Paving the Road to Hell

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Good intentions.

So many people say and do things with the best of intentions.

Like someone who recently made the comment about how long it’s been since I’ve seen my parents.

And I’m sure the comment was made with the best of intentions: out of sympathy, caring, concern, or simply something to create conversation (something I admit is hard to get me to do in my second language, with the exception of my mother and sister-in-law, those two I feel comfortable talking to in Dutch).

But all it did was serve to remind me that I haven’t seen my parents in person since early June last year. Nor will I see them again until late this upcoming June, one week before my due date. That’s more than a year without seeing my parents. No hugs, no smiles, no comforting smell of my dad’s cologne or chuckles at my mom’s quirky facial expressions.

For all intents and purposes, my parents will have missed my entire pregnancy. If I happen to deliver a week early, they’ll have missed the whole thing. Maybe some women wouldn’t be bothered in the least if their mother wasn’t around for their first pregnancy, but I am. This was something I had always hoped to share with my mother (and my grandmothers too, but one passed away when I was 22 and the other is now in the early stage of Alzheimers and I just won’t talk about that right now cause I don’t need to depress myself even more) and the best I’ve been able to do is keep her up to date by skyping and lately an occasional belly picture.

And I’m sorry, but that’s just not the same thing.

So, no, I haven’t seen my parents in almost a year. I won’t see my brother or any of my other family or friends until September, so that’ll be more than a year since I’ve seen any of them.
I don’t talk about it much, I try not to think about it much.
But when I do, it’s agonizing.
I feel so out of touch.

Likewise, a couple people have asked us if we plan on baptizing the baby. Piet was baptised as Catholic, but separated from the church basically as soon as he was old enough to write a letter and tell them to “take him off their list.” He’s a staunch Atheist and has no desire to do anything religious with our child.
I guess the people who’ve asked us don’t always realize that it’s not a Jewish tradition to baptize, but I’ve informed them that we don’t do that. We’re also not circumcising, naming our baby in a synagogue or giving him a Hebrew name. The circumcision I’m okay with not doing. I’d rather not make that decision for my son. If he feels strongly enough he can always get it done later in life if he wants it. The lack of Hebrew name or naming in a synagogue… well, what can I say about that? I was raised Jewish and was very interested in theology and traditions of Judaism until I was 15 or so, but now spiritually I consider myself more of a Buddhist/Atheist.
But the traditions surrounding Judaism are still very much a part of my identity. The holidays, the kiddush cups, the mezuzot, the Hebrew language are all very tightly woven into my personal fabric. I mentioned kiddush cups to my mother and she said that our son could have one “but of course it won’t be the same.”
And she’s right. It won’t have a Hebrew name on it and it won’t be given as a gift for a bris or for being named in the synagogue.
A family friend gave me a mezuzah when I moved here. It’s still sitting in its box, waiting to be hung on a door post of a place I call home. I’m not sure if that says something about how I feel about the house we’re living in. I imagine it does. Or it could just be that I’m lazy. Or it could be that we’ve had two doorbells ripped off of our door post and I won’t risk that with something more important to me.
I’ve celebrated one single Jewish holiday since I moved here. It was Passover two years ago in Pittsburgh.
I’ve celebrated one single American holiday since I moved here. It was Thanksgiving, when my parents visited the first time, two and a half years ago.

Sometimes I feel stripped of most of my identity.

My Judaism, mercurial as it is, has no place here.
My “Americanism,” (as much as my country of origin often angers and disillusions me, it’s still part of who I am) is sometimes a source of embarrassment to me here.
My personal ambitions, beyond being married and having a family, have been put on hold, and on hold, and on hold.

It’s easier sometimes, not to talk about myself. Or to only talk about the here and now. It’s so much safer to sit quietly in the backseat of the conversation, stare out the window and mutely absorb what’s being said all around me.
Because the people trying to get me to talk about other things, the people with very good intentions, just make me think about the people missing in my life and the sometimes “blank” feeling I get about who I even am at this juncture.

And that’s a road I’d really rather not walk down.

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3 responses »

  1. I just wanted to let you know that I’m so sorry that you’re missing your family so much. I can somewhat relate- my parents are still in Pittsburgh, my brother is in Ohio, going to grad school, and I’m 6 hours away in Maryland. Although we see them more frequently that you get to see your family, it’s been extremely difficult going through three pregnancies and births, and raising three kids, without any of my family around.

    About a week after my younger son (who is now 4) was born, my older son (who was not quite two at the time) came down with a serious stomach virus that dehydrated him to the point he couldn’t walk, and landed him in the hospital. There they discovered that there was also something wrong with his kidneys. As I sat in his hospital room, with him hooked up to IVs and monitors, and doctors coming in and out, telling me bad news, all the while aching to go back home and see my newborn son, all I kept thinking was “I WANT my MOM.”

    Anyway….I’m not quite sure why I’m writing all this, beyond the fact that your post really struck a chord with me. And that I know how much to sucks to not have your family by your side during an exciting, yet scary, part of life. And that I know that you’ll do great, and become your own little happy family. So good luck, and I’ll be praying for all the best for you.

  2. I can feel your pain in your post and probably really I don’t even get a slight part of it. I wish I could say something that helped but I fear I cannot help you except then well intended advice to fully submerge in activities & social life here to fill the void a bit and create a new part of your identity. But that’s probably not what you want to hear now at all

  3. You will be making new traditions, carving out new paths with love and determination. And when people ask “How did you do that? Why did you do that?” You can say, “If you really want to know, I wrote it all down.”

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