Friday, 29 May 2015

Di Goldene Pave

Every so often a story just lends itself to a blog post.

Did you know that there is a peacock running loose today in downtown Toronto?

Apparently the photogenic bird is not all that happy with his (yup it's a boy!) accommodations at the High Park zoo, and has flown the coop twice in the past two days. He was last seen parkouring the rooftops of the west end.

There was something in the back of my music-addled and age-atrophied brain about a peacock and Jewish music. So, I did what any trivia-challenged fifty-something might do. I googled it and found a eureka! It seems that the Golden Peacock is a mythical symbol of Yiddish literature and song. Many a Yiddish poet has written about the majestic bird and more than a few songwriters have put those poems to music.

Here is a beautiful melody based on a piece by Anna Margolin with music by Chava Alberstein, sung by Chava Alberstein and The Klezmatics. Enjoy!

iz di goldene pave gefloygn, gefloygn.
un di nakht hot geefnet di goldene oygn,
likhtiker mayner, shlof ayn.

di nakht hot geefnet di goldene oygn,
bin ikh fidl gevorn un du der boygn,
umruiker mayner, shlof ayn.

bin ikh fidl gevorn un du der boygn,
un doz glik iber undz hot farlibt zikh geboygn,
tsertlekher mayner, shlof ayn.

un dos glik iber undz hot farlibt zikh geboygn,
gelozt undz aleyn un farfloygn, farfloygn,
troyeriker mayner, shlof ayn.

The golden peacock has flown off, flown off.
And the night has opened its golden eyes,
Oh, my bright one, go to sleep.

The night has opened its golden eyes,
I was the fiddle and you were the bow,
Oh, my tense one, go to sleep.

I was the fiddle and you were the bow,
And fortune loved us and bowed down over us,
Oh, my soft one, go to sleep.

And fortune loved us and bowed down over us,
Left us alone and flew off, flew off.
Oh, my sad one, go to sleep.

This wayward peacock traversing the downtown core seems to be a sign. Maybe his sprint for freedom is something that we can all strive for this Shabbat and perhaps we can just enjoy him and his beauty in peace?

Shabbat Shalom

Saturday, 9 May 2015

A Letter to My Mom

Dear Mom,

As much as we both despise Mother's Day, you have to admit that it does offer some glorious time for reflection on the nature of family and the ever-evolving relationships carried within. It has been several years since I publicly informed the world that not only do I love and respect my mother, but that I actually like you and adore spending time with you. For some women, this admission would be tantamount to smearing one's body with honey and running naked through the forest, but for me it was a natural as breathing.

You see....

I think that my mother is probably one of the most fascinating, brilliant, and talented people I know.

Now that I have said all of that, I can hear her cries of self-derision and embarrassment pulsating through my screen. But frankly Mom, it's time you listened and truly took to heart what I know to be true about you, even if you yourself can't see it.

You complain vociferously that you aren't smart enough or clever enough. This nonsense is being spewed by the same woman who worked her ass off and persevered through dyslexia, at a time when it wasn't on any educator's radar, to shatter old-time quotas placed on Jewish women entering nursing. You followed your passion when it wasn't always easy or "ladylike" to do so, and you lived it because you felt it completed you. How could your daughter not look at that drive and determination and not see a brilliant and powerfully independent woman?

And you have never rested on your laurels.

You continue to study, learn, create, beautify, interact, engage, experience, seek out, and acquire new ideas and skills. Your self-deprecation, while charming at times, infuriates the shit out of me. (And yes..I know that you wish I didn't swear so much.) I wish you could see what I see, but you come from a generation that pushed its boys forward into the limelight while allowing its girls to remain quietly in the shadows. You have never been shy about expressing yourself with me, but out in the world you prefer to stay buried in the background. I have never been able to fully reconcile these two sides of you. The greatest gift that you ever gave me was to push me out of my own comfort zone and onto a public stage where my gifts would be recognized and appreciated. Do you honestly believe that I could have achieved all that I have without your counsel, wisdom, guidance, critical eye, and unwavering support?

You have been my confidante, my guidepost, my biggest fan and my most needed and essential critic. You have been my shoulder to cry on, my organizational guru, my therapist, my role model, my mentor, and my friend. You are my rock. Our daily conversations (sometimes many) are sustenance to me.

There is no disputing that these have been challenging times for you, Mom. Nobody, least of all me, expects you to ever be fully whole again. There is a part of you that is broken and perhaps beyond repair. That's ok. It really is. Just accept it. But, I would like to think that maybe you are being remodelled, much in the way that fractured bones mend. There is a perpetual weakness where the break occurred, and even pangs of sharp pain on occasion, but there is strength in the resoluteness of the core to continue on and make the most of what is left. That strength has always been a part of you. You just need to dig fairly deep down to summon it now. I have no doubt that you will. There is still so much left for you to experience; so much that is yet to come.

I love you, Mom. But more importantly, I like you. Not in a smarmy "Sally Field" kind of like, but rather a true admiration and esteem. Our relationship is one of the true joys of my life.

Oh...and by the way...this is your Mother's Day present! ( taught me sarcasm as well!)

Love always,


Saturday, 2 May 2015

Spring Cleaning

Over the past several weeks, The Husband and I have embarked upon a massive and long-overdue spring cleaning exercise. As we rapidly approach our thirtieth (yes...that's 3-0!) wedding anniversary this June and are now most definitely full-time empty-nesters, it seemed like a good time to sort through the years of accumulated "stuff" that has managed, true to everything George Carlin ever prophesied, to expand to the size of our house.

We decided from the outset that we would downsize the bits and pieces and dispose of the odds and ends. We needed to accept and embrace the idea of binging and purging, as painful as it might be. We needed to adopt a ruthlessness that would go hand in hand with the inherent sentimentality of wanting to save every scrap of paper, weep over every photograph, fawn over every elementary school art project, and relive all of the "good old days."

Some of it has been easy and straightforward. Finally ridding ourselves of over twenty years of paper receipts and tax information was extraordinarily cathartic. As we shlepped close to two hundred pounds of outdated scraps and forms to a local shredding company, it felt as though we were flipping off Revenue Canada, and there was tremendous pleasure in it.

And did I really need to save the ugly seder plate given to us as a wedding gift from a relative whom I couldn't stand then and has been out of my life ever since? Dropping that into the Goodwill pile was a no-brainer.

There is no sentimentality in keeping broken and damaged luggage no matter how wonderful the trips associated with it might have been. And the Halloween costumes that I poorly constructed for the boys (I am not a craft person, nor can I sew) went out with the trash.

But, some of it has been extremely difficult and painful. As I sorted through the certificates, awards, and assorted framed documents that my children earned over the years, I was awash with nostalgia and immediately transported back to school gyms where I watched with immense parental pride as Older Son kicked ass during speech competitions and Younger Son swept up the yearly scholastic prizes. I remembered music concerts and karate tournaments, and I recalled family events, picnics, car rallies, vacations, and I found myself weeping for people who had shared much of this with me and who are now gone and sorely missed. There is an acute self-awareness that goes along with this job that transcends the simple disposal of junk. There is a need to accept that which is firmly rooted in the past, and to move decisively forward through the present into the next phase.

I have noticed that while we have methodically, yet schizophrenically, advanced this project, I have felt moments of deep spiritual cleansing. Could it be that while de-cluttering our physical space, I have de-cluttered my inner space as well? Is it possible that I have finally been able to compartmentalize instances of anger, pain, love, family, illness, and loss? Have I finally been able to shed chunks of emotional baggage that have been weighing me down? I think so.

This is surely an ongoing exercise, both the physical and the spiritual. While I continue to pack up junk, outdated technology, (assorted VHS tapes to anyone who wants them) and memorabilia, I am  finding new comfort and joy in reminiscing and catharsis in the copious tears. And....saving a few special and well-chosen mementos helps the process along nicely.

 Shabbat Candlesticks from both Older Son (left) and Younger Son (right) (Kindergarten projects)