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21 Years

12

She has been gone for nearly 21 years, but occasionally I still catch a glimpse of my Grandma. I see her in my shadow when I go walking—especially when the sun plays tricks, shrinking me to less than my full size; especially when my knee aches with morning stiffness, affecting my gait ever so slightly.

Most of all, I see her when I am typing. I pause to stretch my fingers and I see my Grandma’s hands attached to my wrists! I gaze at them as they are poised over the clay spinning on the potter’s wheel—noticing their length, the shape of the knuckles—and I wonder: Did my hands undergo a transformation, or did they always look just like her hands?

Every vein is accentuated as I roll long coils of dough to braid challah. I close my hands into loose fists and watch the skin smooth over. I inspect them carefully for age spots. Finding none, I realize they are no longer my Grandma’s hands, but mine.

I flex my fingers—allowing the veins to recreate their prominent ridges—and imagine how my hands will grow and change in the next 21 years. For a brief moment, I see my Grandma again…and I miss her.

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Photo credit: Free Digital Images

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Virtual Community

Yesterday, I received an email notification from Twitter: “Schmaltz Deli is now following you.”

Why is a deli following me?

I reread the email, and then I read it a third time, finally able to reconstruct the virtual events that led Schmaltz Deli from Naperville to Atlanta, by way of Bernardsville, NJ.

Because Tiferet published my piece that began with the sentence: “Sometimes, in my dreams, I am in a New York deli eating a hot pastrami on rye.”

Earlier this year, I joined an online community of writers called Tiferet. At first I was uncertain about belonging to a virtual community, but quickly discovered the tangible benefits: corresponding with other writers who share my interest in interfaith relations, receiving advice and drawing inspiration from the publisher of Tiferet Journal are just a few. Tiferet also offer writers an opportunity to share ideas through a Member Blogs page that is unlike most blogs, which function without gatekeepers. Their editors read through submissions and choose which posts to feature.

I have learned from my involvement in this community is that I am my most important reader: I write, first and foremost, for myself. Every day my brain generates ideas and words and my heart urges me to commit them to paper. At the same time, Tiferet has given me a sense of validation as a writer by publishing my work and sharing it with a wider audience.

When I left the classroom to launch into my second career, I relished the quiet time I spent alone with my thoughts. Four years later, I am finding a healthy balance between sustaining myself and contributing to society. I am grateful to Tiferet for featuring my blog posts, and, moreover, for welcoming me into their community of writers.

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Good Fences Make Good Neighbors?

8

When I was in the fifth grade, my family moved to the suburbs. We lived in a house on a corner lot, and our spacious backyard combined with those of our neighbors behind us. All of the kids traveled in a pack across invisible property lines. There were no fences.

Next door there was a metal swingset, which squeaked and shimmied whenever more than two of us played on it. Another neighbor had planted bushy pine trees in his yard, a perfect spot for hide-and-seek. We ran wild, playing tag until dusk approached and we wandered home for dinner. There were no schedules, no play dates, no individual juice boxes. If we needed to drink water or use the bathroom, we ducked into whatever house was closest to where we were playing.

The suburban neighborhood where we now live is both remarkably similar to and entirely different from that of my youth. There are fences and wooden playsets in nearly every yard, and there has been a recent emergence of basketball hoops in every driveway. Next door, two doors down, across the street and next door to across the street…Every afternoon I hear the syncopated rhythm of individual basketballs. After a while, the sounds of dribbling and lay-ups meld together until they seem to be coming from a single court.

Our children don’t travel in a pack from house to house; they are driven in vans or SUVs to the homes of school friends who live miles away from us. There are no spontaneous games of hide-and-seek or pick-up basketball in our neighborhood. I can accept that times have changed. But when I hear those balls hitting the pavement, I remember how we used to fill our old neighborhood with the noise of just one, bouncing ball and of many children playing together.

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