My cousin’s daughter got married last night. Gorgeous bride, handsome groom – they could be on the cover of any bridal magazine. They glowed, as only newlyweds can glow – reflecting so much light that your eyes are magnetically drawn to them, as one looks to the stars on the clearest of nights.
Our family has shrunk remarkably – my cousins and I now represent the elders of this tribe. How strange, as we compared ages and reminisced about how large those nominal differences in our ages once seemed. We don’t speak of our parents, for none of us have them any longer. Family events used to be full of grown ups – there were so many of them, and eight of us. We don’t say anything because each of us is so acutely aware of the absences. The counterpoint of love and loss is too exquisite.
We are wearing our seniority with limited gravitas. Dancing with typical disinhibition, not giving a moment’s thought to any propriety associated with our status. I killed it (and myself) in five-inch heels, caring little about the consequences (sounds like me in college actually). Let’s not talk about my crooked shape today. It was worth it. We longed for the opportunity to forget that there were no parents watching us from the perimeter, nudging each other and marveling at our energy and rhythm. My dad wasn’t there when the music moved into Motown; I longed to see my mom’s ‘dancing face’ (lips pursed seductively, eyes harmless yet flirtatiously looking directly at her partner). I wore her bracelet because I knew she would want to be there. The days of going from one table to another knowing that because you were one of the kids, you were met with the kind of familial adoration which may have little heft, yet envelops completely. My aunt’s laugh – which would begin a chain reaction with her brothers both hiccupping and crying with delight. Who knows what our children see when they watch us. Fortunately they dance along.
Perhaps the bittersweet taste is more acute this time of year. Tomorrow is the beginning of Rosh Hashanah – the beginning of a new year and the ten ‘Days of Awe’. ’On Rosh Hashanah it is written on Yom Kippur it is sealed’ – the fate of another year decided by the sincerity of one’s heart, the commitment to a life led with the best of intentions, the depth of one’s atonement for causing another person pain or sorrow. I am not religious – and yet I believe deeply. I attend services on the High Holy Days – am I trying to hedge my bets? I don’t know. But I remember leaning against my father’s shoulder and playing with the fringe of his prayer shawl, doing my best to behave so I could sit with the grown-ups when the kids’ service was over. To sit with my two grown-ups.
And now that is me. And I ask myself if my words and my actions have been kind enough, my generosity sufficiently reflective of that which is in my heart, beseeching that my family be graced with a sweet, healthy year. I take my role seriously in this regard – I’m not fist pumping to Marvin Gaye, not trying to prove to my body that it’s still too young to be anything other than spontaneous and flexible. I am praying for continued life and that’s a pretty adult activity. The responsibility of the senior members of the tribe to effect with concentrated sincerity and seriousness. And the wind seems to sigh, knowing that this is the truest dance of all – one that we all move to regardless of our sense of rhythm. To my friends and family, whom I love more deeply than any ocean and with width and breadth that spans farther than the sky – I wish you a year of joy and health, abundant laughter and sweetness – and love..always, love.