I like to think I have a good perspective on my life. I’m grateful for my job, ecstatic to have three healthy, seemingly happy kids and to have tried to manage my divorce with grace and dignity (I think). But then I meet with real adversity and once again get schooled on how much perspective matters.
I went home to Jersey over the weekend. We flew into Hurricane Sandy ravaged Long Island for a Bat Mitzvah in Connecticut. The only thing my relatives asked for were gas cans. They needed to fill the generators that were running their homes that still had no power. And here I was worried the batteries would die on the iPads my kids were playing during the three hour flight. Perspective.
Nearly all of my relatives (all live on the East Coast) suffered some type of storm damage, but yet managed to come to the Bat Mitzvah. One friend said, “You only get so many Simchas (celebrations) to enjoy in your lifetime, so you better show up when they happen.” Amidst the devastation, loss of life, property, comfort, normalcy, here they were… dancing. Perspective.
Did I mention the Bat Mitzvah girl’s mother (my first cousin Maxine) has leukemia? Her first bone marrow transplant and round of chemo isn’t working, so she’ll have to go in for another round. That sucks. She postponed treatment for a few weeks so she’d have hair and energy for her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. Yeah, perspective.
(Side note, you may need your Yiddish to English dictionary – see the bottom of the post — for the rest of the story.)
At the Bat Mitzvah, we plotzed at how mature Emma was, kfelled at how beautiful she was, we were verklempt at how skillfully she read from the Torah. Maxine wore a mask and gloves to keep germs at bay, such tsuris. But did she kvetch once? No. Then we schlepped to the catering hall, and our whole mishpocheh danced our tuches’ off at her Bat Mitzvah party. Oy, what a simcha! There is no funny Yiddish word for it, but… perspective.
The next morning, after Maxine rested and the rest of us recovered, she had a brunch at her home. Bagels, lox, whitefish, tuna… the whole gonsa megillah. Max wanted to talk about anything but cancer so she baited me into kibbitzing about dating post divorce. What a yenta. Her exact words (remember she has cancer so I couldn’t punch her): “Jaw, (translation: Jor with a bad accent) really who’s gonna want you? You’re 40, and have three small, crazy kids. Really who’s gonna want to get in bed with that?”
Welcome to my family, that’s chutzpah. These are the exact words she said to me and you know what… I laughed. I laughed so hard I nearly fell on the kitchen floor. Maxine could die, but she’s worried about who I’m going to sleep with. Bam, perspective. I laughed for another reason, too. My mother said nearly the exact same words to me a few months after my husband left, but that time I cried. This time I laughed, because I realized my perspective had changed. Oh it’s still true: I am 40, have three meshugener children and no sane mentsh would ever want to sign up for that. But with my moxie, I’ll be just fine.
With the proper perspective we all seem to get through the tough times with grace and dignity. Perspective often gets lost in the minutiae of life. I’m grateful to have a family that shoves the proper perspective in my face with brutal honesty. I hope yours is offered up with a little more tact. And maybe with a little nosh and a schmear, it wouldn’t kill you to eat a little something.
Bat Mitzvah: A religious initiation ceremony for a Jewish girl aged twelve years and one day, regarded as the age of religious maturity.
Plotz: To become emotional, with excitement, grief or anger.
Kfell: To be extraordinarily pleased; especially, to be bursting with pride, as over one’s family.
Verklempt: To be choked with emotion.
Tsuris: Aggravation, trouble.
Schlep: To go or move with effort.
Tuches: Tush, behind, bottom, butt.
Oy: Oy (You get it.)
Gonsa Megillah: Long story, big production.
Kibbitz: Talk, chat.
Yenta: Nosy busybody, gossiper.
Mentsh: A good, moral person.
Moxie: See Chutzpah.
Nosh: A snack.
Schmear: A spread, as in cream cheese, tuna, buttah.