repenting, 2010

This past weekend was Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, also known as that holiday that once prompted A Former Hookup Who Had Stopped Picking Up My Calls (yes, there have been enough men that fit this description to prompt the creation of an official category) to apologize for his behavior. Powerful stuff.

This year, I spent it in New Jersey, making a cameo in synagogue, blatantly neglecting to fast, falling asleep in a dress with the sun on my back, stopping by Costco with my future in-laws, and eating a table-full of fattening, Jewish-themed carbohydrates (bagels! blintzes! kugel! mandelbread!) in order to break the fast I never even started.

I haven’t been the biggest fan of Judaism this week (side note: did you know my religion makes it almost impossible to throw a decent wedding in our modern times? Did you know sundown isn’t until nearly 8 p.m. in April? Did you know there’s a thing called the Days of Awe that precludes me from getting married during the entire spring of 2012? EVEN AMTRAK’S BLACKOUT DATES AREN’T THAT BAD.)

But, I’m not going to fuck around with a holiday that prompted a public display of remorse from a kid who just wasn’t that into me, and I think there’s value in self-evaluation and self-improvement, and I didn’t have enough vacation time left to take off for Rosh Hashanah this year. Also, that book of life thing is scary as shit.

So, in the minutes before I dozed off in the lounge chair behind Dave’s parents’ house, I thought a little bit about this past year and this coming year, about what I’ve done and haven’t done and what I want to do differently. I atoned for a few sins of the fashion variety (only skinny jeans in 5771!) before moving on to some more important areas of my life: my role as a friend and daughter; partner and roommate; neighbor and citizen and member of this human race. I thought, in grand, vague terms, about how to stand up for what’s right and be a good person and maintain my sense of self and make my little corner of the earth a better place. I got as far as translating this charge into one concrete vow (which I believe was to say ‘sorry’ when I inevitably refuse to talk to the ACLU workers who canvass Washington West in the future.) And then I fell asleep.

I woke up in time to help set the table with Dave’s grandmother Lottie, she of 80th birthday fame (and a classic Rachel summer breakdown.) I’ve always liked and respected and appreciated Grandma Lottie: her laid-back attitude, fierce independence and penchant for exotic travel strike a particular chord with me. But I have to admit that I’m still getting used to this whole, you have a new family! thing that apparently goes along with that you have a new sparkly thing to wear on your left hand! one. I like Dave’s family, a lot, it’s just an adjustment to think about adding a whole new set of parents (like, really? the ones I have are already enough of handful already, thanks), and a really, really big adjustment to think about adding a new set of grandparents, since I haven’t had any in the picture for years.

All of this is to say, I’m surprised to find myself slowly but surely – I think – falling in love with Grandma Lottie.

I can pinpoint the moment it happened to sometime after the kugel and blintzes had been cleared away, but before we broke out the apple cake and chocolate mousse and berry pie. A family friend of Dave’s parents was going on and on about her plans for her daughter’s, well, life: first, the wedding coming up in July, and then the addition of a grandchild – a boy, preferably – who she was expecting to be born sometime after the first year after marriage. A little voice inside my head was saying no – to what exactly I wasn’t sure, but something about the conversation struck me as somehow wrong and, just, well, besides the point, in the very sense of the term. And then Grandma Lottie put it into words.

“Well, it’s not really up to us, now is it?”

Her words weren’t condescending or grating or judgmental. But they were firm and true and right: a type of speaking and thinking I couldn’t quite get my hands around earlier in the day, but to which I’d very much like to aspire.

And just like that, I had it: my reflection and epiphany and resolution for the year, no empty stomach required.


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