Tikkun olam gives me hope that any work done dismantling racism is worthwhile because it is a belief that the world can actually heal.
Yesterday, I had a lunch date set up with a newly met colleague from Chicago who was in town. She has been helpful in getting me started in my work against racism and she’s also an amazing woman, so I was excited to meet her in person. And then I learned that Tin had a performance, his end of camp skit, exactly at the time I was meeting her.
At first I told Tin I wouldn’t be able to make the skit and he was nonplussed and said that it was okay and then the more I thought about it – the more I had to go. See, we all parent sort of in reaction and in collusion with the way we were parented. So my mother did not go to my high school graduation because she was sick, and almost didn’t make my college graduation because she was so late. And both times I was devastated. So I rejiggered my day and was able to do both my lunch and his performance.
I had worn a bracelet to see him – on purpose – it was a bracelet I had bought for my mother when I went to Spain for the first time in 1989 – so 25 years ago. I loved the bracelet when I first saw it and thought it was so exquisite. I would often ask her about it and she always said she couldn’t remember the bracelet.
When my mother was dying in the hospital, I went to her apartment in search of her watch she had asked for and when I opened the drawer of her bedside table there was the bracelet. I froze when I saw it – right there – at my mom’s fingertips – and yet she said she couldn’t remember it. I was puzzled but delighted that the bracelet had been “found.” And I still loved it.
My mother died, and now I have the bracelet. When I wear it, I think of her and its Spanish spell on me.
Yesterday, as Tin was walking to the stage he looked over, spotted me and was thrilled, then he noticed the bracelet and thought I was wearing a watch and ran over to me and grabbed my wrist, “Is that a watch Mommy?”
When he finally got on stage, I moved to the front to take a video and he couldn’t see me and he freaked and started calling Mommy Mommy Mommy until someone pointed me out to him – right there in front on my knees with my camera.
I watched my little boy on stage not wearing black pants like his classmates because he needed to wear his Tintin pants – a newfound obsession – all the while getting his groove on – always in his own world. Always adorable.
Duh. How could I not be there?
When the performance was over, I dashed away to go meet my friend. When Tin and I got home, he collapsed in the chair and slept like he had been performing all day – when in fact the skit had lasted only five minutes.
And it was then that I noticed the bracelet was gone.
I kept wondering how it was that I was days from us leaving for Spain and here my Spanish bracelet, my mom’s bracelet, was lost.
Last night, I was texting with a friend whose son was killed in a tragic swimming accident last Saturday. He was going to do some work for me, and I was telling him the work would wait for him, when he is ready. Before I went to bed, I learned there had been a train accident in Spain with 80 people killed.
I lay in bed and thought about the bracelet, my mom, the nature of things in life and in general.
This morning, I took Tin to his last day of camp and told the coach I had lost my bracelet. He told the story to the 400 children there – he said that someone’s mom lost her mom’s bracelet, which meant the grandma’s bracelet was missing and if anyone found it, he was offering a cash reward.
We all – me and the children walked back to the auditorium – they were headed to clean up and watch movies on their last day, and I was looking for the bracelet. I walked right over to where I had been sitting and there it was.
I know these are things, but a couple of years ago, I lost my mother’s ring during a difficult period. It was her Cleopatra ring that she had given me and I had returned to her and she had given back to me. It was a ring I admired on her, but it didn’t look good on me. I think about that ring – losing it felt as if I had let a piece of her go because I wasn’t paying careful attention.
Letting things go has been part of my healing process. And in letting go, I’ve made room. I’m selective of how I fill my time – people/places/things. I know it is me who imbues things with meaning – the bracelet + my mom + love + beauty and on and on.
I feel comforted I come from a culture that as ancient as it is, has been able to change – when the temple was destroyed, a rabbinic period began and there was a move to not rely on God the Father to do it all for us, but to do the work ourselves, to aim tirelessly as a people for social justice – this is what Kamenetz talks about in his book about meeting with the Dalai Lama – what a legacy to pass on.
In the lost and found of my life, I’m glad I found myself able to take what was good about my religion into my secular Judaism, to heal my hurts, to loosen my attachments, and especially to turn my attention to racism so that my son will know I showed up.