Arts & Culture
In the beginning: There was adam, a human being, a creature of the earth. On the sixth day of creation, God performed surgery, removing a rib from the human, thus creating man and woman. Six thousand years later, or … Read More
In the beginning: There was adam, a human being, a creature of the earth. On the sixth day of creation, God performed surgery, removing a rib from the human, thus creating man and woman.
Six thousand years later, or thereabouts
Day One: My daughter’s pre-prom party: The girls are wearing dresses up to here and down to there, exclaiming over each other’s hair, make-up and outfits. The boys are ambling around, necessary as escorts and for the photographs, trying and sometimes succeeding to be included in the girls’ animated conversations.
Dinner with other parents after: Sitting next to me at the table is a father of one of my daughter’s classmates. I’ve never spoken to him before, but seeing our daughters so grown up and sending them off to college, we comfortably launch ourselves into a heartfelt conversation about how time has gone so fast, and our lives and decisions have been centered around our children and now what? He half-jokingly says he would like to have another to see if he could get it right this time. I admit that I have no doubts that I would make exactly the same mistakes, for I am over-indulgent with my great-nieces. I’ll just wait to be a grandma.
Day Two: Evening, at a friend’s art opening in mid-town: Kiss hello to friends and friends of friends, and introduce my friend Judy. With Ron, whom I have known for many years, we inquire about kids and college, summer plans, and then two minutes later we cordially say goodbye. On to Esther, whom I’ve met a few times and who takes immediately to Judy. As if they are old friends, they dive into a discussion: weight loss, anti-aging products, how many languages they both speak (5 or 7 each, I can’t remember), and there is an interesting, long story from Esther about how one of her American clients, Bob, called from Turkey because his mother had taken sick on a cruise and was in a Turkish hospital. Esther lived in Turkey as a young girl, and so she was enlisted to speak Turkish to the hospital. Bob had introduced himself early on as father Bob, so Esther asked him how his daughter was. She’d thought that he was certainly very old to have a daughter who was 80 and when poor Father Bob responded that he did not have a daughter, she realized – he was a priest! I am personally not at all surprised that Esther is fast friends with a priest and now has a close relationship with the hospital staff in another country. For all her language skills, the word "stranger" is foreign to her.
After the opening: Judy and I are walking on Madison Avenue, looking at restaurants where we might have a drink and a snack. We are solicited by a tall, dark, handsome young man. He entreats us to come to his restaurant. He seems enamored by Judy, and so I impulsively say sure. Throughout the hour that we are there, he comes by to check on us. He hovers. In the end, I excuse myself to go to the ladies because maybe Judy wants to give the other half of the earth creature an opportunity to connect. When I return, sure enough, he is trying to persuade Judy to see him in the Hamptons! He is, coincidentally, Turkish.
Day 3: Breakfast with a friend the next morning: A fellow convert, Wendl recounts a recent class on the book of Ruth in which the rabbi had asked everyone to imagine themselves as Oprah, Ruth’s sister-in-law who chose not to go to Israel and instead, remained with her own people. Wendl pragmatically understands that Oprah wouldn’t relish being a stranger in a strange land, which reminds me of how many stories in the Bible are themed around being a stranger. "Who are you?" seems to be the operative question – Isaac to Jacob/Esau, Jacob to the angel, Moses to God, Boaz to Ruth, Judah to Joseph… We are so often strangers to one another, circling around politely, but now and again, striving to break through.
Day 4: At my soon-to-be-niece’s wedding shower in Chicago: Saying our goodbyes post shower, my brother-in-law attempts to join my little group of women. We are in the throes of a discussion on uncomfortable high-heels and what to do, what to do. He eventually walks off and attaches himself to a few other females. Within five minutes, he’s back with us, only to realize that shoes continue to rivet us. He leaves. For good. Later, I’m appalled at how we’d excluded him, just because he couldn’t talk insoles.
In a sauna with cousin Ruthe in Chicago: Naked, we lie on our towels while the steam floats in white wisps through the air. We are talking about uneven periods which might be related to too little progesterone, and then Ruthe mentions the Kabbalah and how so many of our ailments have to do with imbalance in energy. The Kabbalah, from what I’ve studied of it, divides God in half, sort of. Male/female, present/separate, personal/omnipotent. And it’s our job to help to unite these various aspects of God. I wonder if God suffers at times from too much estrogen or progesterone. If we balance our own, can we keep God balanced? This is fanciful and strange. Too much steam.
Day 5 In a taxi with my friend Lili, heading downtown to a political fundraiser: Her daughter calls and she answers, "Hello, my love!" A smile is on her face, in her voice. When she hangs up, I whine about how I am entirely too accessible to my children and others. This knee jerk urge to nurture. Lili cannot comprehend this. She confesses that her daughter has just told her she’s planning to be home from college four times in the fall! "I told her she didn’t have to see me if she didn’t want to." I accuse Lili of having too much progesterone.
At the fundraiser, in a loft with exposed brick walls downtown: It’s a ladies lunch, and there are about 100 women there. We mill, we chat, admire each others’ clothes, more shoe discussions. Arianna Huffington is the speaker, and she charmingly declares that women live with the voice of an obnoxious roommate in our heads, a voice that makes us feel guilty, tells us we’re not good enough. When I look around, I note that most women are listening intently, as if she is their personal friend and speaking directly, intimately, to them. We are not strangers to one another.
Day 6 At home I walk the dogs, look in the fridge for the ketchup for Daniel, tell David I won’t go out into the rain to bring him an umbrella, he can buy one himself on the street, look at Anna’s graduation dress and praise it lavishly, talk to my sister on the phone about establishing boundaries with her child (as if I would know about boundaries), and ponder what kind of a beautiful mosaic these individual days of our lives with friends who once were strangers is creating.
Day 7: "And God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, for on it He had ceased from all His task that He had created to do." I’m resting. This is the day, say the Kabbalists, when the heavens are lowered to the earth, when the masculine and feminine aspects of God are joined. It’s a day we can re-connect to God, and also to ourselves. Who are you? I’m not a stranger.