As I file through my anachronistic box of recipes searching for inspiration for this week's Shabbat dinner, each index card reminds me of a past meal. I have begun to use the computer for recipes but, clicking on a file doesn't seem to arouse nostalgia like my index cards. Some of the food-stained cards conjure the aroma of the dish. Others, like mushroom quiche, represent the food fads of their day. I scrawled some of the recipes in a hurry to get on to the next task. Others are more carefully penned in the handwriting of my grandmother, my mom, assorted aunts, and friends.
There are moments when I flip through images of the dreams of my life with the same casual interest.Oh yes, I was going to be a dancer, but I wasn't disciplined enough to rehearse day after day. I would be a University of Michigan coed in the honors program until I withdrew my acceptance in favor of a spot in the Yale freshman class. I was going to make aliyah, but I couldn't summon the courage to be so far from my family.
With each discarded dream, a part of me is set aside.The dancer, the Michigan wolverine the archaeologist, the Israeli, the spy, the history professor—I can flip index cards of "could have beens" for hours.
Once that stack of cards was the measure of my failures.Each dream renounced was a blot.I learned to hatch dreams in silence and darkness so that when they did not greet the light, no one would see my disappointment and my shame.
Now in my sixties, I can examine the dreams one at a time and see the other side of the card—the benefit and happiness that flowed from filing away one aspiration after another. The fuzzy edges of a dream sharpened into reality could have cut me to the quick.Could-have-been-dreams are flimsy, evanescent visions.Turning my vision to the day that is and the tomorrow that will be still allows for a dream or two. And if that dream doesn't come to pass, there is so much in today's life to enjoy. Another dream may take shape.
And those index cards with the recipes smeared by the years? I'll continue to use them, but I have no qualms about turning to the computer for a new idea or two.