On a cloudy day, the sun whispers itself into the sky and the view out the living room windows stays blue for hours. The snow reflects dully off the sky and back again. The room lightens. I lay on the couch reading War and Remembrance.
My little guy wakes and clomps downstairs on the wood steps, climbs onto me and burrows into the blanket. His stuffed monkey is swaddled in the green frog blanket that was a baby gift for his older brother, but never loved until he came along.
“You’re the best Mommy in the universe of Mommies,” he says as he burrows in deeper.
“I am so lucky to be your Mama,” I say. And we go on like this for a few minutes, proclaiming our love, what is so difficult to describe in the best words we can reach.
On Facebook, a woman I barely know shows photos of a beautiful beach in the Caribbean and I want to travel there, now. But I won’t. In a year with a spring bar mitzvah and a fall bat mitzvah, there is little travel. Just the trip with my three tweens to Israel at year-end to bookend this incredible year in Jewish identity.
So much so that when a great fare comes up on Air France, I refuse to buy it. I will not go through Paris, not even symbolically, not even to linger in the airport, after all the hate that’s been spewing forth from that city. Yes, it would be fun to get off the plane and spend a long layover strolling the Champs Elysees, but I won’t do it on principle. Stop the hate before we will spend our money in a city overrun with anti-Semitism.
To be Jewish is like this silent sunrise: it comes whether you’re looking for it or not. It’s who we are. It’s a fact of our existence, from the moment we are born until the moment we die, and we mark passages and milestones in silent, beautiful ritual, in our comforting communities, whether or not you notice.
Today is my cousin’s baby’s brit milah, the ritual of circumcision, and my children are eager to be there to witness this newborn milestone. We become witness to one another’s success and follies in this life, and we cherish the opportunity to be present, to count in the counting.
In the book I am reading, the military details from pre-war to full-on World War II cannot belie the terrible hatred and misinformation that created one of the greatest atrocities in the history of humankind. Because of who I am, at birth, am I that formidable? Not to be liked by simple fact of heritage and birth?
It is, in the 21st century, almost unbelievable. And yet, it happens today. In corners of the world, there is hatred just because you are born to one tribe or another, something completely out of your control.
It is something we cannot change and even when we change it, we are told that there is no changing, you are who you are born to be, whether you like it or not.
I would never want to change the fact of my Jewishness. And I would never hate someone because of their faith or their heritage. I cannot even imagine it.
As my little guy snuggled into me this morning, I looked into his big eyes and saw them turning green against the backdrop of his green flannel pajamas. I told him so, and he said, “My eyes change all the time, depending on what I’m wearing.”
“Mine, too,” I said, and suddenly we were peering into each other’s eyes, so similar, so familiar, changing in the light of the day from blue to green and back again.
When you can look in someone’s eyes and see your own, it is impossible to hate.
Hatred grows when humanity dissolves. How do we go from newborn innocence and love of all, to jaded judgment, categorizing some people as preferred, others as to be kept at a distance?
It’s a funny thing, this human life. We are set on the earth to figure out our purpose and in the middle of it, we wrap ourselves in drama and story, preference and complaint.
But when you stand back to look at what we are really all doing here, it seems so simple. Every single person is every other person, a beating heart, a thinking brain, a tongue that exclaims at flavor, a hand that revels in touch.
Reduced to these simple pleasures and joys of life, labels of “nerd” and “bully” and “friend” disappear. We are all one, all vessels of love and creativity and possibility.