At this moment I’m not on Memory Lane but on an Arizona highway with a flat tire on my rental car. It’s a two hour plus wait for the Avis tow truck. So, what to do—write a blog as long as the computer battery holds out.
Leaving the Arizona highway for Bexley, Ohio’s residential streets, here’s what comes to mind.
One of the questions that underlies Jewish Luck is what would have happened if our grandparents would not have left Russia? Returning to Columbus Ohio for my 45th high school reunion and two book talks found me confronting a similar question---where would my life be if I had never left?
As I threaded through the streets of Bexley, I made sure to vary my route so that I saw as much as possible of my childhood neighborhood. Unlike Vera and Allawho returned to their apartments and neighborhoods in St. Petersburg and couldn’t believe how small their apartments were, I was struck by how large the houses are in Bexley. I could name almost every home according to the 1965 owner but each home loomed larger than it had in my childhood. Even Cassingham Elementary was transformed into a sleek, modern building. And Columbus School for Girls—it’s a modern marvel and a maze. What had not changed was the fragrance of spring. While Minneapolis was still frozen, all the trees and spring flowers seemed to be in full bloom.
While all my friends are older, too, I discovered that the good nature of each person was immutable like the promise of spring. All the hard, sarcastic edges of teenage angst had been smoothed over. Memories mellowed. Even the very cool guys were willing to chat with me. Although in high school I ranted that I had nothing in common with most of my classmates, I found that now we are all considering issues like mortality and building bonds rather than shaking loose from them.
And the best part of coming home was to see that our family of first cousins and extended cousins are still boisterous, close, and loyal. I stayed with a maternal first cousin’s whose birth announcement at Yom Kippur break fast dinner in 1961 is etched in my memory. I thrilled to babysit him when he and his parents returned to Columbus from Ithaca and now I could watch as he lovingly parented his own children. Leslie and I sat down to dinner Sunday night with all but one of our first cousins on our dad’s side and it felt like our Grandma Rae and all three of her boys were hovering in the dining room, enjoying our joy. Then there were all the familiar faces at the Bexley Public Library from our banker to Mom’s long standing friends to our many cousins who were there to cheer us.
I still don't have the answer to the question--what would have happened if I'd never left home, but I do know that I can return and sink into conversations of shared memories and create new memories with family and friends.
Postscript: Adding Insult to Injury Sept. 2013
I had assumed that if your rental car falls apart, the rental company apologizes and replaces the car with a functional one. No way. Four months after the fact I received a bill from Avis/Budget for the cost of towing and repairing the car. Caveat emptor!