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Dream Abandoned

Beth Firestone

When seasonal catalogues beginning arriving in the mail, I can’t resist looking inside … I just love those October catalogues embellished with leaves and pumpkins; November issues adorned with cozy sweaters and candlelit turkey dinners; and December ones bedecked with trees, ornamented with pretty little lights. Although I have been frum for about twenty-five years, something about this time of year, in all of its seasonal glory, stirs up a place inside of me. Doesn’t sound very Jewish, does it?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I have a confession to make. When seasonal catalogues beginning arriving in the mail, I can’t resist looking inside … I just love those October catalogues embellished with autumn leaves and pumpkins; November catalogues adorned with cozy sweaters and candlelit turkey dinners; and December catalogues bedecked with evergreen trees, ornamented with pretty little bulbs and lights. Although I have been frum for about twenty-five years, something about this time of year, in all of its seasonal glory, stirs up a place deep inside of me, causing me to long for days gone by. Doesn’t sound very Jewish, does it?

Well, that’s because, growing up, I wasn’t very Jewish. I lived in a small New England town across the street from a farm. You could see the Connecticut River from our back door. In October we carved pumpkins and went trick-or-treating. In November we learned about the pilgrims and ate turkey, and in December we decorated a tree. My best friend was a nice, churchgoing little girl who lived across the street. When my parents uprooted our family from that charming, rural town in Connecticut to the endless, sprawling suburbs of Los Angeles, I was traumatized.

From that time forward, I’d dreamed of returning to New England, where I would make a home of my own and raise a family. Over the years, thanks to my very active imagination and propensity to romanticize just about everything, my dream became a picture of perfection: a charming white clapboard house surrounded by beautiful countryside that changed with the seasons; a wonderful, safe haven for my children.

As they say, man plans and G-d laughs. I married a man from Los Angeles who had no desire to move away from sunny Southern California. Shortly thereafter, we miraculously embraced traditional Judaism, and that changed everything. Over the years, my dream of a simple, quiet country life was overshadowed by the realities of being frum (which was anything but simple and quiet). Overshadowed, but not nullified.

Privately, I still lamented: Why must we put up with daily onslaughts of traffic, smog, offensive billboards, crime and noise, when a cleaner, more peaceful and aesthetically pleasing environment was available? Why, oh, why couldn’t we move to the bucolic hills of northeastern Connecticut where for one-third of the price we pay in Los Angeles, we could be living in a home twice the size?

 

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