I ask daddy what he thinks about my youngest sister, Rachael, getting married. "Well," daddy begins (he always begins with a thoughtful and drawn out "Well"), "she’s different from the rest of you, and I tell you the truth, I … Read More
I ask daddy what he thinks about my youngest sister, Rachael, getting married. "Well," daddy begins (he always begins with a thoughtful and drawn out "Well"), "she’s different from the rest of you, and I tell you the truth, I really never knew if she would get married so I decided a long time ago to put it in God’s lap."
My initial reaction is to be tickled by this mental image of my 33-year-old sister sitting patiently in God’s lap until God decided, "Hmm, I think I’ll hook Rachael up." But then, looking at daddy’s serious expression, I find that I admire his ability as a parent to be willing to accept that, while he would move heaven and earth for his children, there are things that are beyond him. I admire, too, his unshakable belief in an approachable God who, with all of the other things to contend with in this world, is willing to personally care for each individual.
As a baby, Rachael was in my 14-year-old lap many nights. My mother was 42 when she was born (what business she had having sex at that age was beyond me!) and she’d had a C-section, so for the first several months I often got up in the middle of the night to give Rachael a bottle. I’d sit in the rocker and sing her lullabies and feed her. Sometimes, when I was particularly tired, I would just put her in bed with me, stick the bottle in her mouth and prop it up with a pillow and close my eyes. A few times, I woke up to a loud thump. Rachael had fallen on the floor. She didn’t cry much, as I recall, and was a happy baby and child. I have other fond memories of placing a one-year-old Rachael in the folds of sheets hanging on the clothesline and, along with my sisters Sarah, Mary and Liz, we would wave the sheets and bounce her high in the air. We still think she liked it, despite falling out a few times. When Rachael was eight years old, she was the only one left at home. The rest of us were in college, married, or living on our own. So she grew up somewhat as an only child, with my parents hovering about anxiously, literally jumping up and running to her when she sneezed. You’d think they hadn’t already had ten children. But she was different than the rest of us, in many ways, at the very least because my parents thought so, and if others believe that you are special and amazing, then you believe it, too, because why would your parents lie? There was no way that Rachael would accept being with some guy who didn’t think, too, that she was the bees’ knees. Thus, she sat in God’s lap. I tell Rachael about my conversation with daddy, and ask her how it felt to be sitting in God’s lap. She quips, "’Let Go and Let God,’ you know?" I haven’t heard that phrase for a while, but I admit that I like it. "Letting go and letting God" is the antithesis of the intellectual Jewish world that I mostly inhabit. God might be an important component of one’s life, but few Jewish mothers or fathers that I know would leave their daughter’s marriage up to God. Rachael continues, "Daddy would always say, ‘You don’t know how much I worry about you,’ and I would say, ‘You don’t have to worry,’ and then he would say, ‘Oh, I pray for you every day.’" "But if he was really letting go and letting God, why did he have to pray for you? Shouldn’t he have been doing one or the other?" I ask, ever-logical. "He was covering his bases," she says. "Maybe," she goes off on another tack, "God didn’t want to let go? At some point, God has to let go, too. I needed a ‘Get-out-of-God’s-lap-free’ card." "You got it," I say. "Anyway, you haven’t told me how it felt to be sitting in God’s lap." She laughs and says it was cozy most of the time, but that she’d never viewed God as being an old white man with a beard. Though both Rachael and I grew up in the same church, I will admit that for most of my life, that’s how I saw God. Even today, I’m not uncomfortable with imagining God as having human features – Jews tend to be, I know, probably because a human looking God is too close to the Christian iconography of Jesus as a baby in the bosom of his family or as a man on the cross – but there are a number of Biblical passages that refer to God’s breasts and God’s loins and God’s face and hands and arms. Oh, Biblical apologists can say "metaphorical" all they want, but I would bet the Biblical writers meant those descriptions to be literal. "So how did you view God?" I ask Rachael. "When I was 6 years old, and in one of the church programs, we were asked to draw a picture of God and the image that came to mind was of a rainbow colored gumdrop," she says. "Maybe we all have little pieces of a rainbow colored gumdrop in us!" She is being purposely silly – but not. In much the same way that my parents’ image of Rachael shaped her perception of herself as being special and different, her view of God is indicative of who she was, and it also became a self-fulfilling prophecy. For Rachael, God is an all-embracing, accepting of differences, sweet and bright-colored, cheerful, happy God. It reminds me of the old adage: God created man in His image and man, being a gentleman, returned the favor. When my parents said they’d chosen the name "Rachel" for my sister, I suggested spelling it with an "a" in it (I don’t know why – it looked cool). My parents agreed, and thus we have Rachael. Of the 19 famous Rachaels mentioned on Wikipedia, 13 are in the music/acting world, 5 are in sports, and Rachael Ray is a cook/television personality. Maybe there’s something to be said for self-fulfilling prophecies, because my sister has been in the music/acting world her whole life. I guess I’ll take credit for that. It might make up for dropping her on the floor. Rachael’s fiancée, Adam, is well-named for her. The first human being created, and created in God’s image, God had to find someone very special for Adam – not just anyone would do. Adam had to hang out in God’s lap for a while, too, until Eve was designed, just for him. All of us siblings are happy that she’s found her beschert, her intended. My sister Liz thinks that we might be too "long in the tooth" to be in a wedding party, but you know, if my mother could have a baby at 42, then I can be a bridesmaid when Rachael gets married.