One of my favorite songs from the college years is "Closing Time," by Semisonic, a song about a bar that is about to close and all of the random people you are encountering for an evening of fun, are all about to go their separate ways. "Closing time, every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." Some timely words as this project of mine is coming to an end.
The past two weeks, in the midst of my final month of this blog project, have included an earthquake, a hurricane and a move across town for my family. Not to make excuses, but I have certainly had my hands full. Needless to say, I was able to fit in a few more calls to long lost family and friends who knew my mom in her hey day. And during these talks, I've learned so much about my mom's childhood, her dreams and her family life.
Not only did I learn more about her, I made some new and close relationships with extended family and friends from her past. They are now like family to me. And, with their help, I have uncovered a treasure trove of long lost family photos of both my mom and her family (through her father's side) as well as keepsakes of her name in school violin concerts and the like. I am sure more discoveries will find their way from New York and Washington State to my little mailbox in Silver Spring. And I feel so fortunate for this month of detective work and exploration.
Since I grew up with my nana (my mother's mom) assisting with our raising from toddler hood to high school, I have lots of photos and stories of my family through my mother's mother. What I gathered this time around, are photos from my mom's father's side. My papa was the youngest ordained hazan (cantor) in the USA at the age of 13. He conducted weddings from my mom's childhood apartment in the Bronx and officiated at so many smachot (celebrations).
Here are just two photos shared with me. One of my mother posing in all her splendor and another of my great grandmother Anna, the grandmother of my papa (my mom's dad and my nana's husband) lighting candles to start the holiday of Passover, sometime in the 40's-50's. Just unreal. As I bring the light of the holiday candles into my home each week, I am inspired through the lighting of my Grandma Gertie's brass candlesticks from Poland (my dad's mom) and now through these unearthed photos of my great grandmother on my mother's side. My family always grew up with Jewish spirituality and connection and apparently observance was a part of the picture back in the day. Since I have returned to this way of life as of my college years, it is such an empowering feeling to look at my ancestors and ways in which they connect to G-d.
So with my 33rd birthday a week away, I wanted to close out this year and say just how fortunate I feel to have had this year to explore myself as a person and to push myself both physically and mentally to the next level. No I didn't have the chance to visit New Zealand and the Great Barrier Reef of Australia or see the green fields of Ireland. But I am still young and please G-d, I will have many more years ahead of me to explore these places with my family in the future.
I have had some highs, both literally in my zip lining and my bike riding lessons and some lows, encountering a fear of bugs and struggling to find volunteer positions with bar tenders and the local aquarium in town. Some projects never came into fruition while others, such as shadowing a professional pastry chef, taught me so many new tricks of the trade I can bring to my kitchen.
I have learned that one can always make time for the important things, no matter how busy or how overloaded one becomes. And that nothing ever goes the way you envision it in your head. I struggled to make time each month between my husband's hectic schedule, two kids under the age of four and a part time job that changes moment to moment. But somehow, I made it happen. Sure, there are things I wished I accomplished, like whitewater rafting and others I probably could have done without (bugs are totally overrated), but all in all, I have truly grown as a person. I have learned more about my strengths to handle unexpected challenges and both the importance of and the limitations of relying on friends to get you through a tough spot. At the end of the day, you have to come through for yourself. Expectations of yourself are often unrealistic and expectations we have of others are all the more so.
You learn how to be a good person by being one yourself. And we get through difficult times by becoming the person we wished we had during those times of our deepest fears.
I am thankful for my family who was so supportive and understanding through this process and to my children who have taught me in their short little years thus far, how I can go on to be a caring and tuned in mom despite not having a mother figure in my life all these years. One of the hardest challenges I have faced was bringing my daughter home from the hospital and not having my mom to call or to share with me the memories she had of raising us. Now at least, I have a few of those stories backed up by photos, of her earlier life back in the day.
As I embrace my 33rd year, a year I never thought in my whole life, I would live to see, I just want to be more aware of my inner voice, take nothing for granted and to be the mom to my kids that I always wished I had. The biggest blessing in life we can give to others is to be true to ourselves and have no regrets. This year has afforded me the opportunity to pencil myself into the gerbil wheel of residency and new motherhood and I feel to lucky to have brought it into fruition. What will this next year and the future hold for me, that no one knows. But at least I have been granted the days and the minutes to be here in the life of my kids to savor their ups and their downs, their new achievements and the obstacles along the way.
Thank you all for joining me on this journey. Your emails, calls and personal stories of mother loss and tackling hidden dreams and fears inspired me to follow through this daunting path.
Its closing time and I'm back to my routine of a life, but this time with a better head on my shoulders and a few less fears in my pocket. I feel lighter, refocused and inspired to face my next adventure, whatever life has in store for me. Mid-thirties... ready or not.... here I come!