One of the rationales behind Orthodox Jewish modesty mandates is that we are not whom we appear to be on the outside, but rather the true essence of each person hovers on the inside, unseen but manifesting in actions and words, nuances and cadences. That’s a nice story. But we are the sum total of all of our parts, seen and unseen, felt and imagined.
Each time I gave birth, I looked at my babies and marveled at their 10 fingers, 10 toes, and total lack of preconceived notions and expectations other than to be fed, held and nurtured. It became my promise to them, these perfect soft creatures who didn’t ask to be born into a world of unfairness, to satisfy their need for love and nourishment. It amazed me how simply holding them close quieted their cries – that familiar smell of the person who can solve all of your problems.
When my babies cry in the night, I kick back the covers and go to them. There have been times when I cursed under my breath or tried to reason with the unresponsive wall – but mostly, I hear a cry to connect, and I pull them to me.
My kids don’t play much with blocks, but this week, I was reminded of the rules of construction: some stay where they are put, some lead to incredible towers of delight and joy, and others crumble to the ground.
Work hard, get good grades, apply to college, graduate with a degree. Get a job, save money, fall in love, build a family. We set ourselves on paths and don’t expect bends or detours.
We are forced to make choices we don’t want to make, never knowing the reason why the path turned. Almost always, we decide on the surgeon’s knife so we can keep making decisions, so we can celebrate our children’s moments.
Today is the wispy kind of Indian Summer day that buzzes with sweet-seeking bees. My open windows bring in the sound of crickets from the nature preserve. Clouds lace the sky.
I wake up in the morning wondering which tasks I’ll cross off my list, which path I’ll follow. Like the promise of a classroom, there is possibility in the sunrise. Perhaps the Orthodox don’t have it so wrong after all – each day, we are born anew, given another chance at life.
And sometimes, you just have to let the feelings go. Whether into pools of tears or leaping squeals of abundant delight, if we keep the feelings at arm’s length, we relegate ourselves to white windowless boxes.
Yesterday, when I picked up Shaya from preschool, he came running toward me down the hall. His arms reached for me, his golden curls bounced. I scooped him into my arms and nestled my nose to his soft cheek.
“You comed for me!” he said.
“Of course I did,” I replied. “Mommy always comes back.”
Don’t fear the coming of the dawn, for it always comes.