A Dedication

Locations accumulate associations. My desk, for example, is now associated with sitting cross-legged in my chair and gloomily staring at the to-do list of things to study and feverishly trying to avoid doing any of them. This does not make my desk the most cheerful spot in my room.

People build up associations too. This is why you sometimes have a knee-jerk negative reaction to an otherwise innocent behavior or comment from someone who has irritated you in the past.

Sometimes, you just need to get away from all the associations. This is the idea behind a vacation. You can sleep late just as well in your own bed, but your own bed has that alarm clock next to it, and it’s in your room that you need to clean in a house you need to maintain with a sink you need to empty and full of people who are potentially hazardous for your blood pressure… Thus, people prefer to sleep late in a hotel, motel, or even a campground, where there’s no sink at all. No sink, and no associations. Aaaah… That’s nice.

Judaism acknowledges this issue as well, with Succos. One reason given for moving out of our homes shortly after Yom Kippur is to help us maintain that fresh start by removing us from the association-filled environment that causes all that unfortunate autopilot behavior. Having a new home, albeit briefly, provides us with the opportunity to start over. Sort of like a troubled couple trying to piece their marriage together with a second honeymoon. Only, a little colder and a lot wetter.

Any transition in life is an opportunity to start over, to be more conscientious, to be a better or more dedicated person. Isn’t that how we approach new marriages? We promise ourselves we’ll always be considerate, we’ll never get angry, we’ll never slack off, we’ll always be in love…

And that’s how I approach the idea of moving out on my own. It’s a chance to begin a new painting with a palette of idealism. To escape any of that negativity that might have built up in my old haunts and habits and relationships by starting them afresh with a different perspective.

It’s easy to promise to become perfect when you get married, but it’s a tough guise to maintain if you don’t have much practice. That’s what’s so nice about this. It’s an opportunity to get a head start on perfection, by practicing on a new beginning.

New beginnings are a time of great hope, anticipation, and change. I’m grateful to get in an extra one now, before marriage.

A Dedication

by Rudyard Kipling

My new-cut ashlar takes the light

Where crimson-blank the windows flare;

By my own work, before the night,

Great Overseer, I make my prayer.

If there be good in that I wrought,

Thy hand compelled it, Master, Thine;

Where I have fail’d to meet Thy thought

I know, through Thee, the blame is mine.

One instant’s toil to Thee denied

Stands all eternity’s offence;

Of that I did with Thee to guide

To Thee through Thee, be excellence.

Who, lest all thought of Eden fade,

Bring’st to Eden to the craftsman’s brain,

Godlike to muse o’er his own trade

And manlike stand with God again.

The depth and dream of my desire,

The bitter paths wherein I stray,

Thou knowest who has made the fire,

Thou knowest who has made the clay.

One stone the more swings to her place

In that dread temple of Thy worth,

It is enough that through Thy grace

I saw naught common on Thy earth.

Take not that vision from my ken;

O, whasoe’er may spoil or speed,

Help me to need no aid from men

That I may help such men as need.


Shadchanim and Suits

It was not so very long ago that I made fun of young women who visited shadchanim while ostensibly unwinding from the stresses of life. Thus, it is with deep embarrassment that I confess to… <Blush/>

To visiting… <Deep blush/>

On vaca… <Covers face/>

But I can justify it! I mean, I never go anywhere near that Town. It was a once-in-three-years opportunity! I know it’s against the rules of vacation, but it would have been foolish not to!

Methinks I doth protest too much.

Good4 says I must be getting desperate, but I would have phrased it differently. Perhaps that I have a heightened desire to close the single chapter of my life or an intensified awareness of the drawbacks of being unpaired at this stage of my life, or… Whatever.

To my own credit, I would like to point out that it was not part of the original vacation plans. I only thought of it while in the car driving away from NYC. Which spawned a problem of its own, immediately grasped by my ever-perspicacious mother, who asked, when I related the tale, “What did you wear?”

An excellent question – one that I pondered throughout the week of vacation. When you’ve packed a small carry-on full of t-shirts and long black skirts, what do you wear to visit a shadchan?

People make fun of women who pack fat suitcases full of clothes and shoes for every occasion, but it really isn’t a laughing matter. You simply don’t know what situation will arise, and invariably it will require clothing you didn’t pack.

A woman can never pack too many pairs of shoes.

I was contemplating that truism while surveying in dismay the three pairs I’d brought along. The hiking boots, the water shoes, and the sneakers.

Granted, the sneakers weren’t too bad. They were my LBS – Little Black Sneakers, the preferred footwear alternative for women who wear black socks. They would have to do. I hoped the shadchan wouldn’t notice.

The skirts – well, a long black skirt is respectable, isn’t it? It’s not like I even own any slinky skirts or pre-worn denim or anything. And as for shirts – well, thank goodness there was a sky-blue polo among the sweats-gray and orange t-shirts. Really all I needed was a quick stop in a pharmacy for some mousse (thank goodness I keep hair clips on my knapsack zipper pulls) and I’d be good to go.

Well, good enough to go.

At this point in my narrative my mother and Good4 are silent, positively riveted with – well, some strong emotion. The wonder in my mother’s expression is doubtless admiration for my resourcefulness. Or else uncertainty over whether I’d done myself more good or harm. But none of us had taken into account the view from the other side of the dining room table. That is to say: what does a shadchan wear when cramming a last-minute appointment into her busy evening? Hm… Never thought about that one.

When a nervous young lady, dressed to the nines, is arriving in your house, I guess you can’t really come out to interview her in your housecoat and plush bunny slippers. The pressure runs both ways.

“I’m so glad,” the shadchan confessed to me. “I felt bad about not changing into my sheitel and shoes, but then I see you…” her hand gesture takes in my sneakers and hemline. I murmur my excuses, but they seem unnecessary. She isn’t rudely pointing out my under-dressed state. She is contentedly pointing out the happy coincidence (Good4 would shout “Hashgacha pratis story!” at this point) of our being mutually dressed down on this occasion.

I wonder if, in the future, if  I ever visit another shadchan, I should call ahead and offer a sort of truce: I’ll dress down if you dress down?