otherwise.”
“Well, that would be interesting,” she said slowly drawing imaginary lines on the table with her fingers. I measured my coffee.
“Huh?” The secretary looked at me closely again,
“You didn’t hear anything?”
“Hear what?” I poured in ample sugar.
“According to rumors for a while,” she paused, not for effect, but with difficulty, “she’s divorced.”
“What?” was my dumb response and suddenly felt terribly foolish. Her wedding, little over a year ago, flashed across my mind. “Nobody tells me anything!”
I didn’t drink my coffee.
Come the Shabbaton, the teacher assumed (correctly) that I had been apprised of her circumstances and made veiled references to it at times. I just nodded and said nothing
But I wonder, should someone have said something? I didn’t have to make an insensitive comment to her, had I known. Or maybe she’s rather deal with the in-sensitiveness, than the invasion of privacy.
I know there are things I’ve experienced that I don’t care to share. And when someone mentions similar circumstance I act like I know nothing of the sort. It’s my life to own, my story to tell, or not.
But but, is there an achrayis and obligation not to put people in uncomfortable situations.
“We were due the same time, what’s your baby up to?
“When’s your daughter’s wedding, she looked so radiant at the vort?”
“Tell your husband to me nice to mine – he doesn’t know anyone”
Crickets and a laugh.
There are some things that can be tucked away and denied forever, others not. And for the latter, should others subtley inform people when they are getting close enough, or is a life private and only the owner can disclose its contents?
I’m leaning heavily toward the latter, but I felt so awful about my comments, it’s lending some credence to the former. I can’t really make it all out. I think I’ll just blame it all on the secretary.
It’s really terrible; there’s an Ebola outbreak in Guinea and I’m getting nostalgic. This hemorrhagic fever has held legendary status in my mind since about 4th or 5th grade. I heard about it from my brother who heard about it from his teacher.
“Nine days. Boom. Dead!” he bulged his eyes out and flexed then flicked his fingers at the word boom for effect. He was imitating his teacher. He then described to a rapt audience (me) how when they cut the person open everything would just be mush. All their organs turned to goop.
“It starts with diarrhea…” he said in a low voice and then rose to “And then nine days, Boom. Dead!”
I’ve been paranoid of diarrhea since.
And then Mack Bolan (are those books still in print?), who was my brother’s favorite fictional character at the time, was infected with the virus by a sinister foe, but he had the antidote in the green tipped syringe (or was it red? I don’t remember, one of them was the virus the other the antidote) and he lived.
I didn’t like Mack Bolan,too much action and machismo, but I took that book and read the last chapter or so, just to take in more about Ebola. I’m not sure why it fascinated me. Was is my brother’s animation or the body’s disintegration, or the anticipatory fear, I don’t know.
I don’t know if anything that hooked me in the first place is even true. Diarrhea only comes after joint pain muscle weakness and an assortment of other symptoms. And nothing comes up when I Google Ebola 9 day. Maybe it’s because I left out the word Boom.
But while Liberia is closing its borders, and the WHO is issuing recommendations and people are dying, I have a small smile on my face.
I’m terrible, I know.
I went all out this year.
It came to me on Succos. My son was playing with cars and trucks outside when he wailed,
“I dropped my mordechaicyle!” turning the soft ‘c’ into a glutteral ‘ch’.
And it hit me, right then – a motorcycle gang – or Mordechai-cycle gang! Kids will be bikers, handing out beer and gum cigarettes. And throw in cupcakes for a carb.
So with a good idea, too many Google searches, and an awesome Graphic Artist sister-in –law, my shalach manos was well….you tell me. (Actually the final pics aren’t so good because the cellophane was too glare-ee, so I broke it down to parts)
I think I’ve peaked though. It’s all downhill from here.
I want window valances. Not pretty, frilly delicate ones. Bold ones, with sharp lines. Possibly emerald, or in that family.
I also want new paint. My walls are white. Not stark. But the dulling gray white, that just makes you think off crumple generic tissues. I’d paint my dining room a neutral sort of yellow. I’d put mauve in my bedroom. And for my kids room I want one wall electric blue, the others a light shade. And really, I want one wall to be a cork board.
I also want a coffee table.
And light fixtures. I have no light fixtures, just bare bulbs. It’s a little to industrial looking to be hip.
It’s not about the money. Or the shallowness. I’d do it all in a heartbeat, if it was my house, but it’s not. It’s a rental; it would be foolish to invest in this space. I’m just passing through until my dream home (with too many windows) becomes my own. And until that happens, I’m happy to wait with bare windows.
There was this story about the Chofetz Chaim that I never fully appreciated. A visitor came and commented on his sparsely furnished home. The Chofetz Chaim inquired of his guest where his furniture was. The guest looked at him quizzically; I’m just a visitor, passing though. The Chofetz Chaim nodded in agreement. He too was just a visitor, passing though, waiting to go home, for Mashiach and Yerushlayim.
As a child, I was never the one shrieking along to the song “We want Mashiach, we want Mashiach now” not because I didn’t want it, but that I didn’t totally get it(also I’m not a shrieker, too self-conscious for that). I’m not all there yet either.
But I’m not buying valances or painting, because I’m just passing through, waiting for my real home.
She was ready for a shower. The day long. The time stressful. The mind muted.
What was that that Malcolm and Donaldbain said upon their father’s murder in Macbeth
Our tears are not yet brew’d/ Nor our strong sorrow/Upon the foot of motion.
Keep busy, and the emotion won’t get to you.
Shiva houses are busy places, especially when you’re not the mourner, but just the child of one. Chairs need to be rearranged, phones answered, messages taken and forwarded. Food needs to be organized, prepared, cleared. There is no time to mourn for the mourner’s child, there is too much to be done.
But now she was home. And she was tired. And with the slowing motions of the day, the sorrow crept up and tapped on her shoulder. One minute she told it. I’ll recognize and embrace you in a moment; I’m going to shower and there I will cave. I will let you envelop me, crush me, overwhelm me. But I will be alone, and the water will soothe and mingle with my tears, so it will be ok.
She was ready for a shower and stepped into the tub. She was eager to cry. Ready for the catharsis. But the water was cold. She turned the knob; it would turn no more. The water was warm, but too cold. She was back in camp where showers were often cold and pressure low, and movement had to be fast. But she couldn’t move. She was frozen. The tears stopped, and mind blocked. Survival mode was engaged, to just get clean and out of the shower fast.
But she wanted to cry. She needed to cry. Cry away from her kids and her husband looking on sympathetically, but powerless. Urgently she turning the knob though she knew it was futile. The water was cold. And then she cried. Not for her loss, not for her grandfather, not for the clenched fist around her heart. She cried that she couldn’t cry.
Bent over, dank clumps of hair matted her shoulders and she held herself and shivered. Tears fell, and her body shook. And she was cold. The water was cold. So cold. And she cried for her sorrow’s loss.