friendship, life lessons, mindfulness

Hiding In Plain Sight

Hi everyone,

It’s good to be back – though I was never really gone.  I tinkered a bit under the hood of the karma truck, checked all its levels and kicked the tires.  And since I know absolutely nothing about cars, I’m assuming we’re good to go..

Live and Learn (davidkanigan.com) gave me a figurative kick in the butt the other day with a post containing this cartoon from Calvin and Hobbes.

funny-calvin-life

I get it – there are some who feel it could always be better.  Life is acknowledged first and provided with a caveat after (‘everything’s ok – but…’).  But.  Dangerous word I think, and one I consciously seek to avoid in my thoughts and actions.  Of course things could be better, but how flippin’ self-indulgent to diminish the reality that in and of itself it’s pretty damn good.  This morning I listened to the unscripted conversation between the trees as the wind traveled through their leaves, watching how one would nod, and another shake its leafy head.  I am sitting outside as I write to you, looking for bears from my safe perch (haven’t seen any yet) and laughing to myself as I wonder just what I’d do if in fact I really did encounter one.  The Sirs and I have been exploring the road, the foliage, the wildflowers, before returning to our aerie for a nap (them) and a bunch of books (me).

Is it perfect?  Of course not.  I can provide you with an impressive list of things that are not okay.  I’m just not sure why I would want to do that.  There are people who spend an enormous amount of time considering what wrongs have been visited upon them by others, listing shortcomings and offenses with righteous indignation.  I’ve started to re-frame the thought – what kind of person am I to others?  Am I bringing a little bit to the table that is more about others than it is about me?  I’m trying.  Because if I intend to live a good life – and I am and I do – it’s less about the injustices or pain that I have known – and far far more about the good stuff that happens every time I step outside myself.

Thanks for waiting for me to get the truck in gear – we’re heading to points north, south, east and west – though which way first, I have no idea.  There’s no GPS in this thing.  Have a great day – see you soon.

humor, life lessons, mindfulness

From The Top Of The World

“Well, there is narcissism in all of us, of course.  I mean we are the protagonists of our own lives, so naturally it feels like we’re at the wheel.  But we’re not at the wheel.  That just happens to be where the window is located” — Jean Marie Korelitz

I’ve been up at the mountain house since Sunday.  It’s good to be back, though the first few days without any connectivity to the outside world was a little daunting.  No phone service, no Internet.  I thought that would be fine – and it was, except when the night encroached and I was reminded that I am a very little, inconsequential person in the great big scheme of things – and the mountains are a fairly imposing backdrop from which to consider this.  What serendipity has brought me to this place in time.  And yeah, there were occasionally shout-outs imploring the universe to keep me safe.  So far, so good.

On some level it appalls me that silence can be unrequited, when it is so necessary and valuable.  I’ve been struggling a lot of late with the outline of this next story line in my life (made even more difficult by the fact that I have yet to figure out what I want to be when I grow up).  Itchy, out-of-sync, closing off more parts of me to see if I could get to the essence of what I want.  The reality is I need this silence right now (though it is good to be able to converse with you again).  With all the noise going on in my head, something had to force me to be still.

I have not arrived at any great conclusions, though I feel like I’m on the cusp of…something.  And I’m feeling a bit less anxious about not being able to touch it.  When you can’t avoid yourself, you have to figure out a way through the mild panic and self-deriding thoughts that circle around as a cyclone.  Stepping outside myself to look inside and provide the reassurance that it’s ok.  Let life carry me – for that is what it’s going to do anyway.   What hubris to think that because I want answers now that I’m supposed to have them.  They’re en route – like the spring.

I marvel that the buds on the trees, the flowers, etc are so insistent on blooming regardless of the temperature.  They’re straining to burst forth, determined to honor their rightful time in the sun.  A part of me wants them to be a bit more self-protective and wait until the temperature proves more accommodating.  Another part of me is cheering them on, encouraging them to claim their rightful place.  They’re going to bloom, in their time and on their schedule.  I am learning a lot from them.  The hide-and-seek exercise that transitions us from one season to the next, and the incoming season is always ‘it’.  And always wins.  So with this thought, I toy with a new season in my soul.

It’s all good.  Learning to give myself a break, give myself permission to stare at the clouds, read a book in one sitting, make some tea and just savor.  Savor my husband, my children (when they allow me), the cocoon I am ensconced in on top of this very large and imposing mountain.  Make music in the silence and write a verse that has yet to be sung.

 

friendship, inspiration, life lessons, love

For Jo – In Her Renaissance

Today is my friend Joanne’s birthday.  It’s a big one to us – sixty is a pretty impressive number, and worthy of celebration.  Since I can’t be with her today, at the very least it is deserving of a post.

IMG_0264

A few years ago, my daughter-in-law set up my Facebook page though I had little expectation that I would ‘meet’ people in such a forum.  Within two hours of being connected, I received a message from Jo.  She had been looking for me for oh, about forty years.  And I felt a surge of gratitude and disbelief that is difficult to explain.  Honestly, I don’t consider myself one of the memorable ones.  But anyway, there was no denying that we were best friends in junior high school, two of the bar mitzvah brides in the neighborhood (a phrase of my mother’s referring to the number of bar mitzvahs we were invited to attend), and typically on the phone when we weren’t in each other’s apartment.  But life happened in between then and now.  We went to different high schools, colleges.  The last time I saw her was when she came to hear me sing at a place called “Catch A Rising Star” in New York.

“While they talked they remembered the years of their youth, and each thought of the other as he had been in another time” (John Edward Williams)

So we have traveled different roads, in different cities, in different vehicles.  And yet our travels paralleled each other.  Our majors were similar, our commitments were similar.  Our twenties were blessed with the arrival of our kids but kicked our asses in every other way. I probably built more walls around me than Jo; she remains far more open and trusting.  I am here for her today as I was for her when I was thirteen.  We have both lost our parents and understand the seismic shift this causes in one’s bearings; one’s place in the world.  She thinks I’m a better person than I am.  I think of her as a magic kite – she soars and dips in colors so vibrant your eyes have to adjust to its brightness.  You see nothing else in the sky.

Jo was going to become a bat mitzvah today, but sometimes life shouts “Plot Change!” and you have to adjust accordingly.  She was going to speak about her journey, what she has integrated into her soul along the way.  She had asked me to say something too – and I would have said the following – “This is a day that celebrates the nexus of all that has come before you and all that still awaits.  I am a better, happier person for your friendship.  The children you have taught and the parents you have guided have been led by an uncompromising, dedicated, singularly outstanding educator.  The formidable and unyielding love for Ben and Jenna is so powerful, it is its own energy force.  Your heart holds more than most can ever hope to experience in a lifetime – and you still have a long way to go.  This world which you have touched with your passion and your elation, with your sorrow and your tears, with your right and  righteous “Made In America” indignation and gentle yearnings for a view of the Gulf Of Mexico – is a better place because of the way you have chosen to grace it.  I would have thanked you for the gift of being able to speak these words.  Yet that said, I’m just as happy to write them to you here.  With love and laughter and wishes for all that you wish for yourself and more – Happy Birthday Jo.

anxiety, humor, inspiration, life lessons, mindfulness

It’s All About The Plot

“Become major…Live like a hero.  That’s what the classics teach us.  Be a main character.  Otherwise what is life for?” — J.M. Coetzee

I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions lately.  My friends who are encountering detours and re-routes that they hadn’t anticipated.  Bumps that feel like moguls on one of the Olympic ski runs.  The kinds of change that can leave your posture skewed and your jaw clenched to the point of pain.  Jo told me that she thought transitions were easier when we were younger.  Perhaps.  Perhaps we just weren’t aware of what part of our story we were in the middle of – innocence is a wonderful thing.  But when you get a bit older, when the time comes that you realize that this is in fact the story line in which you are the focal character, perspective changes a bit.  We spend so much of our life planning our next chapters – even when they don’t turn out the way we thought they would.

As a child, I remember feeling that I just couldn’t wait for life to start – I couldn’t wait to be able to ride with the experienced riders; couldn’t wait to be double digits.  As a newly-minted teen, I couldn’t wait until I could wear Yardley’s cake eyeliner.  Then I couldn’t wait until I was legal.  Anticipation in my twenties – to be a mom, be seen as an adult (and be forgiven for transgressions that were a result of not knowing what I was doing as an adult), have my own home.  The thirties brought confirmation that though I no longer had the excuse of being a novice grown-up, I had fertile years to dig into this life I was creating without boundaries or barriers.  Perhaps in my forties it began to wear a little thin, but not so much so that my mind was reluctant to keep moving ahead, anticipating next steps with energy and spirit.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that looking forward no longer held the same thrill.  And despite the gratitude (which accompanies most things for me), there lingers questions about legacy and lasting impressions, an awareness that looking forward diminishes the present and quite frankly, too much future-thinking just makes me anxious.  I can write a chapter, but I’m not prepared for the story to end.

And perhaps that is why these transitions get so damn tricky.  Our emotional muscles aren’t as supple; we have seen enough to hesitate – able now to determine the degree of difficulty associated with our next move.

There is a certain grace in such awareness though.  To be able to be engaged with life and observe it simultaneously.  Moving thoughtfully enough that you don’t miss a cardinal on a snow filled branch or the sound the wind makes right before it blows through your hair.  Arriving at a point where you know what matters more often than not, and staying that course.  Transitions may not get easier as we get older, the choices may change in scope and size, but we are each, still the author.  And I for one, think my story is damn good.

friendship, inspiration, life lessons, love, mindfulness

Loads Of Questions, Fewer Answers

“When I was One I had just begun

When I was Two I was nearly new

When I was Three I was hardly me

When I was Four I was not much more

When I was Five I was just alive

But now I’m Six, I’m as clever as clever

So I think I’ll be Six now for ever and ever”  — A.A. Milne

So, my cohort group is turning sixty next year.  Sixty.  It’s an impressive number.  Jo will enter this decade first (though at the end of the day, first or last the goal is to get there and keep going), and it prompted a lot of conversation about what the heck it means.

In an effort to avoid the obvious, we didn’t come up with anything particularly cogent.  And that got me thinking, which as you know, is typically dangerous.

As we grow up, we measure our accomplishments by how old we are.  At six or seven, there’s first grade and entering real school.  Turning ten, at double-digits – one proudly has succeeded at no longer being ‘little’ and has become by rite of age,  way cooler than anyone who is younger.  Celebrating the introduction to being a legitimate teen-ager at thirteen, it’s even sweeter at sixteen.  When eighteen knocks at the door, it brings the perceived gift of becoming ‘legal’, getting out of the house and the anticipation that for all intents and purposes, society will consider you a grown-up in three short years.  Of course by the time one is thirty, the realization that learning to be an adult is no longer an acceptable excuse.  And so on and so on…

Our self-definition and stories are inextricably tied to our age.  What we learned and when we learned it.  I think we could have extended conversations about the decades we have lived – tying our stories and our years together in crazy, multi-colored bows.

Somewhere along the way though, we realize that life is measured not in years but in exquisite moments of attention.  When the question that begs to be answered is less about our individual successes, accomplishments and somewhat self-absorbed chatter, and more about what we have brought to the table.  Did we offer life a groaning board of our best selves or did we just sit there expecting to be fed?  (Given that Thanksgiving is next week, it seemed like a good analogy).  Though we got here while acknowledging chronological landmarks along the way, such landmarks no longer define the road.  We are left now to figure out the topography, and the area is large.

And the dialogue changes focus – am I giving the best I’ve got?  Am I more about others and less about me?  And if I live another sixty years, will I create a path that others will choose to walk with me?

anxiety, discretion, friendship, inspiration, life lessons, mindfulness, music

Why Is Patience So Important?

“If you want to know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees.” — Hal Borland

It seems that in the fall, I spend a great deal of time feeling tremendous respect for trees.  More than the richness of their colors and the dignity with which they prepare for their fallow season, I feel humbled by their grace.  The manner in which they bend when the wind demands their attention;  the stately pride with which they accept that time will effect its plan.

A good friend of mine has been on a fantastic roll lately.  Meeting new people, finding that her voice has more range and depth than she imagined (reminds me of Katy Perry‘s song “Roar”).  Her life – her new life has reflected  her enthusiasm, zest and openness to the thrill of possibility.  I’ve shared in this delight of course, just as I am here today when the rhythm slows, the endorphins need replenishment and the bubbles are now on simmer.  Nothing is wrong, yet what happened to the effervescence?  The days of delight?

Jo wonders about her ‘next whatever’, feeling that its elusiveness is akin to a burr under a horse’s saddle.  Itchy and unsettled, we spend many an email considering the what ifs, could bes, and shoulds – and we end up back at the reality that life is going to unfold whether we are patient or not.

Patience.  The art of being still.  Of understanding that there are fallow periods, which require only that we gain strength and sustenance and an understanding of who we are becoming.  There’s something a little unsettling about it I think.  It took me two years to undo the pleasurable and neurotic remnants of working in biglaw.  To finally realize that the primary takeaway – the only takeaway – is that I made a difference, perhaps to a few people over the span of decades.  I choose to hold onto some cherished memories.   I didn’t leave the firm with grace in my heart – a story for another day perhaps.  I struggled to understand that my next whatever would be as serendipitous as the one I had just experienced.  I still do (struggle that is) – just not as much.

I write a lot about duality; it’s so much a part of our human construct.  Yet in the fall I look to the trees.  They are indomitable and unfazed, welcoming both bird and squirrel, a child’s foot nestled between its trunk and branch.  Silently knowing that regardless of preference or wish, hope or daydream, the most important element it brings to the fall is its presence.  Its being.   Time I think to take a moment  under the trees, sway under the harvest moon and just watch life and love unfold.

discretion, friendship, inspiration, life lessons, love, mindfulness, parenting

Holding August

Many associate August with the fading days of summer,  final trips to the beach, last gasp efforts to take it all in so that some of that warmth can stay in our bones as we turn towards the fall.

Not me.  For me, it is a far more complicated month than that.  I was born in August, I got married in August and my dad passed away in August (these three moments in time did not happen in the same year if you were wondering).

photo

When you’re a child, summer birthdays are like always drawing the short straw.  Your school friends are away, so there’s no big birthday party.  I was always at camp, so I got to raise the flag, people sang to you at lunch and I was able to receive a call from my parents.  The good news was that the call usually came during swimming, so I managed to avoid the changing room.  But the whole allure of theme parties, giggles, gifts and giddiness are just not part of the summer birthday equation.  Over time, it all evens out – and one comes to appreciate that the celebration is not in the number of people surrounding you in the moment, but the number of people surrounding you always.  The reminder that to many you are special and loved, and to some you are just an afterthought.  I don’t say that with ill will – it is what it is.  I’m beyond rich in the love department – and I don’t need a day to remind me of that.

photo

Andy and I got married in August.  We get a little giddier this time of year – although it’s been more than twenty years since I broke out in hives under the chuppah and Andy and the rabbi walked me gently through my vows as my little one twisted his fingers in my dress asking for cake.  There were toasts – my dad insisted on reading his despite his failing voice and already-compromised health.  I don’t remember it all, but it began “Once upon a time there was a princess who met her prince..”.  His voice was hard to hear – even with the microphone – but the magic was clear.  The kids got their cake, my nieces jumped up and down with preschool exuberance, taking credit for this union (and were it not for their friendship their respective aunt and uncle would never have met).   We began our life with the knowledge that we weren’t lucky – we were blessed.  When we’re smart enough to remember this, we still are.

photo

And then at month’s end, I continue to say kaddish for my dad.  It is difficult to write about this without being maudlin, so I’ll aim for brevity.  He loved me in a way that worked for me.  I in turn drove him crazy.  When he left, he took all my secrets – every single one.  I censored little, though I’m sure he would have preferred if I had censored more; but I gave him all I had and I don’t think he ever doubted that.  And I ache when I think of him, I miss him with a longing that I can’t define.  Years ago I downloaded a voicemail he left me on my birthday – singing Happy Birthday and ending with “I love you sweetheart”.  I have to turn that cassette into a cd, just to hear him one more time.

Time – August plays a game with  my head when it comes to time.  I move from moment to moment without volition, allowing events and memories to wash over me as water from a cascading stream.  It has to flow in this way, and I have to follow its lead.  It isn’t easy, I slip, lose my footing, but ultimately remain standing.  Sometimes life compresses, other times it expands.  August is.

“No matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away.” — Haruki Murakami

 

anxiety, humor, life lessons, mindfulness

My Friday Lament

I want to be young again, but I really don’t want to re-live all the lousy stuff that occurs in the normal course of growing up.

I want to be old enough to fully accept that ‘legacy’ has nothing to do with what I did for a living, but what I did with my life – and that it mattered.

I want to find my waist again.

I want my waist not to matter as much as the shape of my soul.

I’d like to have no regrets, yet I regret that I think one can’t live without them.

I want to be remembered despite not having any wish or intent to go anywhere which would prompt people to miss me.

I wonder when I’m going to feel like I’m making my mark, yet delight in doing nothing but watching two fawns practice leaping in my backyard.

I miss the sounds and smells and demands and affection of having little boys, though my sons as adults delight me as no other adults can.

The rain is welcome, despite my wish for the sun.

In my head I’m far younger than the mirror suggests.  I find that a little insulting, and adds still more dissonance.

I want to read and read every book, blog, essay that grabs my curiosity and still take time to relish every sentence that I love.

I want to travel more and still cocoon at home.

I want to dare more though I’ve never been known for  being particularly intrepid.

Nobody gets everything in life; yet everything in life is not worth having.

The ebb and flow of extremes.  The push and pull of our hearts and minds.  It’s ok to grapple with this confusion, I tell myself.  It’s that insistent feeling I have that somehow, we’re supposed to ‘know’ by now.  The irritation I feel when I find that when pressed, I really have no clue – and the smile on my face as I realize that I’ll likely never get off this swing, so while I’m on it I’m just going to see how high I can go.

friendship, inspiration, life lessons, love, mindfulness, music

Magic To Do

Bill @ drbillwooten.com had posted a quote from Brene Brown that has stared at me for days now..

“Owning our story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.  Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky, but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable…”

And, as is typical with the route of the karma truck, a confluence of moments stop me along the road and force me to pull over and take stock of my surroundings.

–  Elizabeth asks me about the act of becoming the me I am today.  Who was I before I left biglaw?  How am I defining myself today?  Oh Elizabeth – do you want the short answer or the long one?  😉

– An email from a friend with so much sadness, I thought the screen was streaked with her tears.  A chapter closing with an ending she didn’t pen.  Now a character in a story that she would have written much differently.

– Friday night with Andy, Jo and Ben seeing “Pippin” on Broadway.  A long ago story with threads that carry through from the days when I made up songs to sing while my dad played the Prince to my sister’s balletic swan.

I don’t remember when I began singing, but it has been my protection, my home, my sanctuary, my arguably limited coping mechanism when humor fails me.  Standing under Roosevelt Avenue letting one note escape from my lips as the subway rattled overhead.  Missing the green light because I was focused on holding that note until the last car was on its way to the 82nd Street stop.

When I sang at ‘Catch A Rising Star‘ my sophomore year in college, I did it I think, more out of naiveté than anything else (well that, and an incredible crush on the guy who arranged it).  Jo and Bruce were there.  Had we not bumped into each other on the street earlier in the day, the moment would have passed.  I sang “Magic To Do” – stepping up to the mike after a gorgeously built woman in a gold sequined bathing suit and heels almost as high as her hair, ponied her way through an off-key version of “V-a-c-a-t-i-o-n”.   The audience loved her, for they thought she was a comedy act.  To say I took the mike with tremendous hesitation and nausea is an understatement.  But I saw Jo – and her delight.  On the wings of her smile I let it go.  And they asked me to do an encore (I did “Summertime”).

I got an email yesterday from her telling me that she heard me singing during the show on Friday…I thought I was being pretty quiet.  But I had to sing – this was my coming of age story.  Believing that I had to do great things and having no clue what that meant.  I believed I was destined to do the extraordinary, and in my nineteen year old mind, extraordinary meant ‘big’, ‘notable’.  And I’m sure sequins had to play a part.

My extraordinariness is hardly extraordinary, but I have come to understand that it is what it is.  My sons are miracles – and though I take no credit for anything other than being their mom, I would submit that their arrival trumps any other accomplishment of the exceptional.  They were my reason and my privet for so very long.  And they moved forward into the world with the knowledge that they are more than capable of soaring.

I built a great career and felt needed by a lot of people  – which was pretty heady and gratifying and I didn’t sacrifice more of my soul than I could handle in the process.  And when it required more compromising than I could abide, more injury to my body and soul than either could handle, I left.  And where I’m heading…well, later to the supermarket.

What I am though is here.  I am in this moment for those who need me to be.  I am here to remind my heartbroken buddy that we shatter and somehow mend again.  I am here for the moments when one doesn’t know if another day is really going to change a damn thing, and suggesting that if it doesn’t, a series of days may.  I am here with a cup of hope.  And if you sit close enough to me, probably a song.

friendship, humor, life lessons, love, mindfulness

For Alan

Were we old friends?  In the very broadest sense of the word, I think.  We traveled in the same pack of prepubescent kids, falling over each other and ourselves like puppies, but far too gawky and awkward to ever be considered really cute.  In retrospect I see us all as adorable and goofy, hypersensitive and phenomenally clueless, not fully prepared to be accountable for our words or deeds, yet quick to pass notes and judgment on the unforgivable behavior of someone else.

So after forty-some-odd years, I drove into DC looking forward to seeing Alan and wondering if I’d recognize him in a crowded lobby.  We are friends on Facebook, so there are some elements of his life that I have seen.  His magnificent wife and daughters – pictures posted which require no artificial light for they seem to glow with the richness of love.  There is no contrivance or pretense; they look like people I would like to know and more importantly, like people who are genuinely enriched by each other.  He has built a successful greeting card company (greatarrow.com – their graphics are really lovely and unique) and is also an extraordinarily gifted photographer.  His photos capture the magnificent moodiness of the sky, the sun in fits of pique.  He has an impressive collection of Stetson hats and wears them well.  All of this is well and good – but how do you find someone in a hotel lobby?  I told him to look for a short, blond woman in her renaissance.

Fortunately, the lobby wasn’t crowded – but I would have known Alan regardless.  Something about his walk (though the Stetson helped).  Bobby used to walk a bit on his toes, Jo’s heels would scuff the cement, Bruce kind of pulled the sidewalk along with each step and Gary had a sort of walk/run.  Alan’s shoulders were a little rounded, his eyes looked directly ahead despite the suggestion of the angle of his head and his feet always seemed to touch the ground gently.  Our pack traveled in relative quiet – our shoes reinforced with layers of rubber. The cooler kids had metal taps on their shoes – stepping in a perpetual dance with sound and rhythm.  Perhaps our development was more muted.  It seemed loud to us, though I think for the most part it reflected sounds only we could hear.

Where do you pick up after lifetimes have passed?  You can’t really say nothing is new, for to the listener everything is new.  I didn’t know he thought I had a great voice, he didn’t know that I thought he had an artistic and thoughtful aspect I always liked.  He designed sets for theatrical productions; I performed in them.  He went to Stuyvesant (a high school for the seriously smart); I went to private school.  We all dispersed for college.  So it goes.

And yet after two and a half hours, we still had stories to tell.  More than the memories of who we once were, we shared an understanding of those invisible threads – the ones that constitute the preliminary stitches which outlined the design of who we became.  He became a warm, loving, devoted, creative man.  I chose a career that required decades of performance and appealing to wide audiences.

Alan will return to DC next year for another annual meeting.  I hope we meet again same time, next year.  Were we old friends?  We are older, and yes, I believe we are friends.  We share seminal moments in our respective histories, and the comfort to quote Samuel Taylor Coleridge, of “a sheltering tree”.

602449-sheep-sheltering-under-a-tree-on-a-misty-cold-uk-morning-with-sepia-toning

discretion, inspiration, life lessons, love, mindfulness

Never Forget

IMG_0052

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.

385230_510417498981049_1820046772_n