Actual Reality

I feel that I should apologize.

That last blog post was not my usual writing style, other than the fact that it was all over the place. But it was lacking in the sardonic sarcasm, and for that I’m sorry (actually sorry) (should that be a hashtag?) (eh, whatever).

But – how can you describe a fairly horrible situation to people who live too far away, and in something of a bubble? Is there any way to describe it in a way that they will understand, and relate to? Or, at the very least, somehow maybe perhaps comprehend?
You can’t. It’s just not possible.

But I was trying to write something anyway, because there was too much going on and I therefore needed to get some of the crazy off my chest. But it was all over the place, because the situation is really all over the place.

And then – my high school did the thing it always does when something is going down in Israel. I mean, other than the charity and the sharing and the liking and the support from TOO FUCKING FAR AWAY.
It asked alumni living in Israel to “tell us about it.”

Here, they said; put into words how you feel when you don’t know if the person sitting next to you on the bus is good or bad.
Tell us how it feels when you see an explosion of messages on your phone from your kid’s day care and have no idea if it’s about the crappy temp. assistant or because someone tried to break in.
Tell us how you feel when you hear about another attack in the neighborhood where you have relatives and you don’t immediately hear from them, and start thinking the worst.
Tell us that this ever-present SOMEONE is out there right now and is causing undue stress, anxiety, panic, and disorder.
Tell us – but only in 500 words, because we have limited bandwidth.

This is not the first time I wrote something for them. It is the first time I submitted what I wrote, though. Mostly because I didn’t think I adequately portrayed how I felt in previous attempts, but also because I didn’t think they would appreciate what I had to say.

See, my high school doesn’t really do the sardonic sarcasm thing. They like silver linings, and hope, and a firm grip on the religious values they instilled in us. They want to know how us alumni maintain those beliefs during hard times, and they want it short and concise and in monosyllabic words.
Um….

For a long time I’ve known that I had a unique writing style and voice – and occasionally it would get me into trouble. But at the same time I always felt compelled to write an alumni perspective about what’s going on, if only to have a different voice telling the same story. But I also had to understand that my target audience is full of people who kind of like the status quo.

So to do this, I had to dig deep down and find my old self, who wasn’t as sardonically sarcastic, and instead was only slightly smart-ass. I had to find my short, skinny, somewhat optimistic, semi-hopeful, pre-9/11 self. I had to channel my insulated, bubble-dwelling, former “me” and not lose my uniquely witty writing style.
I had to find my 17-year-old self and write in a way that would A) meet those requirements, and B) not get not-posted at all.

And what I ended up with was, well, that. The good news is they didn’t edit it in any way. The bad news is – I don’t think it was enough.

It’s really not easy, you know? How does anyone describe what they are going through to people who have never experienced it?
If I asked my friends in Elsewhere how they’re dealing with all the shit that’s happening right now, you know what they would say?

Because the crap that’s going down in ‘Murca (and everywhere) is just part of their lives. They don’t even realize it’s happening, and it doesn’t even register with them.
That’s exactly how it is over here. The sad truth of all the crazy going on in the world right now is that it doesn’t register with anybody. Either because there is no frame of reference and we therefore can’t relate to it, or because there is simply TOO MUCH going on in the world.

I can’t possibly put into words what I’m going through, because there are not enough words. Even if I could find the words, they have no frame of reference. Just like I don’t understand what it’s like when there’s another school shooting.

But….while I was searching for my former self, I remembered this one time….

About 17 years ago, in the summer of ’99, one of my classmates was shot in the leg by Benjamin Nathaniel Smith. I was away at summer camp, but naturally the news reached us fairly quickly (and in the days before technology too, no less). When the school year started a few months later, he came with a crutch, a noticeable limp, and a picture of him with Sammy Sosa.
Because that’s what happened back in the day of terror attacks – you got to meet your hero. Now you’re lucky if you don’t meet a therapist once a week for the rest of your life.
He also came back with a byline that, if anybody started saying it, the entire class would join in to complete it.

Just like how you all finished saying this line in your head...

Just like how you all finished saying this line in your head…

Because that’s how we dealt with the fact that he could have died.

I remember talking to him one day about it – about the actual event of the shooting. And of course, we all read the newspaper articles that interviewed him. He was our mini-celebrity.
Because back in the day, if you got shot in the leg by a white supremacist terrorist, you became a celebrity. You were special.

Now, not so much. Nobody is special, because everybody is terrified. And the entire world is going to hell in a handbasket.

Wow, you really CAN find anything and everything on Google.

Wow, you really CAN find anything and everything on Google.

The world is full of terror – good and bad. I did mean that bit, and in all sincerity too.
There’s good terror when you take your first step. Or learn to ride a bike without training wheels. Or know that you’re about to win your school-wide spelling bee.
There’s good terror when you lean in to kiss a boy you like. Or when you say “I love you” for the first time. There’s also terror when you wait for the reply. (not to mention anxiety, but one emotion at a time here…)

There’s good terror all the time; way more than the bad. But the bad terror gets noticed because it is so rare. Like, tornadoes and hurricanes get covered extensively, even if they don’t actually do any damage. But nice, sunny days? When’s the last time there was a Discovery Channel special on those?

Maybe instead of Shark Week, or something.

Maybe instead of Shark Week, or something.

So because we are inundated with all the crap that’s going on, no amount of effort or trying will amount to anything remotely worth writing about to my fellow alumni living NOT in Israel. Because they wouldn’t get it.

And yet, for some inexplicable reason – I try anyway. Because I have this feeling that if I didn’t end up here I wouldn’t understand. And I honestly just don’t know if I would want to understand.

I would be busy with my own life, over there in that alternate reality. I would be working, and hopefully I would be passionate about it. I would probably be married, with a kid (or several, because who knows).

But – I would still be living in that tiny bubble, with people I grew up with and knew for my entire life, only thinking about my friends in Israel during the difficult times, and wondering how they were dealing with what was going on.

I wonder if I would read the things they posted.

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Israel; Just the way it is

It has been such a while hasn’t it? #sorrynotsorry 🙂
Semi because of holidays and work and term papers (which I finished!), and semi because of technical issues with the Site-Twitter-Facebook love triangle. I hopefully have figured it out, but probably not, because there are some technical issues that just fly right over my head. You know, like airplanes over Cleveland.

I'm fully aware that this is Nebraska. Humor me.

I’m fully aware that this is Nebraska. Humor me.


And there’s really only one way to find out that the tech issues are resolved, so on with the post.

There’s been a ton happening, so let’s just jump right on in to the thing that seems to be dominating everyone’s mind.

Israel is a shit hole right now. Wait, maybe “shit hole” is too strong…cesspool of terror? Yeah, that’s better.

There are crazy people wandering around with knives hidden in combs, my Facebook feed is filled with questions about where to buy pepper spray and offers for free self-defense courses, and threats abound on my Whatsapp groups about Arab women possibly sneakily making their way into day care centers (YES!) to hurt and possibly kill children.
I find myself alternating between going on the internet because I need to for work, and getting off the internet because it’s filled with images that you can never unsee.

Everyone is suspicious of everyone else, nobody is happy, and there is a vise around this country that gets tighter and tighter with each passing millisecond. Because we are waiting for something to happen. We’re waiting for the news report that somebody else was injured or killed. We’re waiting for our friends/love ones/coworkers to tell us they’re okay. The tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife (WORST. CLICHE. USAGE. EVER.) And I want to just stick my fingers in my ears and shut my eyes and ignore it all in the hopes that it goes away.

Precisely.

Precisely.


But I can’t, because it won’t. This never goes away. Because it’s one of those endless cyclical sibling rivalry types of things, that each time it comes up everyone else just sighs and says “Not again, won’t they ever learn?” There doesn’t seem to be any let up to the crazy that is going on right now. And it’s enough to seep into other parts of our lives and make everything a little less sensical, and a little more absurd. At least, that’s how I see it.

So instead, I write about it.

My high school does this thing where they ask alumni living in Israel to write about the conflict du jour – so about twice a year there are a slew of contributions to the Alumni Blog. I guess they like my writing style.

You can read it here: http://www.icja.org/2015/10/living-with-the-good-and-the-bad/

Time for Term Papers!

Here’s a snippet of what I’m working on right now for my Reality TV course:

Additionally, fanship exists on a continuum. On one end there are hard-core fans who watch regardless of anything else that is going on; conversely, on the other end of the spectrum you have fair-weather fans who tune in because of hype, or the end of the season/series, or because the team is doing really well and is on track to win a championship. As for everyone else in between the two sides, placement on the spectrum has to do with the level of interest in, knowledge of, and exposure to the show in question. In other words, where you fall on the fanship continuum has to do with how much you care.

After this I have 15 pages for my music course. Another snippet will presumably follow.

See you on the other side (again…)

The Fast Track to Adulthood

A few years ago a friend of mine asked me why we fast on Yom Kippur. Which is a serious question in normal standards, but he happened to ask me this at 3:30 in the morning while we were driving home after working a night shift.

In my sleep-deprived and exhaustion-laden state, I was mentally preparing myself to give him something resembling a half-ass answer, when I was rudely interrupted by errant sprinklers hitting the windshield and scaring the bejeezus out of me. So instead I burst into hysterical giggles, which made him start laughing, because we were in a matzav kapit.

A brief pause for translation:
matzav – Hebrew; literally “situation”
kapkit – Hebrew; literally “spoon”

A slang term that means you are so whatever, that even mentioning the word “spoon” will set you off in uncontrollable fits of hysterical, and sometimes maniacal, laughter.

Of course, I’m writing about this which means some part of my subconscious still wants to provide him an answer, despite the fact that we don’t work together anymore.
Also it’s a question that many people ask each year, regardless of age and level of religious observance.

So, disregarding the fact that he may not even read this – why do we fast on Yom Kippur?
Answer: Because the Torah says so.
This is kind of such a cop-out answer; there are lots of things written in the Old and New Testaments which lots of people don’t do all the time. Let’s be honest – it’s the kind of answer that parents give to their toddlers after a 35-minute Q&A session.

Just shut up and eat your french fries.

Just shut up and eat your french fries.


It’s also the kind of answer that he wouldn’t approve of, and would result in an eye-roll and “no, really”. And I would have to either delve deeper into that answer or provide another one.

So why do we fast on Yom Kippur?
Answer: Because Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement.
True; that is the literal translation. It’s a day to atone for our sins and purify ourselves. But do we really need to devote an entire day to apologizing for past wrongdoings?
I remember a situation many years ago when I was at a friends’ wedding. It turns out one of my former high school classmates was also there; we hadn’t seen each other in about 7 years. After genuine surprise at seeing each other, and the obligatory “hey what have you been up to?” had been exchanged, he looked me straight in the eye and said “I’m sorry I was such a jerk to you in high school.”
It took me completely by surprise, but I readily accepted because he was really sincere. (Also because he wasn’t one of the worse ones, but we’ll let that pass)

People are capable of apologizing for things they did or said throughout the year, and many times those apologies are done on full stomachs. Sometimes those stomachs are full of alcohol, but the point remains – we don’t have to fast to apologize. And we don’t need a special day to apologize either.

So why do we fast on Yom Kippur?
Answer: Because Yom Kippur is a day for our soul
Yom Kippur is the day where our souls are weighed and judged, and everything we did during the past year is held against us (for good or bad). As such, souls are purely spiritual and don’t need food or water to sustain themselves.

Just, you know, a really heavy feather for the afterlife.

Just, you know, a really heavy feather for the afterlife.


Because this day is primarily for our souls, we put our physical needs aside for one day. We don’t eat or drink, or wear comfortable shoes, or shower (you get the idea) to show how serious we are about this whole thing. And the more religious ones spend the entire day praying for our souls even though by the end we are so deliriously hungry we can’t concentrate on the prayers we’re saying, much less stand up straight at all. The prayers lose none of their importance or significance, but the hunger and caffeine withdrawl make it really hard to focus.

So why do we fast on Yom Kippur?
Answer: Because fasting makes us weak
Physically, emotionally, mentally, psychologically – across all boards we are not strong. Blood sugar plummets, mouths go dry, spots appear in our vision, extremities get light and shaky – we become very uncomfortable and start to behave rather stupidly.

Yeah, pretty much.

Yeah, pretty much.


Without complex carbohydrates and dihydrogen monoxide, our synapses don’t fire the way they usually do – and that’s when it isn’t 90 freaking degrees outside and the AC doesn’t work.
Studies have shown (and dystopian YA novels have confirmed) that weakness is a bad thing. It is not good to be perceived as weak, because then you are seen as young and stupid. You are not trusted with certain pieces of information, because if you are weak there is no way you can deal with [fill-in-the-blank here].
Just like in most coming-of-age novels, the person in question must go on a journey of some kind whereby they undergo a transformation of sorts in order to prove to the naysayers and haters that they really are capable of understanding what is going on around them.
Most of the time, said journey involves admitting the said weakness. And that makes them strong.

So why do we fast on Yom Kippur?
Answer: Because fasting makes us strong

When you admit that you are weak, it shows understanding of yourself, and that in turn shows strength. It shows that you have turned a corner (or whatever phrase you want to use here that means the same thing). You’ve matured; you’ve grown up; you’re a real boy/girl/alien life form.
Admitting weakness allows you the opportunity to grow and get to listen in on all the juicy secrets that the grown-ups didn’t think you could handle. Admitting your weaknesses brings you one step closer to adulthood.
It’s also one of the most difficult things that everyone faces in their life. And it does not get easier over time. One only hopes that, as time goes on, we don’t have to do it as much because we learn from past mistakes, which means we have less to feel sorry for. But even so, we still have to apologize for the things we did do.

So why do we fast on Yom Kippur?
Answer: Because we are adults and understand that we are accountable for our actions
There’s a reason that fasting the full day only starts once you celebrate your Bar/Bat Mitzvah. It’s because you are now responsible and accountable for your actions and therefore must admit when you did something wrong. (Up until that point your parents fasted for you in addition for themselves, so chalk that up to parental love and devotion.)
Now I had no idea what I was atoning for when I was 12, even with my stellar Jewish-Day-School education. And despite the inter-linear translation now available to me I still don’t get it. But that doesn’t remove me from the ritual or revoke my responsibility.

But there is something that I never liked about apologizing in public and as a group, even though it makes us strong like a mighty faggot.

I will admit that I may have taken this too far...

I will admit that I may have taken this too far…

It’s because apologies are only as powerful as they are individual. When you apologize en masse the apology becomes diluted. Especially when the list of transgressions is decades-old Hebrew that most people don’t understand, much less actually transgress, leading many rabbis to translate and put them into a modern context.

So why do we fast on Yom Kippur?
Answer: Because it’s embarrassing

Atoning in public where everyone can see and hear does seem a bit forced, and there is no small amount of embarrassment involved. I know it’s how Nooshkin feels when I make her apologize for being not nice to her friends, especially in front of said friend’s parent/s and whoever else happens to be there. But we live in a day and age where if there are no witnesses then it did not happen, and this idea is not novel.

Observing Yom Kippur in public, and not in private, shows our strengths and weaknesses to everyone in our community, and it allows us to acknowledge theirs as well. We fast and pray (and wander the empty streets of a pseudo post-apocalyptic Israel) together.

As adults we carry that responsibility with us, regardless of how uncomfortable we may feel. And, especially in a group setting, there is a lot of power that comes with that kind of responsibility.

So why do we fast on Yom Kippur?
Answer: Because we are Spiderman

Doing whatever a spider can.

Doing whatever a spider can.

We fast on Yom Kippur because we are just trying to do whatever we can to get by, even if it means swinging around in our underwear from time to time.

And I can live with that.

A Short Story about Seaweed

A while back one of my friends posted a status that included the hastag #wraphiminseaweed. Because he wanted sushi for dinner.
Subtle much?

oy vey

oy vey


In said status he requested, nay – implored his friends to incorporate this hashtag into their statuses as a way to convince his wife to buy said sushi for said dinner.

Knowing this wouldn’t work (because his wife is impervious to peer pressure) we all did it anyway. But you know what did happen?

I started craving sushi. As did all my friends. So guess what we all had for dinner that night?


All the sushi!

There is definitely something here about the power of social media and peer pressure. I will ponder this for a while and write something more philosophical later.

Health, Happiness, & Prosperity

Just like every other Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah (Hebrew; lit. “head of the year”) is fraught with extra-special everything. Actions, prayers, traditions, food, and of course, symbolism.

so much symbolism...

so much symbolism…

Except, it’s different from every other Jewish holiday. Mostly because it’s the start of another year. So – take all the excitement of the secular New Year, add a heaping pile of religion, and make sure there are 2 additional equally important and significant holidays that occur around the same time….
Et Viola – the Jewish New Year.

News feeds and inboxes are filled with updated family pictures, personal reflections and introspection on the past year, and general good will towards friends and family for the coming year. Many individuals also discuss their menus, and include pictures of said food. This was happening way before Pintrest and Instagram made it a thing. Because we are trend-setters. Or something.
Some traditional foods included in some way, shape, or form during this holiday are:

Honey: for a sweet year
Apples: because Fall and harvest (and probably a more spiritual reason which I’m blanking on)
Pomegranates: legend says that this fruit contains 613 seeds, which is equal to the number of positive and negative commandments in the Torah. I don’t think this has been proven because I don’t know anyone who has actually counted them.
Carrots: because the word for carrot in Yiddish sounds like something that sounds like money. Also in Yiddish.
Lettuce, half a raisin, celery: because Dad Jokes and Puns

*groan*

*groan*

This two-day holiday (which sometimes transforms into a 3-day extravaganza, but more about that headache another time) is also different because unlike other Jewish holidays, there is no story involved with the celebration. It’s just a date on the calendar.
To summarize: this is a major holiday that starts our lives anew, doesn’t revolve around a story, and contains a lot more prayer and ritual. Also, due to the proximity of Yom Kippur, there is quite a bit of early-bird-style repentance involving charity and resolutions.

Because that's the kind of people we are this week.

Because that’s the kind of people we are this week.

I kid – there is actually a lot of sincerity going around. And although that is really not a bad thing, it is quite scary when you really think about it. But I don’t want to get into that, because I have to get another batch of cookies from the oven. Also, because it will detract from the main point I’m trying to make (maybe next time I shouldn’t type in 10-minute bursts…)

It is true what has been said, that although holidays and seasons repeat themselves, we are not the same people each time; and, therefore, there are inherently different feelings surrounding each holiday. Especially for me, because so many important events in my life seem to revolve around this holiday…

12 years ago: It was the first holiday I celebrated in Israel. Like every holiday in every religion, Rosh Hashanah is family-oriented. Immediate, extended, and pseudo-families get together and eat way too much food during this two-day holiday. Being the representation of new beginnings, it was very appropriate that this was the first holiday I celebrated in my new home, with family that I had not seen in at least a decade.

8 years ago: It was the last holiday I celebrated with my family in Chicago before getting married. Which is a pretty big deal every possible way you slice it.

5 years ago: I first found out about Nooshkin. She was the size of my thumbnail. I couldn’t eat any of the symbolic food (curse you first-trimester nausea). I had never been happier.

And, this year: It is the first holiday without Nana.

Every year, a week before the holiday actually started, Nana would go to the butcher and buy fresh fish heads – haddock, carp, whatever they had – take them back to her apartment and begin a three-day exercise in love and family. Yes – she made enough fresh gefilte fish for her entire family. All [insert ever-increasing number here] of us. Every year one of us would be the designated delivery person, and our car stank of fish afterwards. That tradition was one of the best parts of the holiday.

But no – I did not make her gefilte fish this year. I probably won’t make it ever because I can’t stand fish heads. Slimy, scaly – guh. *shudder*
But – I still remember the texture and taste of them. And I probably always will.

There’s more that I wanted to write, but it’s almost time for the holiday to begin. So instead I will leave you with this:

May the memories of past years, both positive and not-so-positive, influence your choices for the coming year.
If you decide to set goals* and resolutions for yourself, may they be easily attainable.
Breathe Deep, and Seek Peace.

See you next year.

Honey Cookies

Ingredients:
1 1/3 cups oil
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup honey
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups flour

1) Mix together oil, sugar, eggs, honey, baking soda, salt and vanilla.
2) Add the flour, and mix until it is just incorporated.
3) Shape the cookies into balls, between 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter.
–Because the dough is super sticky, I recommend keeping it cool to make forming the balls easier. You will also probably need to rinse your hands between batches.–
4) Place on parchment-lined cookie sheets.
5) Bake in oven on 375 F (180 C) for 8-12 minutes, depending on the strength of your oven. The cookies should be crackly in the center and nicely browned around the edges.

Currently Grooving On: The Fountainheads “Dip Your Apple” (because as far as parodies go, this is the best)

*I have a decent list of goals and resolutions for myself for the coming year. I will share them because I am following the advice of a good friend (which is “if you tell people about it, then you have to actually follow through”).

Be More Selfish
In the past year I quit my job, started school, and created this blog – for myself. I had not really done that before, and it felt really good. Empowering. Amazing. I want to do more of that. In line with this goal is to take better care of myself mentally and physically.

Utilize and Maximize My Networks
I decided earlier this year to be more vocal in all my networks, and I got my current job because of that. Each one can be beneficial if used properly, so let’s keep up the momentum, shall we?

Make Good Art
On the good days, and the bad days. When there is nothing to say, and (especially) when there is too much. Be creative. Get messy. Make mistakes. And in line with that…

Get Something Published
I’ve got some things in the works. Several things, actually. Okay fine – four things. There, I said it – I have four creative writing things floating around my head, with bits and pieces down on paper (or Google Docs, because technology). And I’m sure there is more where that came from, and I want to get something done.

Forever & A Day

Hello lovely people! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? And I know I gave you all fair warning, I really thought that my first post-new-job post would finally be the one about Nyiradony. Don’t worry, that one is still chugging along.

As the excerpt may have hinted, I recently got back from a short trip to Chicago. The jet lag has worn off and I’ve returned to something resembling normalcy (for me, anyway).

To recap: I started a new job three weeks ago. While I knew that it would take time to adjust to the new schedule, I figured that after a couple weeks I would be able to get back into blogging – not to mention cooking, cleaning, and laundry.
Well…
Two weeks ago, I got a phone call about 30 minutes before it was quitting time. It was my mom, telling me that my grandmother had died.
Now, Nana was 93 and had not been doing that great. But, still. Death always comes as a surprise.
Let’s just reiterate here: it was my second official week on the job; my direct supervisor was on vacation; I had enough work in front of me to keep me busy with limited checking-up-on by other employees; and, I was too new to be myself.

Let’s adjust, shall we?

I told HR that I needed to leave slightly earlier than planned that day and immediately called Dodax and LAK. We had something resembling a conference call, where we were trying to decide if we should fly in and for how long and how insane that would be, especially because we wouldn’t actually make it for the funeral. Dodax and I were in agreement that we should all go or all not go, like a Three Musketeers kind of deal.
It was about this time, that we realized LAK wasn’t really talking that much. It turns out, she was on her way to the airport. Yes, while we were talking about how we wouldn’t actually make it for the funeral and all we could do was get there for part of the shiva, and we should all decide together what we should do, she was heading for her very last-minute, all-of-a-sudden, flight to Chicago.

Yup.

Yup.

With our decision made for us, we planned our own trips and proceeded to drive everyone and anyone in our immediate vicinity crazy inform everyone of said impending trips.

The rest of the week passed in a blur. The news slowly made the rounds at work; everyone was very sympathetic and kind of gave me a wide berth, which was nice but really not necessary. I informed Nooshkin that I would be going away, and she legit didn’t care. And the next thing I knew, it was Thursday night/Friday morning and I was on my way to the airport to spend a few days of shiva with my family.

Brief Pause for Explanations:

The way it works in Judaism is there are three stages of mourning: the first week, called shiva (Hebrew for 7); the first month, called shloshim (Hebrew for 30); and the first year, called nothing because that’s why. The names refer to the number of days that each stage lasts from the date of the funeral; so shiva is for a week, and shloshim is for a month.
Each stage is also different as far as the type of mourning that occurs. During shiva the mourners devote themselves completely to mourning the deceased. During this week they are not allowed to be in public; they sit in a designated location for the entire week and accept visitors (hence the term “sit shiva“). They do not bathe, or exercise, or check email. They are completely immersed in the act of bereavement, and visitors help them through it by telling stories, or simply just being there.
Once shiva ends, the mourners return to their day-to-day lives, but with limited social engagements, for the rest of the shloshim period. Once that period ends, the mourning restrictions lessen even more, and they can interact more with society, until the first year is over.

HOWEVER, as with many aspects of Judaism, there are loopholes with shiva. One of them is that mourners do not sit shiva on Shabbat. So I and all my siblings were together as a family for Shabbat in Chicago for the first time since Other Brother got married.
Except one of the In-Laws was there, so she ruined it. But the other In-Laws spent quality time together in Israel, which caused my mom to dub it the Outlaw Shabbat, thus forcing me to edit the Cast of Characters to reflect her momentary moment of creative inspiration.

Thank you, thank you...

Thank you, thank you…

The weekend itself was a blur, and although I spent the entire time in a state of zombified caffeinated blarg, a few moments do stand out:

  • Because this was so last-minute we did not have a chance to tell our many Chicago friends that we were coming. Which led to several excited reunions, one of which almost resulted in me getting steamrolled by our neighbor as he ran to give Dodax a bear hug.
  • Additionally, because we didn’t tell people we were coming, people who knew us did not actually believe that we were who we said we were. Many hilarious double-takes ensued.
  • I got to have mint-chocolate-chip ice cream. And delicious Chicago deli. But not at the same time, because kosher.
  • I managed to squeeze in a 30-minute trip to Target, whereby I did my best impression of a Whirling Dervish.
  • We found my grandfather’s drivers license, which expired in 1989. And Other Brother’s child proceeded to use it as a teething toy.
  • On the flight to Chicago I was bumped to Business Class, and on the flight back to Israel I had an entire row to myself.
  • I also heard about the last few days Nana was with us, because I spent basically all my time with family.
    Several times during moments of lucidity she would look around and comment “Wow. I’m still here. You just can’t get rid of me.”
    And apparently, at one point she held out her hand to my grandfather, who has been dead for 20 years.

    Left: Taken at their wedding, about 70 years ago. Right: Taken 2 years after the picture on the left.

    Left: Taken at their wedding, about 70 years ago.
    Right: Taken 2 years after the picture on the left.

    There was also a moment involving my 6-year-old cousin, who asked why everyone was so happy. She was confused, because she thought that a shiva house was supposed to be sad. After all, someone had just died – wouldn’t the family be upset?
    And there is some logic to that, because we are sad that she died. But, I think we were more sad about the fact that she couldn’t be there to remember her life with us.

    Mostly because nearly every time someone came in, my aunt or my dad would get really excited and say “Oh, let me get Nana and tell her you’re here.”

    Oops.

    Oops.


    True story.

    She had been around for so long, we hadn’t gotten used to the idea that she just wasn’t there anymore. I half expected her to come out from her room and start yelling at us; “Why didn’t you tell me there were so many people here? I would have made you all pancakes!”

    So many people commented about fun, and funny, and happy, and lively she was. She had numerous friends, and even more admirers. Most people expressed genuine wishes to go like she did – at the end of a very long, fruitful, successful life.

    She was the daughter of a Rabbi, and witnessed the significance of Judaism first-hand. Her family moved to the US from Russia while she was a teenager. She lost her father at the age of 20. She took care of her widowed mother and young son during WWII while her husband served in the Navy. She pioneered Judaism in Chicago before it was a “thing”, by supporting numerous schools, camps, and organizations (that we all ended up attending, because connections).

    She could spend actual hours on the phone talking to people. She was genuinely interested in what you were up to. She never ceased to dispense advice.
    She had four children, 16 grandchildren, and almost 40 great-grandchildren. She loved her family “forever and a day”, and we were the center of her universe.
    She was feisty. She was lively. She was sarcastic. She was a social butterfly. She loved to surround herself with friends and family, she loved being the center of attention, and she loved being in charge.

    There is quite a bit of Nana in me. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.