Monday, September 26, 2005

Ma, You're Such a Cut-Up!

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Yes, I sometimes call my mother "Ma." She is certainly not what one pictures when you hear someone referred to as "Ma"-- think Nancy Walker in Rhoda, but if it's not Mom, it's Ma that you'll hear me saying.

Yesterday I was over at my parents' house to do some freelance work; I knew I'd get some peace and quiet and few interruptions. When I'm home and with the three kids, there's always something that needs to be dealt with and my work sometimes suffers.

So, soon after I got into the house, my mother gives me a bag and a card-- my parents didn't get to see me on my birthday, so here was the next best chance to belatedly share the day with me. Cards mean an awful lot to me and the sentiments written inside it mean even more; you can usually get by with just a card for me, because, in essence, that is also my best gift.

Before I got to the card, I got to the envelope. My mother had managed to find this in some newspaper somewhere -- PEARLS OF WISDOM -- and taped it onto the envelope. I stared at it and had several thoughts running through my head.

1. My mother must've cut that out a while ago and saved it for just the right time. I told her that my blog is called PEARLIES OF WISDOM, very similar to what she'd put on the envelope. She smiled at that close coincidence, even though she doesn't quite "get" this blogging phenomenon and my deep interest and involvement in it.

2. My mother could very well be a kidnapper. You know how, usually in old movies, when someone's been kidnapped, the family gets a ransom note made up of cut-out and glued letters from newspapers and magazines...? Well, my mom is pretty good at that!

For years, she'd find the letters of or the words "Pearl" or "Pearly" or photos of pearls and oysters, or my horoscope or a photo of a gift she'd planned for me and would affix it/them to a birthday card. Her creativity has always run rampant and is something I cherish.

3. I said that cards mean a lot to me. I'm beginning to think that envelopes mean a lot to me, as well!

Truth Lies in the Eyes, Not in the Hat

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This past Shabbat I went to one of the shuls I belong to but don't frequent weekly for various reasons; I'm usually at one closer to my house. But this week I went to this one and was in the main sanctuary where there was a bar-mitzvah going on.

I'd gone to day school with the bar-mitzvah boy's uncle and I said to my friend, "I wonder if Mark came in from Israel for the bar mitzvah." She said he doesn't go by the name Mark anymore, and my memory worked for me and I recalled the classmate's Hebrew name. She pointed and said, "I think he's the one down there wearing the shtreimel." My eyes sort of fell out of my head and she explained, "I was told that he follows the Bostoner Rebbe..."

I'd heard that this classmate had become quite religious, I just had no clue as to the extent! I still remembered him from days when he went to a conservative shul in Toronto. But I knew I'd like to say hello to him -- IF he'd be willing to talk to a female.

To my luck, when I left the women's gallery, he (the only Jew in this Orthodox shul in the shtreimel) was at the door I'd have to pass through. I stopped in front of him, waited till he finished speaking to someone and said boldly, "Mark _____!" And after a brief pause, I said, "I guess you're better known these days as Avraham."

"Yes," he answered, but he still had a questioning look. I announced myself with my maiden name: "Pearl ______!" And then he gave a smile and proceeded to make small talk and said how pleased he was that I'd come up to him to say hello.

I knew I'd put him on the spot and watched as his eyes sort of furtively looked at me and then looked away while he spoke. Here I was, speaking to someone I'd known in class from preschool through junior high, but who looked so very different than anyone I knew personally. Aside from the shtreimel, I'm guessing (but didn't quite notice if) he also wore a "bekeshe" and the rest of the Chassidic look, but he also sported a gray beard down to his belly button and now wore glasses. Normally I would've passed this man on the street, would have given him a second look -- not because I recognized him, but because it is rare for me to see a Jew dressed like this where I live. They do live in the city, but in the "south" end.

I stood before him, looking for anything I recognized of this person of the past. And then I spotted his eyes. I did not know the beard, I did not know the glasses, I did not know the shtreimel nor the garb, but I knew those eyes.

It is very clear to me that there is truth in the saying that the eyes are the window to the soul. Keep your eyes open at all times and you will see things that other people might not.