The slaves of memories

It’s been a difficult week, so much reflection. Memories have weighed heavily and mixed with questions that likely will never be answered. But it’s ok, really..

This week is Passover for all of those celebrating Jews. Families will sit and read the haggadah and tell the story of the deliverance of the Jews from slavery at the hands of the Pharaoh. There are many who will retell the same story over and over as passed down from the MANISCHEWITZ Hebrew English HAGGADAH For Passover while children wiggle in their chairs and the adults follow along glassy eyed until it might be their turn to read a chapter as fast as they can so that hopefully they can get this over with and get on with dinner that has been held hostage from them until they dip the celery in the eggs, slap together the matzo and horseradish, and say the last of the passages.

There will be a few families who take the extra moments and do it differently, perhaps talking about the true meaning of slavery, thinking of what it means to be a Jew in modern times, or the purpose of rituals in Judaism.  This year for me, Passover started a bit earlier in the week and has continued to grow over the last few days.

Last week my husband and daughter went with me to Las Vegas where I hoped to see my family and relax for a few days in the warm sun.  In getting ready for the trip I felt rushed to gather as much as I could in preparation for the long trip.  I wasn’t sure what clothes we would need but didn’t want to over pack as we weren’t checking bags.  So I felt this effort to try to grab as much as I could but left things behind that I wondered if I might need.  I paused then to think of all of the times that people have had to rush from their homes and leave for a new life. How difficult that must have been for those families to only take as much as they could carry and let their material memories stay behind.

As I left my home and traveled to the desert I looked out over the country that we flew across and marveled at the way we traveled now. Our music playing in our ears, wi-fi at our fingertips so that we never lose contact, snacks handed out freely by smiling hosts, we travel as kings.  But there was a question in my heart about what else this trip would mean; there were questions and concerns that I didn’t give words to.

As a child things were complicated with my family. I am not sure how to put this sweetly, but there was a lot of drama.  My parents loved me, I am sure.  But they weren’t a good match for each other.  In fact as I have come to understand, my parents pulled a Kardashian wedding and I was their souvenir.  But this also meant that I wouldn’t really get to know my father or his family. In fact this trip would mean that for the first time in my memories, I would be able to sit with my Father, Aunt, and Grandmother and have dinner together.  It would be the first time that any of my children would meet my Aunt and Grandmother.  I was pretty nervous and a bit scared they wouldn’t like me.  I sat thinking of all of the things I would want to say to them.  Questions about who they are, what they were like, did they even know me?

At the same time as my feet touched down I was pulled in a different direction and my Mother called to tell me that her mother was dying.  In truth, I wasn’t close to that Grandmother either.  We had a very difficult relationship and I never felt like I knew her or was part of her family. I questioned my indifference and realized that the problem came with knowing that I had tried so hard in my life to be noticed and wanted by my Mother’s family… yet it meant nothing. Somewhere I gave up that need and realized that I could find a family that actually wanted me to be a part of it all on my own.  I left the slavery of conflict and hard feelings and set myself free to be loved and wanted for who I am.  I learned how to love myself and accept me for who I am.  I found a family in friends and of those who wanted to be part of my life, and they love me for the good and the bad.

But there was sadness in the end when my Mother’s mother passed this week.  Her tears brought me down, but I knew to hold to my strength and let the memories float on down the river.

What I found this week was that there were others who did want me.  Others who questioned where I had been all of these years and why I didn’t come looking for them.  I didn’t know… and I wished I had.  I am sure they don’t know of the letters I sent a few years ago to addresses across the country looking for them, wondering then if they were just not interested in knowing me.  I’m sad now that I lost so many years with them. I’m sad that I let the harsh memories of my childhood make me a slave and hold me back from embracing others. I realized that there were many versions of the stories passed on and I didn’t know where to find answers.

For 40 years I wandered my life looking for a place to call home.  I think I have come to find what it might look like.   I lost one Grandmother this week, her passing should weigh heavier on me but doesn’t.  But in trade I gained a new Grandmother and Aunt who were exactly who I had wished them to be. Sweet and full of stories, laughing and letting the past go lightly away, we sat and talked… we cried and hugged… and letting them go was terribly difficult.

When my feet returned home and we rushed to meet the rest of my family for the Passover dinner I saw things I hadn’t before.  I found the importance of this celebration.. to bring family together and to reunite our passion for being a tribe.   Pulled apart we are just one.. weaker and quiet, but as a family we are this loud voice full of multiple passions and views and we are strong.

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