Finding myself in the Middle East

Thursday, October 28, 2010

In the Middle of Our Street

The house that I grew up in is tall and slender and red-bricked and squeezed between its neighbors. Each room is an unimaginative square, each piece of furniture solid and sensible.

The people that I grew up with are tall and slender and green-eyed, eleven of us with a two year space between each one. We filled up the house with ourselves, with the noises of homework and dinner, of singing and teasing, of feet running up and down worn out carpeted steps, and games of monopoly that went on for days.

During solemn moments following a game of Fire or pretending to be a radio station host and guests, we would all reafirm our plans never grow apart. We would get old and married and have kids, sure, but we would do it together. We would build a community called "Katzville" and live together happily ever after.

Katzville is now the name of the album that I keep all of the pictures of my siblings and their spouses and kids in.

"Ima, who is that baby?"

"That's Uncle Yaakov and Aunt Yael's baby. Her name is Penina, but they call her Penny."

"I never saw her, right?"

"Right. She was born after our last trip to America."

"So I'll see her next time we go?"

"Yeah, you'll see her next time we go."

A friend of mine doesn't fly in anymore. She says it's too hard, and too expensive and besides, what kind of meaningful relationship can you develop from a couple of weeks spread over a span of years? She says it's silly to cling to your past at the expense of your present.

I think that my past is my present and my future. Katzville may be just a photo album instead of a town, and my daughter might pierce my heart a little whenever she reminds me that she is not growing up with her cousins, with her blood, the way that I had always dreamed, but the slender house and siblings that I grew up with are part of who I am. I can't imagine a future without them.

My past wasn't perfect, but it was full of life and love.

I'm going to teach my kids how to play Fire.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful writing. I have never tried to figure out who you are because I have had the feeling that you are trying to remain anonymous. I just wanted to write to tell you that I hope you changed these names! There is a lot of information in here that can be very revealing for you. And I would love to know how to play Fire!

JerusalemStoned said...

Thank you so much! I wrote this on word because I was actually writing this piece for something else and just decided to publish it here first without thinking. All is changed. You are a very thoughtful person. Thanks again!

seeker said...

Just for the record, as someone with overseas relatives, I think a couple of weeks every year or so really can be the foundation of a meaningful relationship. Once the kids are old enough, they can take off on it with phone calls and letters, but it starts with knowing who you're talking to and having shared memories.

JerusalemStoned said...

re your kids older? Do they actually have real relationhips like you described? That gives me a lot of hope!

Proud Tante said...

I do feel like my oldest has relationships with his single aunts and uncles and grandparents. I find cousins trickier though. He learns with his grandfather (my fil) chumash every night. So we are working on it...

JerusalemStoned said...

amazing. thanks for sharing.

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