That’s not true – I don’t fish. I like the visual though – sitting on a boat in still water, line dragging in, bobbin bobbing, silence interrupted only by an occasional gurgle caused by some minor disruption to the water. The lapping of the water as one adjusts their seating. I have no need to catch anything – it’s at that point that my revery turns a little discomfiting actually.
But we are heading to the mountains with the majority of our children for a long weekend. You may remember that this is an annual treat for us all – a chance to play board games, nap, golf, spa, read and catch up with each other. Oh, and the occasional winery thrown in for good measure.
I apologize for flying below the radar this last week, only to re-surface to write you that I’m heading out of Dodge for a little while. We’ll leave last week in the past and when I return next week I will be back to my sort of prodigious self (well hardly prodigious when compared to so many of you, but it’s a relative thing, yes?)
I’ll be checking in while we’re gone – and maybe even squeeze out a paean to the mountains majesty and the overwhelming delight in all being in the same place for a little while. But I leave you now with one of my favorite songs from the wayback machine…Chris Rea – enjoy and I’ll ‘see you soon’…
“The universe is not short on wake-up calls. We’re just quick to hit the snooze button.” – Brene Brown
There are some days when I think I have done absolutely nothing of value and can’t understand how the hours got away from me. At that point my self-talk is particularly harsh – ‘Idiot, you wasted a day’, ‘is this how you define living?’, ‘you have no excuse for such inertia’, ‘what are you waiting for?’ (I did censor these thoughts – I usually throw around a few expletives in my head too).
And even though I self-flagellate with impressive vigor, it’s beginning to dawn on me that I’m missing the point. I’m not snoozing through life – I’m wide awake, acutely aware and learning how to be in this skin without apology. I believe that my senses are calibrated more sensitively than ever before. I can find a chirping wren in the top of a tree, discover the mystery in a song I’ve listened to a thousand times and never really heard. I am increasingly attracted to people who have a curiosity about anything other than their own navels. It dawned on me the other day that there are some people who think of me fondly and/or with friendship and have never asked me anything that would suggest they really had any interest in who I am. And that’s ok – as long as I’m asking myself the questions that matter, I don’t need to be queried. I like inquiring better.
I am aware that life delights in such elemental ways that I can’t wait to wake up in the morning. The rich silence in the pre-dawn hours punctuated by the occasional grumbling of a bullfrog, the decadent smell of fresh coffee and the morning air fresh from the nights’ rain. I’m awake. I’m getting the message – there is no dress rehearsal, so make sure you pick up your cues. Life isn’t waiting for you to begin, it just wants you to notice.
Some men know that they want to be dads – the-kind-who-are-always-there – dads. Today is your day. Some men know that they will never be as flummoxed as when an adolescent girl attenuates her irritation over nothing by intoning “D-a-a-a-a-d” with dramatic flair reminiscent of Sarah Bernhardt and Camille.
For every dad who first danced with his daughter by having her stand on his shoes (and there was a time when shoes were polished, but let’s not go there). The dad who threw pitch after pitch, went to every game, and in an act of incredible love and extreme foolishness continued to try to impart guidance and direction to ears and minds that were destined to follow their own path (as it should be).
For Andy, my favorite father-in-law and brothers-in-law, for David and Bill and Russ and Ben and all those friends of ours out there whose love for their children (and fur kids) is so palpable I can almost match the beat of my own heart to yours. It is a delight to honor you today.
And for the dad of all dads (at least in my eyes) – my own. Whether I was hanging upside down on the bunk bed pretending to be dead (I was eight, it was a gag – it didn’t work), looking for grapes in a bowl of Cheerios, walking to school with you almost every day for twelve years (and then commuting with you into the city), or watching the unadulterated mutual adoration between you and your grandsons – you were an amazing, involved, funny, smart, occasionally snarky, willing, curious, surprise-filled, loving dad. And I still think of you as ‘daddy’ – and you’ve been gone for nine years. But it’s your day too – and I miss you and celebrate you today.
Once again, timing proves to be everything. Lately it seems like a lot of people have started following the karma truck. I will confess I’m not convinced that all of these new passengers are real – something tells me the WordPress filters are going through some kind of crisis. And yet, today I received the loveliest message from someone new, and it was clear that she was neither a salesperson, corporate entity or accidental tourist. My delight in her arrival somehow tripped the ignition which lately has been reluctant to start.
In the ether, it is tough sometimes to separate fantasy from reality. Are we, in real life, what we project in our posts? I seem to follow those who I believe are as transparent as their defenses and sense of propriety permit. I have become friends with some who I have yet to meet, and I have every confidence that should circumstance and fortune collide, I would find them to be even more than my thoughts could have imagined.
Like Lori. We finally met this week. I recognized her instantly and she was more beautiful than any picture suggested. She has a giggle like a song, and a heart that beats with a rhythmic love that just draws the world to her. To be in her orbit was both exhilarating and comforting – for I was with someone I have known forever though I can’t remember where or when. I just know it to be so.
For twenty-four hours we talked, commiserated, wondered about people we have grown to care deeply for (despite not being able to identify them if we passed on the street – and you know who you are, which is a good thing), shared personal histories in more exquisite detail, cried a bit, laughed far more. My words are not doing this visit justice, yet I’m certain you get the gist.
Last week Bill @ drbillwooten.com was generous enough to include me as part of his WordPress Family. The coincidence of these two moments is not lost to me. We who write and read each other’s posts, who comment and delight, commiserate and comfort, find ourselves in a family of sorts. Perhaps it is not one that is standard issue, nor one that can be identified by pictures and get-togethers. But nonetheless, to one degree or another it is defined by connection and dare I say it, levels of love. There is no ambiguity despite the opaque wall of anonymity. Within these posts lie the magic of people I have come to love in a way that I need not try to define. I just have to acknowledge that it is there. And I do – with arms wide open.
Another early morning finds me sitting in the office atrium, catching up on the day’s rhythm, seeing if I can match the beat. The energy is too slow, involving shuffling instead of stepping, a resignation in the bend of the head. Clearly I am not going to be a helpful dance partner. I need to carry the day differently…which propels me towards an entirely different train of thought. How to carry the day.
Should it be carried gently as a sleeping baby in your arms, held with acute awareness of its inestimable preciousness? Or with abandon? Tossing the day up in the air with delight, watching it return to your hands gleefully anticipating the breathlessness of being thrown higher again and again.
Perhaps it should be carried over your shoulder, as one carries shirts fresh from the dry cleaner? Protected in plastic that provides the security that they will make it home spotless and pressed (assuming you don’t fall into a puddle).
Do you hold the day like a briefcase – holding so tightly to the handle that your fingers ache, secure that no one will be able to take it from you?
Like a well-worn handbag held casually and almost mindlessly – its weight comfortable in your hand, its contents familiar (save for the occasional forgotten lipstick and dollar bill at the very bottom of the bag).
How do you carry the day?
Held tightly against you like a cell phone to your ear, doing all you can to make sure that no one can hear what you are attending to? Protectively guarding your privacy despite being in the middle of all this humanity??
Do you carry the day with confidence or trepidation? Delight or dread? Is it one more parcel to hold along with too many others to effectively juggle? Do you push it away as a stroller or a shopping cart, keeping control of the direction by keeping a certain distance between you and it? Is it pulled along like a rolling suitcase, casually unaware of its contents (for after all it is always behind you).
Do you balance the day like an overly full cup of coffee that is thisclose to spilling over, taking mincing, tentative steps to avert sartorial disaster?
I suppose different days require different handling. Today my arms are at my sides, keeping questionable rhythm with my feet. Today perhaps the day itself will carry me.
Whenever I have a meeting – of any kind – I’m early. It’s my definition of being on time. I was facilitating a meeting yesterday morning, and with the rain pummeling the house, I decided to give myself more than enough time to get downtown. What does one do then with an hour to kill? Head into the open, skylit atrium with a cup of coffee, review your notes and then watch the world go by. Another olio from yours truly…
Rather than look like I’m just sitting there ogling people, I make notes, raising my eyes subtly to take in the action (Actually, I like to think I look surreptitious – I have a hunch I’m not so graceful).
– A guy walks by wearing a grey cap, striped sweater, wire-rimmed glasses…he looks like he could be a student at GW, but for the absence of a backpack. He’s so intently texting that he slams right into the corner of one of the metal (heavy, wrought iron) chairs. Unfortunately, said corner is of a particular delicate height and I wince for him. He lets out a “oooph” – a restrained exclamation if ever I heard one, and gingerly walked into the coffee shop. Those of us sitting nearby all look up with sympathy and even a little amusement (that’s what you get when you don’t watch when you walk and text). Ok, the women look more amused then the men.
– The skylights which are supposed to welcome all the natural light look like they are bearing the traces of a really good cry. It’s that kind of day.
– Beige lady – I swear this is a beige lady. Beige hair, outfit, shoes, necklace, purse…urban camouflage. Her posture is perfect, her strides are long and her heels strike the floor with emphasis. She covers a lot of ground with maximum efficiency. A person on a mission, confident, hyped, ready. She comes out of the coffee shop holding two Red Bulls. I feel for the people with whom she’s working today.
– Choices, choices..a man in biking shorts and a heavy sweat (or rain-soaked) checks out his options at the coffee shop. Grabs a yogurt. Puts it back. A box of Special K. Shakes his head and places it back on the shelf. Granola bar? Uh uh. This is a small Au Bon Pain, there are limited choices. He looks conflicted. Ah!! He grabs a an apple turnover. I like this guy.
– Cross-body bags with cross-body briefcases is not a great look. People look like pack animals heading up Everest. And the puce thermal lunch bag? Um, I vote ‘no’.
– Why does no one smile? I must be missing the memo. This feels like a very unhappy place, with questionable elan (but this is DC after all, we don’t pride ourselves on elan or fashion sense – or any sense at all for that matter). I am on a crusade to get people to smile. I consciously smile at everyone – the garage attendant, the vanilla-outfitted girl who passes my table with vacant eyes, the maintenance person who traverses the perimeter of the atrium scrupulously checking for…something.
I’m not talking maniacal smiles here – just a small smile that someone could choose to ignore or return without fear of a Jack-Nicholson-in-‘The Shining’ reaction. So far I’m 5 for 6…wait, 6 for 7 – not bad. Each moves along in his/her own moment, which is totally cool. I’m not looking to create memories here. I just want to break this wall of impassivity – see if there’s any light behind those shuttered eyes, as if there is too much risk in letting someone see any emotion at all.
And I want to know all their stories – where do you work? Do you like what you do? What’s on your mind this morning? House? Condo? Tent? Pets? Kids? Partners? What could change this moment from one that has merely passed to one that is fantastic? Are your shoulders bowed from the weight of your backpack or the weight of your woes?
Why fuchsia lipstick?
They need music here – something to lift these sagging commuter spirits, to imbue the morning with the hint of the possible, the funny, the sublime or even the stuff that really matters. Time for me to head to the elevator with the guy who looks like Stubby Kaye when he was in “Guys & Dolls”.
Sometimes you just need a venti, skim cappuccino. Sit down, listen to the music, silently intercept the conversational volleys around you. Look like you’re working on your laptop while inventing stories about the people waiting in line. ‘Not very nice of you Mim’, you say? No worries, I reprimand myself in between thoughts. It’s how I roll.
OMG – that’s Helen Mirren!! What is she doing in my neighborhood Starbucks??? She is magnificent, what a cool gravitas surrounds her as she regards a message on her iPhone with bemusement. I swear it’s her. I applaud my fellow humankind as we sublimate our collective desire to swarm, leaving her to be among the people. It is interesting to me though that no one else seems to be sneaking peeks. Wait…is she chewing gum while drinking her latte? With her mouth open? Helen! Oh no she isn’t. Yup she is. Sticking the end of a ballpoint pen in her ear and scratching. Her pinky isn’t raised. I can hear her snapping her gum. I get it – this most definitely is not a Helen Mirren sighting. Damn – I was so sure.
Young woman in line with her shoulders slumped, hair covering her face as if she would give anything to be invisible. She’s lovely actually, and dressed in black on a gorgeous spring day does not serve as a cloak of invisibility. The blue lipstick doesn’t either – it actually looks like she’s been caught inflagrante delicti with a Smurf. It’s that same blue. I have to get this visual out of my head as soon as possible – it’s both funny and mildly gross. And if this involves two consenting adults and no one is getting hurt…
Interesting meeting going on at the only table that seats four. Three guys, one girl – all dressed in the new sartorial category “business casual”. The young men are in khakis, three variations of the color beige and button down shirts – two blue, one white. The woman wears a scarf wrapped twice around her neck in the fashionable way that conceals any spots on the front of your shirt. Blue skirt, blue tights, flats. I look at them not looking at each other and smile – they all look so young, so intense. I have yet to see one of them look up from their respective laptops, and I wonder why I’m so sure they know each other other than their matching outfits. One guy gets up to get a refill and says to someone at the table – “I just texted you”. Really? I am inclined to sit here until they leave just to see if they acknowledge each other in real time as they move towards the door. I’m inclined, but my time here is limited.
If a woman is standing in line and the seam in the back of her very-very-very tight skirt has gone off-center, do you tell her? She’s got too much going on with the whole look not to care. I think she is dressing to impress and she certainly leaves an impression. I can’t imagine that she just threw herself together this morning. Her hair is sprayed to natural perfection (yes, it’s an oxymoron – get it?), eyelashes curled and mascara-ed, blush applied and blended right at the ‘apples’ of her cheeks as fashion magazines suggest. I should tell her…no I can’t. As I sit here in my chic gym clothes, I look like a really credible source to comment on the seam placement of her skirt. Nope – I’m letting it go.
I see an older couple who work out at the gym when I do – we say a quick ‘hi’ as I begin to head out. I look up just in time to see him kissing the top of her head as she leans her body into his. The best takeaway from Starbucks this morning – all other thoughts just fade away and I carry their love in one hand and my coffee in the other. Happy Wednesday everyone.
I was particularly struck by a poem posted by ivonprefontaine.com (Teacher As Transformer) yesterday. As with most things evocative, we considered Derek Walcott’s words differently – which is why I didn’t reblog his words.
Once again, I am motivated by friends, for whom this will resonate individually. Yet I hope above all, among the takeaways is a feeling of the tremendous value you have, the wonder that you offer up everyday and the love you deserve – from yourself first and foremost.
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
I’m really going to try to work on this…I need to. You need to. Let’s do it together, ok? Happy Saturday all.
“Child, child, do you not see? For each of us comes a time when we must be more than we are” — Lloyd Alexander
Well the last few weeks have brought with them a frenetic level of activity reminiscent of earlier chapters in my life. Facilitating training sessions at two law firms; attending a national convention where I will be moderating a panel on effective communication between leaders in practice offices and their counterparts at ‘headquarters’; discussions on employee engagement at another company and then back to another professional services firm to chair forums on a number of issues all rolling up under the header of ‘organizational dynamics’. Ok, stop yawning – I find this stuff pretty fascinating, and the people I meet as a result, even more interesting and engaging. It’s the people – I’m just so damn drawn to the people.
So somewhere around the end of May or June, things may slow down a bit once more. Some things haven’t changed – the more I have to do, the less I sleep and the more I perseverate. For those of you who have not been ‘gifted’ with this talent, I’ll describe it quickly. It starts with a benign thought, like “I hope I can pull all this together in time”, and from there it blossoms into a profusion of peripatetic petals (it is spring and Cherry Blossom time here in DC after all) that fall all over my mind, covering the synapses, neurons and pathways with layer upon layer of resistant ground cover. Thought loses all rhyme or reason, and I spend an inordinate amount of time getting in my own way. Do I know that I really should get out the leaf blower? Of course I do – I’m just too busy looking at the magnificent mess I have created.
Now this talent of mine exists in direct counterpoint with another ability that I really do have about many, many issues. When my sons were younger, they maintained their rooms as temples to the God Of Who Cares. Somehow the word ‘messy’ really doesn’t do their efforts justice – neither does ‘unhygienic’. Once a week, I would expect them to make some effort to return their rooms into something livable, for I really didn’t want them contracting some weird bacteria that is only found in the Amazon and the soles of filthy socks. Their disregard drove Andy crazy – he’s the kind of guy who feels that everything has a place and there’s a place for everything – and if not, toss it out. So as he would get increasingly exorcised, I would become calmer. And my mantra through those years was “If this is going to bother you in five years honey, then I will invest in this issue with all the emotional energy I can summon. But if this isn’t going to matter five years hence, then I’m letting it go”.
Hypocrite – thy name is Mimi.
You see I really believe that little mantra – I do. I just don’t apply it with as much conviction when it comes to my own efforts. So in short – I become my own pain in the butt. Somebody needs something from me – ok, let’s jump into hyper-drive, over-think it and deliver with everything I’ve got. And then collapse and chastise myself for all that excess worry and emotional self-flagellation. Oh, and then start the whole process again…because after all, this is different. It’s about someone else’s needs. I have to be better this time, right?
Last night though – somewhere between Carson Daly and the 2:30AM news on ABC – a memory came to the fore and I think as a result, I am going to try to teach my foolish self what I already know.
Years ago, after one back surgery or another, I lost the use of my arms. Truly. I could raise one arm high enough to bring a utensil to my lips, the other only far enough to scratch an inch near my waist. The surgeon wasn’t alarmed (of course, they weren’t his arms) – neurological effrontery can make for some pretty lousy retribution. I was petrified. All of a sudden elements of daily self-care were elusive to me. Andy would wash and dry my hair (with enormous affection and limited expertise – we will not conjure any thoughts of how I looked during this time), I drank coffee through a straw, modifications were made. The doctor was sure my range of motion would return – he had no doubt, so I believed him. My anxiety became more reflective of the ‘when’ not the ‘if’, and immediately became more manageable. In five years, this would not be an issue for me – I knew that. My thoughts became less frantic, I began to clear away the disorderly mess that had become my thought process. And yes, the doctor knew what he was talking about.
Which brings me back to this moment. In five years it will matter to me that I gave my best to others – period. I won’t get there by letting my worry trump my determination. Let me re-phrase – I may get there, but I will be have depleted essential elements of the thoughts I need to be happy. Today, I’m going to follow the advice of Steve Martin – “I’ve got to keep breathing. It’ll be the worst business mistake if I don’t”.
I hope this makes you smile – and if by chance you identify with any of this – I hope it helps you breathe.
“Water is the softest thing, yet it can penetrate mountains and earth. This shows clearly the principle of softness overcoming hardness” — Lao Tzu
I love this quote. I love thinking that relentless softness can erode what appears intractable and immoveable. The visual of solid ground acceding to the dampening of the earth, redefining its crags and layers of stubborn solidity by the insistence of water, becoming a rivulet and ultimately a stream.
And then there’s the old water torture visual (drops falling rhythmically and slowly on one’s forehead) which is far more reflective of my state of mind at the moment. And may I say? The drops aren’t particularly doing much except making me feel like I’m getting a dent in my head.
Over the past two years, I’ve been contacted by executive recruiters asking about my interest in C-level positions – law firms, professional service firms – and I’ve never considered pursuing the inquiries. Last week I did, and yesterday I withdrew my candidacy. It was the drops you see. The persistent drops – “Do you have the chops to do this again?” “You don’t have the chops to do this again” “Do you want to do this again?” “Wanting is irrelevant – what if they find me too old (that’s illegal and I’m way too immature, but…), too irreverent, too out there, not out there enough” “But do you want to do this again” “I want parts of it and I don’t want parts of it” “That’s no answer, Mim” “Can you repeat the question?”…and so on.
And so it went until I was desperately seeking a xanax or at least someone to turn off the faucet. Oh, did I mention that I have a skosh of a problem calling a plumber when I really need one (figuratively speaking of course)? “My family will think less of me for walking away” “They will not, you doof” “Yeah, they will” This is ridiculous. I am ridiculous. Full stop.
I write Andy and the boys, send an email to two of my dearest friends. Aaron writes back first – “You’ve earned the right to be whatever you want to be…therapist, elephant hygienist..” (I love that kid). Paul chimes in next – “I think you should get re-accredited to be a therapist”..and paraphrasing here, ‘so happy you will pursue what you want’ (I love that kid too). Andy, oh Andy – with his platitudes and deft application of the cliché, rejected both and just reminded me that who I am makes him proud enough. ‘Do what you want, and if you don’t know what that is just yet, that’s ok too’ (I don’t feel that it is, but may I say that he’s a rock star). And my friends..”I’m so happy you said no; I didn’t want to have to share you with that many people” (she’d never have to). “You made the right decision – besides, I think you should write a book!” And here I sit, with a different type of water – the kind that traces down one’s cheeks, gracing each wrinkle, tickling my jaw as they meander down my neck.
How bewildering to be in my renaissance and discover that I am still arguing with these voices of doubt? How breathtaking to realize that with a little effort, I can change a path that has been shaped by years and years of the drip, drip, drip, drip of my own design? I am changing the flow, I am going to try to be more purposeful with this one life I have. Remember my passion, follow my fascinations, remember that it was my sense of integrity and what I believe to be right that prompted my decision to turn around and re-route.
There’s a place for me – little, idiosyncratic, idealistic, sometimes-savvy me. I’m not sure where just yet, and I have to be okay with that for now. For with absolute certainty I can tell you, within me there’s a river.
I came across this little sentence this morning (though there was no attribution, so forgive me) – “An ugly personality destroys a pretty face.” Sounds like something my maternal grandmother might have brought with her from the ‘old country’, packed in the suitcase with the two silver candlesticks. (There were some great Yiddishisms that don’t necessarily translate too well, but they’re so evocative – “may every tooth in your mouth rot except one, and may that one ache for the rest of your life”. Who came up with this?) Sorry – off on a tangent. Anyway, I never met her, though I was blessed with her name. I still think I’m too young for the heft of “Miriam”, though it’s a name I have grown to love. True, in the Bible she saved her brother (which one really can’t dismiss, for it was reflective of love and bravery and selflessness and there wouldn’t be a whole lot to write about if Moses hadn’t made it), but she died from leprosy – not exactly a happifying ending for a really nice girl.
Our family’s Miriam – my grandmother – appears in photos as this beautiful, serious grown-up with incredibly wise eyes and lips that remain fixed in a straight line. She betrays nothing in those few pictures – not what she has seen, endured, celebrated or lost. And arguably there wasn’t a lot for her to smile about until my sister was born and I believe that her arrival was her greatest joy, the most affirming, gorgeous, delicious experience she would ever know. I wish there were pictures of her holding Deb, for I think she would have been breathtaking, revealing far more than a stoic image with beautiful features.
And that really is just it – what distinguishes one lovely structured visage from another? What echoes in your soul when your memory constructs its image of a person? The initial description is often cosmetic – the color of a person’s hair and eyes, relative height and overall appearance. Laws of attraction come into play, I realize, which brings me to another one of my grandmother’s great lines – “an owl to one, is a nightingale to another”. I realize that some people are physically more attractive than others, and I am definitely vain enough to want to qualify for the more positive adjectives that can be applied to short women (though I really feel that ‘perky’ and ‘cute’ can’t compete with ‘gorgeous’ and ‘stunning’, but whatever).
So with those caveats, life has also been lived long enough for me to see that with a second look, there is nothing that diminishes or enhances a person more than their core. Some of the most good-looking people I have met are also the least appealing. Smiles that at best are disingenuous and at worst don’t reach the eyes, callous comments and narcissistic perspectives. Too much lipstick and too little warmth; six pack abs and an empty ‘can o’ care’ inside. Eyes that search for the next-thing-that-isn’t-good-enough and never settle upon a magical moment. Hands that are ridiculously smooth because they haven’t held onto anything for dear life. The most beautiful people I know are not indifferent to their appearance at all. They also don’t define beauty too narrowly. I gravitate to the magnificence of an open heart, the delicate touch of kindness, the warmth of an expansive smile. I think most of us do. At a certain point you realize that the reflections of a person’s heart redefine the parameters of attractiveness.
Or as my grandmother used to say “pretty is as pretty does”. Have a great Sunday everybody.
This is one of the few pictures we have of my mom and her family before the war. She was an adorable little girl who grew into a beautiful and haunted woman. I think some of the relentless, unforgiving thoughts that defined so much of her persona were driven by memories such images evoked, further fueled by the unanswerable question, “what if?”. “What if” there had been no Holocaust? “What if” they could have remained in Vienna along with their sizeable extended family? “What if” she had been able to grow up with frivolity? “What if” her back story was so benign, so unremarkable that it didn’t inform her entire life?
Holocaust Remembrance Day – I wrote of it last year. I honor it again. Elie Wiesel once said, “To forget the Holocaust is to kill twice”. With a bowed back, I realize that he is right – for this is a lesson the world has yet to embrace. The irony of unanimous agreement that humanity is precious and the disparity that clearly exists in its definition. And we bear witness over and over again – the self-righteous rationalization about the expendability of some people over others. We’re not talking about Darwin. After Kristalnacht, my grandfather went to schul with the conviction that the answer to this horror would be found in more devout prayer. This is not about evolutionary theory. This is a human tale.
My mother’s story lives now in my sister and I. It has been with us since we were born, whispered to us as we were carried by our grandfather, packed in our lunch boxes, tucked into our clothes. We honored it because it was so big and inconceivable and intangible, yet as real and palpable as mom herself. It was every nightmare that would wake us when she screamed. It weighted every argument in mom’s favor when I fought my way through adolescence. It remains as a part of every prayer I mouth to the sky in the morning – sending love to my parents, appreciation for this life, my family and friends, and imploring that we all continue to be blessed with health and love. It lives in me. Perhaps it will remain in her grandchildren, and so on. Time has a way of diluting even the starkest memories. The ones you swear you’ll always remember. Maybe the details will get lost, and what will survive within them is a more sophisticated palate – able to taste the exquisite, indescribable sweetness to life. The passionate advocacy for the value of humankind.
When mom passed away in 2005, her obituary ran in the New York Times. It read in part, “Dee was born and spent her early childhood in Vienna, making her one of that shrinking cohort who experienced and survived the monstrous storm of Nazi violence. Her father and mother…took the family out of Austria shortly after the Anschluss, making their way first to Belgium and then through occupied France. The family made its way to Portugal, where on August 16, 1941, they found passage among 765 other refugees on the Spanish freighter Navemar – one of the last voyages of escapees from Europe. Dee’s children and grandchildren bear in their hearts eternal, existential gratitude for her family’s valor and persistence. Her intelligence, humor and immense energy were a gift to us all. Our family’s particularly gladdened that Dee lived long enough to know of the safe return..of her eldest grandson, Matthew, from Iraq, where for the past year he has served in harm’s way the country that gave his grandmother safe haven.”
In acknowledging this day of Remembrance, I honor my family. I honor the memories that once glared in every corner, and now have softened to shadows. I will do my part to make sure that though they may dim and blur, they should never be forgotten.