“I realized that there are no winners and losers, that just because you lost one thing doesn’t mean you won’t lose it all. There are people who have more and those who have less, and there’s no rhyme or reason to any of it.”
Just in time for Throw Back Thursday, my latest piece is about my twentieth college reunion. There’s nothing like the people who knew you when. I had fun writing this one.
On the day I turned 20, I received a birthday card from my younger brother. “Wow,” he wrote in his cramped, jagged cursive, “I can’t believe you’re 20!” I couldn’t believe it either. Twenty felt like a big deal—the mathematical end of childhood and adolescence, the beginning of adulthood. I was finally old enough that someone was impressed by my age but still young enough that I wasn’t insulted by their astonishment.
Of course, nothing really changed on the day I turned 20. Inside, I still felt 19 or 14, or sometimes, even 10. Whatever the calendar said, I was no closer to being an adult at all. But 20 was perhaps the first time I realized I would never be something again—a teenager, a child—and that time really did only go in one direction.
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I dug back into the past to recall the day of Sam’s bris, twelve years ago. I remember it like it was yesterday. As we make plans for his bar mitzvah, I find myself still grappling with issues of identity. What makes a Jew?
(I should say that my title for this piece was “Conversion”…..)
The smell of butter and onions from the omelette station drifts upstairs to the room where I am changing into my mother-in-law’s clothing. It is the day of my son Sam’s bris, and even though I gave birth eight days earlier, I still look like I’m five months pregnant. My stomach is loose and flabby and looks like a wrung-out piece of cheesecloth. My previously non-existent breasts have ballooned to C-cups. None of my own clothing fits me so my mother-in-law, Annette, who has arranged, paid for, and is hosting this party at her Long Island home, has lent me some of her clothes. I have never loved her more.
I look in the mirror and see nothing I recognize. Annette’s ivory-colored silk blouse and paisley-printed skirt, while elegant, do little to disguise the fact that I am a battlefield: exhausted, overwhelmed, leaky. No matter how much I had done to prepare for the birth of my first child—baby care classes at the hospital, multiple readings of “What to Expect”—I have been completely upended by the experience of motherhood, and it has only been eight days. In a few moments, my son will take part in the oldest rite in Judaism, linking him to a chain of tradition that began with Abraham’s covenant with God almost 4,000 years ago. All I have to do is show up.
Read more here!