Friday, April 29, 2011

Like Coming Home

When I can't sleep, I compose. Usually this entails a body too exhausted to move and a brain too active to shut up before getting all of its thoughts, emotions, and plans down in some unwritten vault of my brain, never to be written in any tangible form. I've written papers, book intros, you name it -- my brain has processed it brilliantly. But will you ever see the genius? Nah. I've always been too tired to put pen to paper. However, tonight I thought maybe if I write it all down, my brain will shut down and go to sleep, and maybe, just maybe, my stomach (which is upset from a cleanse-gone-wrong) will be satisfied and the two can agree peacefully to leave me alone.

So, on to the meat and potatoes of the post. After all, that was about all one could eat over Passover, right?

The last two days of Passover, Tuvia and I were in West Hartford staying with our most favorite Israeli transplants who, unfortunately, are re-transplanting to Israel in a few months. These are the amazing people that I stayed with for much of my time in West Hartford, bunking in a guest room and being woken up by the cutest little girl named after a body of water in Israel one can imagine. (That's Kinneret.) The great thing about this family is that they lived about two doors down from the shul, so my knees remained in tact and my soul got a lot of love.

Family, after all, is more than the people whose blood runs through our bodies and whose character traits we have unwillingly adopted.

Going to West Hartford, then, was like coming home. (Roll DirtyDittyMoney's "Coming Home.)

I didn't sleep much the last two days of the chag, for one reason or another. The sugar consumption of Passover was catching up to me, and the heat was obnoxiously keeping my cool-style sleep schedule off balance. So I didn't go to shul the first night, or the next morning, or the evening after that. Everyone knew I was there, because Tuvia was at shul, and the joke was that I was so frum I wasn't going to shul anymore. As. If. I was almost anxious to go to synagogue, the place where I really fell into my Orthodox pattern of life, where I learned to love and judge (yes, you read that right) other Jews and their practices, where I watched Tuvia grow in his Judaism, and where, eventually, I finalized my Orthodox conversion process.

We left that family nearly a year ago. After our May 31, 2010, wedding, we practically disappeared. Friends came to our wedding, and poof -- just like that, we were gone, caught up in the whirlwind of married life, moving, changing jobs and communities, and starting a new life. It's been great, too.

But sometimes, you just miss your friends. The people who know you best. The people who listened to your concerns, your fears, your life story in all of its detail and still chose to love you. Those people, Baruch haShem, I got to spend some time with over the last days of the chag. 

It was an amazing meal with two couples who are on a plan to move back to Israel when life gets easier. It was bonding with a wee lad named Asher (the name I've chosen for a future son of my own), who somehow gravitated toward me, staring at me deeply in the eyes looking at something that I can only imagine he saw in me. It was talking about the haggadah and the command to return to Israel. Then it was meals with our hosts, the casual and friendly way that I love it. The kids moving from couch to table and the littlest one patiently noshing tuna salad without a care in the world, smiling and giggling the whole time. It was being heard by our hosts in discussions about some of the hardest aspects of life and them being devoted to helping us along the way. It was schlepping a long way for a meal at the Brenner Bed & Breakfast (ha, ha) with some visitors from London, and learning about how the neighborhood has changed since we left and, of course, how lives have continued to move forward.

And seeing all of the regular kids in shul, grown up ... towering over each other and moving at the speed of life toward adolescence? It shook me.

The last time we were in West Hartford wasn't that long ago. Maybe six months? But in those six months, new couples have come, marriages have occurred, babies have been born, children have sprouted like well-watered plants, and people have continued living. Without us.

But walking into that synagogue, into the homes of our friends, and sitting down at the tables and chairs of people who know us all-to-well, well, that was more than I could have asked for during the last days of Passover. Being liberated from Egypt is one thing, but being liberated from the fear that the people who once knew you have forgotten who you were or stopped caring about you?