Sunny skies, birds chirping… an unseasonal heatwave… and here I am weeping in the stupid ulpan party. Luckily, Ted was there. And luckily also, it’s impossible to cry through “gangnam style.” So I didn’t miss too much.
It’s not that we made a mistake coming here. Let me rephrase that: we didn’t make a mistake, coming here. But we are very, very far away from the place we’ve always called home. Sometimes, it’s impossible to get away from the feeling that you are way, way away from where you’re supposed to be.
Of course, I do believe that here is where we’re supposed to be. Most of the time, that helps.
But when the list starts listing itself in my head of the people we’ve left behind… I’m sad. I miss my mother, my sisters Sara and Abigail, even (a little) my brother, my Aunt Dorothy, Uncle Michael, Marilyn, beloved neighbour Judy, cherished friends (I could pretend I have too many to name, but ha ha ha – I don’t) Shira, Chana Beila, Sara, okay, there are some others, but I don’t connect with people well and I know that. Friendly neighbours, shul acquaintances, and just all the people you smile at going up and down the street.
Most particularly, most especially, most painfully, the little person I gave birth to 19 years ago, who hates to dance and sing with me at the best of times, but who nevertheless has been there for every Chanukah anyway, my entire adult life.
Listing them helps. Quantifying the pain, touching the idea of each person in my mind, actually helps. Maybe because when it first hits, the sadness of being apart from them feels INFINITE. Like there are a million, a billion, a googol of them that I’ve left behind. But still. Of course, each person left behind is an infinity of ouch, but thinking of them, sending them little eGifts (which I know, usually mean “I don’t give a darn,” but from Israel mean, “I saved postage so I could send you a more valuable gift”), reminds me that even though the pain is real, I can bear it, get through it, and even still feel happier when I think of them and talk to them.
We rehearsed a song (“Ner Li”), then stood up and sang it to the assembled crowd of all the ulpan students. Ted was all nervous because he had two lines to say during his class’s performance, but my only solo task was translating the song into English (Also goofy: “My candle, my candle, my thin candle. On Chanukah, I will light my candle. On Chanukah, my candle will glow. On Chanukah, I will sing songs.”)
Now we have a vacation for a week and a half, and after that, just over a week to prepare for the upcoming EXAM that concludes our Ulpan Alef (Hebrew Boot Camp) study.
And now, I’m feeling a little bit better – heading into the kitchen in a minute to wash dishes so I can make latkes and something chicken-y for our first night’s supper. On Friday, when Elisheva comes up, I will make my regular chocolate sourdough sufganiyot, using the culture I brought with me from Canada… a little taste of home, right here in our “pina ketana” (פינה קטנה / little corner) of the Holy Land.
One thing I’m trying not to do. All my life, I’ve heard immigrants talking about life “back home.” I don’t refer to Canada as “home,” even though it has been my home my whole life. This is a conscious choice and a HARD choice. It’s nice, easy shorthand… but I’m trying not to do it. We are home.
Just in case you’re feeling blue, too – for wherever it is you came from, or whoever it is you miss – here’s a little taste of the Gangnam groove (caution – may contain inappropriate images, in which case, just flip the video into the background and just listen to the audio). (Try it; it really is impossible to be sad while listening to it!)
And just to cancel out the secular bizarrity of that video, let me also throw one in with an Israeli tune that is wildly popular and yet also wildly spiritual, that odd Israeli mindset that even if you’re not religious, Hashem is looking out for you if only you believe He’s there.
Happy Chanukah to all my fellow Israelis who may be feeling at once at home and far from home, and to my fellow Canadians who are missing us this Chanukah. You are missed like crazy.