Thursday, December 31, 2009
My sister: the new me
Anyone who makes Aliyah has done the math and figured out that moving from the land of plenty to the land of milk and honey requires a significant change in lifestyle. Yet we have all come to the same conclusion that sometimes less is really more. I had prepared myself to be at peace with giving up my house, cars, pool and full-time help, not to mention leaving behind a community that we loved and loved us (well except for a few wayward congregants here and there.) I understand now what a friend of mine, who had moved states, said to me about the experience. She told me that she couldn’t sleep one night because she could not stop thinking that if she died the next day, there would be no one at the funeral. No one in her new community knew her. I mean people knew her. They just didn’t know her. And now I know what she meant. But at the end of the day, I was prepared for this. I like my new home, my new-to-me car, and my life here very much. Still nothing could have prepared me for my sister picking up, exactly where I left off. As fate would have it, my sister moved into my old house today. Not only that, she is moving in at the same stage of life as me – with one rambunctious little toddler boy running around the great big space. So now she’s me, only thinner. I was so excited about this development. Something felt good about it. I was happy that my house was being inhabited by family. My lay-z-boy chair that didn’t make it into the lift would be in good hands once again (incidentally, this chair has the pattern of an old world map on it. When it didn’t make it to Israel, I took it as a sign that our years as wandering Jews are over.) But now I’m having a different sort of reaction. I’m not nostalgic for what was, but for what could have been. What would have been had we not chosen to move. And as my back hurts from washing up a ton of dishes because neither Maria nor Anita will show up to wash them tomorrow, I can’t help but confront the decision that I made to leave one life in favor of another. The truth is there are plenty of people in Israel and in Efrat, that live very nice lifestyles. But almost all of us have to go through that initial transitional phase where that quality of material life is one big question mark. We have to remember time and time again why we chose to move here and what we truly value. I am reminded of the first day that I met my (very) Israeli neighbor. She asked me the same question that many Israelis do. “Why did you move here, to this difficult land?” I answered her that my kids had everything. Materially that is. But not spiritually. When it comes down to it, we all know which makes a person truly happy in the long run. And that’s why we are here, and hopefully why my sister may join us one day. Because as great as a swimming pool is in your own backyard, it can’t compete with what I have in mine.