We’re getting ready to end and then begin a new, Jewish year. I was raised in a home that was both very Jewish and very secular. But the combination of the way that the educational calendar as a child and now as a mother, imprinted in my mind and the fact that the Jewish year ends and the new year begins at this time of year means for me– that the winter new year has very little meaning and this time of year really is my end and then my beginning of a year. Every year has its counting up to do, but the counting and accounting and recounting seems especially relevant this year. I’ll begin but not end here.
Returning from vacation rocked my world in many different ways. There are so many milestones and things to count, and recount (as in tell). For one thing my daughter turned 10 this past May. 10 is just a different kind of number than the ones before. I didn’t think so very much of it until I found myself in the thick of it.
The start of 5th grade for my daughter the day after we returned from vacation, an earthquake on the second day of school, hurricane Irene at the end of that first week and the anniversary on the same day (yes, it has been one full year) of walking out the door of my last job. Other significant beginnings are happening here too.
My daughter and I have been going through an especially rocky patch– or perhaps better said, a patch of tumult; she hates me, finds me horrible and mean, ugly, fat and stupid, critical, unfair and a lot of other undesirable things. And she adores me, wants me, wants my undivided attention cries that she doesn’t want to go to school and wants only to be with me, comes to me and says “see, I’m shaking” and presses against me so I can feel that she is, indeed, scared of something and is trembling. Some days she only wants to be home with me, to spend time with me, to do what we call “special time”, wants me to bring her to school late, get her early and then do that again the next day. I lament these days of difficulty and at the same time I look to the not very distant day when she will just be busy all day, with barely a moment to call me– or traveling somewhere far away without me and I’m not so bothered by life as it is right now. Some days she wakes up with her eyes on the horizon of time with a friend and I help arrange that and then as soon as that one is getting ready to leave, she is asking “who else can I play with?”
I am struggling hard with some of the same questions I was writing about last year at this time– what do I want to do with this part of my life. There is pain and deep mind-bending fear and feelings of failure, there is excitement and hope and just a lot of pleasure in there and then there is work like everyone else does; endless emails, meals to plan, laundry, groceries, broken things to get fixed– like the fact that the brakes completely and dangerously went out on my car the other day on the way to a dental appointment. Money to be thought about and budgeted.
I am certain of a few things though; That it is nothing but good that I am gone from the job I left which was a bad place. And that it has been good to have year at home with my daughter, with a schedule that allowed things in relation to her; like being able to drop everything and be at school with her 25 minutes after the tremor of the earth moving and shaking underneath us last month.
This past weekend we observed the 4th yahrzeit since my father-in-law died– a death that has been especially hard on my partner–and the 10th anniversary of 9/11 which happened here in our city as well as in New York City and Pennsylvania. This year my daughter had a school assignment to interview someone about 9/11 and she interviewed her uncle who lived then and still does work just blocks from the site of the World Trade Center. I thought about what it has meant to have a family in which 9/11 marked the beginning of motherhood– what has it been like to have had that happen just a very few months (3) into my daughter’s life and to try to be hopeful and easy and relaxed in those weeks and months after– holding a sleeping baby in my arms or going to the store and listening to the radio in the car or flying on a plane.
Raising and nurturing a young person in the aftermath of all that has been a joy but the backdrop has been; a war that is without end, Abu Graib and torture that has gained legitimacy such that it has been the subject of national debate rather than the terrible act of a tiny fringe of outliers, deceit, a crashed and crashing economy. But also hopeful things that seem to flow also from that time. Revolutions of different varieties brewing in Wisconsin, Ohio, Egypt, Israel– but all of them expressions of regular people longing to be heard, to be part of a true democracy where their interests take precedence over the manipulation of the interests of the few.
There is a lot of counting and accounting and recounting to do and I am only just beginning.