Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Seeing Is Believing

Our optometrist confirmed today that my seven year old son will be wearing eyeglasses, like every other Chassidic cheider boy that sits and learns yiddishkeit, religion and belief for most of his day.

It seems as if almost all of our Torah scholars wear glasses as a direct effect of learning.

Yep. Seeing is believing.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Treasure Hunting

I had to go through my storage closet to find some summer clothing. If you’re familiar with this business, looking for a single pair of short white pants actually means ripping through every unlabeled garbage bag, paging through old albums and letters, and trying on your not-so-fashionable school sweaters while trying to encrypt the mystery behind the need to wear these rather bizarre garment. Amidst all, I came upon a small duffel bag and dragged it down with me.

The duffel bag with its moth ball storage smell. In it, there are hundreds of threads of all colors, webbed around a folded picture of fruits. I opened the needlepoint. Only a fraction of the sewing was done. But goodness, a good portion of it was actually filled with hours of my threading it, in and out.

Yawn. ..

I actually spent my last few summers working on that piece, since the year that it occurred to me that sewing was just what I needed, especially whenever I was bored. My sister and I, pocket books hanging from our shoulders, visited a woman’s home on Hooper Street where she sold sewing material on her kitchen table. From then hours have been stitched together by sitting under a desk lamp and threading in and out. In and out. In. Then out.

Really, needlepoint? What was I thinking? That I was 82 and retired, living in a Miami facility? What occurred to me, spending fifteen minutes regularly licking the dark-green end of a thread, pushing it at the needle, and then dragging that needle itself around for the next few hours, then over to salivitizing the maroon thread for another walk of the clock? To sit immobile all that time and breath loudly? Did I require reading glasses too?

“Vell, childrin, my stomach didn’t vork so good enymore, [hiccup] I don’t heff deh young energy yaknow. The doctor said is gut for me to sit a little bit and make deh gublein.”

I was struck by old age prematurely.

It was a desperate attempt to find an artistic release, retired to what is available. Although this picture is living proof that I’m not a pro at sewing, I busied myself with what everyone did. Alright, so I can't be a professional boxer or sing at the opera, but heck, I could shneer a gublein!

Likewise, other basic chores were and still are turned into creative opportunities. Everyone retreated tornado-style under a table when I announced that I’m going to bake, because I refused to learn that you can’t mix flour, sugar and me and ever create something edible. Nonetheless, I baked three layer cheesecakes for shvuos and designed the whip on top in a lengthy process that involved strawberries, chocolate, consumption of said ingredients and cursing. Not just once did I end a whole day of baking by sending off a bag of charcoal balls, nebech - rugelech wannabees, to my mother’s house.

We are bored with ourselves. Although working is an opportunity to employ your strengths, for women a career means making copies for a male boss. And although parenting is the most rewarding activity of all, it’s not enough. We need a way to develop our community's treasure of natural resources, beyond the talent of memorizing who the entire shandenfreud database is for the Annual Yenta Festival.

It’s time for the exhausted rabbonim to stop putting hechsherim on clothing and start approving of recreation. They can go to a dance club, check it out and declare it assur. They can go to an art studio, check it out, declare it assur. They can go to the gublein lady, check it out, and declare it assur.

I’m going to frame my art, unfinished as it is. To commemorate talent in our community, an incomplete picture.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Anonymity & Identity

Spring is here, just about arriving. Still a bit reluctant to disperse its freckles over the youthful noses, but it'll come around. The new season unplugs me from the PC and places me amidst fresh air and knee-scratched children. The early warming signals have me buttoned down afternoons with the kids in the park. It charms me out during the day with friends or neighbors, despite my usual reluctance to get into the shmoneh b’gadim, by releasing an intoxicating smell from its budding trees. It has me going down to the corner grocery store, for no good reason, to randomly enjoy sights like an earnest kollel yingerman running after his hat in a sunny wind, a sense of blithe riding in the air.

The season wakes me back to reality, out of the winterized hiding. I'm once again leaning on the park bar, clucking my tongue over much exaggerated hand-me-down chitchat; like just another frum mother, wife and yenta. I run after a fallen kid, wipe a runny nose, while sharing dinner menus and sewing tips. I haven’t been doing much socializing as of late, and deep inside I can’t help feeling a sharp stir. Everything and everyone is the same as the spring of 2006. Precisely. Yet so vastly different.

It was a long, long winter, in ways too many to number. Six months of blogging was a radical procedure that gifted me with new senses. A new level of seeing, a whole new level of thinking. It jolted me from a community I was a vessel in, and made me an observer to it. I learnt about planets beyond mine, religions above mine, a gender otherwise a mystery, about a person I am inside, a family I can approach more sincerely. At times I vent because I feel oppressed, at times I vent because the situation feels not quite right, or simply because I get completely carried away with the, I'll tell ya, exhilarating venting. I enjoyed experimenting with my pen, trying over the top slapstick, or exclusively-ours yiddishism that left the unfamiliar reader scratching his chup at the incoherency. I was allowed to be inquisitive, angry, opinionated, naive, inane, or openly eager for that last adjective to be contradicted.

Now, the outdoors calling my name, I wonder which name is actually mine. Reconnecting with my generic self, I'm trying to make sense of the two people I am; the pseudonym I’ve been covering under and the deceptive birthname that identifies me.

Those new perspectives reflect not just my own view of myself, but a new angle on the society. Nothing about the hob-hob of the typical social life now fits into the word 'routine' by any remote definition. Our community suddenly seems smaller than it was a year ago, less threatening. Women that were deeply hurtful are now just clueless themselves. Gossip seems empty, almost dull. I don't burn with self-doubt anymore for hearing a critical voice in my head disagreeing with discussions. That condescending tone once had a nerve wracking high pitch that wouldn't be silenced. Now, it's happily yelling away at some faraway blogspot.

Occasionally, the situation humors me. I’d be lingering amongst the women early morning after the kids embark their school busses, wrapped in a spring coat, seeming no less absorbed in the conversation or no more different than the rest. A tickle would suddenly flicker across my wires for the mystery of the other person I am.

But the remainder of the time I’m left with two lives, both genuinely mine, both downright different.

Nevertheless, ‘we’ have no regrets.


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