Yesterday, we did something brave.
“Can we make name-tags?” I asked, only half-joking. “Absolutely,” Sruli laughed, “quarterback one and quarterback two!” Not that I know enough about football to have fully gotten the joke, but I realized it had to do with our kvatter status, and presumably, was funny. With that and a wave, Sruli was swallowed up on the men’s side and I slowly made my way to the women. Frankly, I didn’t know a soul. It was better this way, less embarrassment on my end. I suppressed my natural tendency to introduce myself to the women around me. For one, they were all a close knit bunch. And secondly, I had no reason to be there, other than kvatter – not information I’d prefer to offer straight off the bat.
I stood to the side, doing my thing until kvatter was called. (Side note: they call it loudly – apparently on purpose.) Calmly, numbly? I took my spot next to the mother, and before I knew it, we were on. The baby was beautiful, and for a moment I caught myself, before I turned to bring him to the men. With my gaze safely trained on his tiny features, from the corner of my eye I was able to make out the smiles and looks being sent my way. And then I saw, no felt, her. She was a beggar woman, kerchiefed and heavy, one of the many that proliferate among simchos in this area. Large shiny bowl, equally shiny teeth… she caught my gaze, and gave me a smile. “Sheteyled ben b’toch shana,” she called loudly, then repeated herself again, “may you have a son, this year!” The people around me froze, startled. I should have cringed. Maybe cried, even. Instead I blinked in return, nodded, and quickly finished the job.
Moments later, safely alone, again at the edge of the mechitza, it hit me. No one, not one person, had acknowledged my presence at this event. Not a hello, not even the type of bracha that I often dread. I couldn’t blame them, they didn’t know me after all. And even those who might have – well, I’m sure they’d all been scared off enough with the countless “do’s and don’ts” that we so often demand of those around us. And yet it hurt. It hurt that people were scared to say hello, and it hurt that no one sent a smile my way. And yes, even a cringe-worthy bracha would have been better than the thick silence dividing us.
That beggar woman? She comforted me. With so few gifts to give, and nothing to loose, there’s little else she had left to offer than the wishes of her heart. To her, there’s another in need. In her simplistic, uncomplicated view, what could be more important, more wanted, than sharing the pain and a wish for better days? There was something so refreshingly real about her simplistic, uncalculated call. Granted, had that been my mother in law I would have been hysterical. But that’s exactly the point. This woman didn’t know me, and still with no personal connection whatsoever, she felt the need to say “I’m here, I see – and you’re not alone” albeit in whatever way she knew best.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not an invitation for strangers of all shapes and sizes to come and wish me well. It’s just that so often in the taboo, in our desire to believe that all is well, we bury our pain in a place that’s too deep to touch. And those around us follow suit, until we can almost believe we’ve all been fooled. This beggar woman – her realness, the almost crude way she stuck my reality in my face – well, it was a breath of fresh air that’s been delayed all too long. Yes, I realized, I want a child. Yes, this year. Now. Enough with the games and cheshbonos, enough with our perfected facade. The pain is real, the desire is too, and the bracha is as well. The least we can do is whisper amein…
Yesterday, we did something brave.