“I am always drawn back to places where I have lived, the houses and their neighbourhoods.” (first line from Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s)

Is it places I’ve lived? My first shag-carpet bedroom with the canopy bed and matching curtains, the cookie-cutter New York Murray Hill apartment, or the Bethesda walk-up that overlooked NIH?

Or the moments when I’ve felt most alive –¬†hiking Maroon Bells, Dog Mountain, Masada at sunrise; my fingers on the cool pink stones in Jerusalem; every time I heard the guttural roll of John’s voice all those years we ran to and from each other; three hours after the birth of my last baby as the sun rose orange-white outside the shuttered blinds of my hospital room and I gazed at my perfect little boy, overcome by the miracle of his existence.

Today, the sun on my face, my three children splashing and diving and immersing in water cool and inviting. Their gleeful smiles, their sun-kissed cheeks, curls turned golden from afternoons in fresh air. My arms browning in sun, taking shape as I cut through water and wind, back and forth, gulping air, breathing and not thinking.

My house in all its hues – colors into moods, paintings and drawings and old photographs setting tone. Some walls bare, waiting for an imprint. Others filled with representations of moments we want to hold onto.

In the car, esoteric conversations: “Mommy, how did the first people know how to talk?” (Asher) “Mommy, what does MOH spell?” (Eliana) “Mommy, also my window open?” (Shaya) I give simple answers and involved ones and they listen and they don’t.

After breakfast at a table for two, Asher climbed into my lap. Always, the pit and roll of kids cooperating and kids rebelling and kids insisting on whatever independence they can muster. After dinner, we sang happy birthday to my father (today was the day) and he thrust his fists in the air, a smile on his face. “Happy birthday Papa!” he exclaimed, every card imprinted with the number 70, an age worth claiming.

Later, a friend said he has to stop defining himself in relation to other people. I wonder if we who were raised in an entrenched Jewish world can ever think of ourselves without the context of community. We must identify ourselves in a context, but we must know who we are standing alone in a field of sweetly swishing grasses and long lines of unbroken sun.

Odds and ends… check out an interesting blog post (July 6) at http://theautoprophet.blogspot.com/. It raises questions that are asked in every religious community, ones I’ve pondered in my years as an earnest religious Jew.


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