The Place Where I Belong

She calls me, breathless.

“It was amazing,” she panted. “I loved it. I was made for this, Ima. I need it.”

Patched up by the threads trailing behind her gathering into a seam sewn with every fall and knotted with each triumphant rise, my lungs fill.

My hands slow their spasms. My head sweeps the day’s anxious pacing to the place in my brain that archives these moments in memory where they no longer hold me by the throat.

**********

I had been unsure for so long.

She was my rainbow baby.

When I grew her in my womb, I stopped the world to keep her safe. I could not trust my body, it had betrayed me before. I slowed time, went still, and waited. Month after month, I pushed down my swelling heart, locking it up so it could not get hurt. I would not dream, refused to take any steps further than the one right before me.

And then she burst into the world.

I had never seen the colors she threw at me, the way she blended the lines and filled the spaces with depth and layers. One on top of the other, her shades of joy spun me around and changed me.

But light does not color darkness. Beneath it all, the part of me written into her code lay dormant, waiting to pounce.

It found a moment of vulnerability and doubt and dug deep into her translucent skin.

Oh, how it hurt.

It strangled her with the rope I had never been able to shake off my neck. She couldn’t explain it to me, the only one who could really understand.

“I know,” I would say, imploring her to let me in.

“NO! No, you don’t.” Screaming with rage, she’d pull away. “You’ll never know what it’s like to be me.”

Punching my gut from my past stood 10-year-old me.

“I know,” I’d whisper to her through the years. “I know exactly how it feels to be you.”

So I tiptoed around a ride through hell and ecstasy, hoping she’d get what I never could find. Her voice rose and fell with each curve, gathering speed as it steadily spread the black between each vibrant color.

Flashes of pain seeped into her notes. It was haunting and beautiful and the scariest sound a mother can hear.

My prayers swept around her tormented thoughts, her twirling emotions, her bright overwhelming light, into the vastness of a universe I feared could not see her.

Just one little corner, one place to lay her head down… please let her feel like she belongs.

Her song grew strong, too strong. It began to surround her and swallow her with its need to be heard.

It could no longer be contained.

Softly, with the gentlest touch on her fragile little back, I steered her towards the spotlight.

And then she stepped onto the stage, a solid black ground raised for the world to see. Her eyes blinked, her heart stilled, and she poured out across the place she was meant to be.

Curled up at home where I could not rush to her side, I waited for my star to rise.

**********

“I was made for this, Ima. I need it.”

“I know,” I say to her and to me and to all the times we didn’t believe it and all the times we won’t be comforted by it. “I understand.”

And I do.

When the Children Cry – Rise Up!

There is a soundtrack to my life. There are an endless amount of lyrics and tunes stored in my brain and the second something happens that triggers a feeling, a song begins to play.

Today, I heard the White Lion ballad stirring around as I listened to an audio clip of children crying out for their parents in a US Customs and Border detention facility.

“Little child, dry your crying eyes…how can I explain the fear you feel inside…”

The idealism of my teenage years when ’80s ballads did me in came flooding back at me, wrapped in the cynicism of reality. I used to think people wrote and sang songs like this because you could rally up the people and they could make a change.

“No more presidents, and all the wars will end…one united world, under god…”

It’s laughable how I had hoped for a better world for my children. I’m wondering now how to incorporate a possible war into my summer plans so that my kids don’t get excited about something that can be derailed by rockets. I used to think cheesy lyrics meant something.

“When the children cry, let them know we tried…”

No, you didn’t. I was a crying child then. While the adults around me were composing songs about saving the world and feeding all the hungry children, I was curling up in my room learning not to trust anyone.

“Little child, you must show the way, to a better day for all the young…” 

Uh-uh. Not this time. I’m so tired of children taking up the role of our future. I don’t believe that…not anymore.

I’m all grown up now. I heard you sing and chant and claim to fight for me. I saw you fail time and time again.

Children are still crying and my head is filled with the bullshit of a generation who thinks my generation is too fast-paced, too demanding, too selfish and too damn technologically advanced to know how to stoop down to eye level with children and tell them that we fucked up.

You raised us with the wrong songs. You made us think we had to fix your mistakes. You told us you were sorry for leaving us something so damaged and you slithered off into retirement while refusing to let your fist loosen on the ideals you carefully cultivated for yourselves.

We’ve taken the seeds of your ideas and we’ve grown them into worlds you never could have imagined. We’ve become innovators and problem solvers and creative geniuses and you still scoff at us.

I need a new soundtrack.

I can hear the drums, I can feel the beat picking up. I think we might have something special churning around out there, something that can produce a sound I can be proud of.

Listen up, kids. I know you’re hurting and scared and worried about your future.

We got this. This is not our fight but we’re going to make it ours. You are the children of today. You should be learning and laughing and living your best lives. You shouldn’t be in detention facilities. You shouldn’t be separated from your families. You shouldn’t be worried about war or how long it will take for the environment to give up. You should be singing the songs we write for you.

Listen to them; they are glorious.

I’m not going to leave you with something I can’t be proud of. Hold on just a little longer while we kick some butt.

We will rise up.

Originally published on the Times of Israel.

I Write the Songs that Make the Whole World Sing…

The world knows about the songs she wrote.

I know about the poems and heartfelt musings she keeps together with some sketches in the back of the file cabinet in the section marked “misc.”.  Most of them are from when she was in high school.  The words are fading and it’s hard to make out the script that used to be mandatory in English classes, but it’s tangible and smells like cheap construction paper and my grandmother’s house.

The majority of her writings make their way into the piano and off to some production or other.  Most of the time I don’t think about them.  Most of the time I just write.

I write words to my children, day after day, month after month, year after year, and I wonder how they will read them when they are older.  As I write, I hum the tunes to songs I sang straight through the long hours of childhood, through the minutes of confused youth and right into the second of my very own adulthood.

And then I stop.

And I listen.

And I hear her words…

…well hello little stranger…entirely new…only born an hour ago…look at you…open up your little eyes a glimmer or two…hey there…can you see me…I’m the one who’ll be there taking care of you…and all the things I do for you…are things you’re gonna do…for children of your own…someday…

…there’s just one more adornment…I’ve added in…my own little prayer…I always sew in…may I live to see…that a bride you will be…and I’ll sew you a dress for your chuppa…as we walk down the aisle…it will have all been worthwhile…

…all those dreams…my child…that you dream tonight…will come true…you can be sure…close your eyes and dream of tomorrow…for tomorrow there’ll be more…

…little one…yes it’s true what they say…fathers cry for their children…and Hashem does the same…when we hurt…so does He…yes He does feel our pain…

She wrote…while we were young…and as we grew…and changed…she wrote…and wrote…and wrote…

She hasn’t written in a while.  She says she doesn’t have the time.  But maybe…she doesn’t have the need…because here I am…writing…and humming her songs…with a smile on my face and understanding in my heart.