Hope for Boston

Today was a lovely spring day, with crocuses blossoming, buds emerging on the trees and the warm sun cutting through a slightly chilly breeze.  As I watched Amelia and Betsy chase the robins around the park, I felt relieved that the weather was turning and just happy to sit in the grass while they played.  That lighthearted feeling came crashing down only a few hours later when I heard of the events that brought the 117th Boston Marathon to an abrupt and violent end.

As I read the news, Amelia looked at me and said, “Mama sad?” And when I said yes, she pulled my head to her face and kissed me.  But I can’t explain to her why I’m sad, not simply because she won’t understand the words, but because I can barely form them myself.

I am not a runner, though like many Bostonians, I have my marathon memories. But that’s not really where the sadness comes from. It comes from a torrent of different feelings conjured up by this horrible tragedy – anger for the attack on my home,  longing to retrieve the innocence that has surely been lost, empathy for those caught in eye of the storm and even guilt for being so far from my home at such a painful time.

And when the “Why?!” and “How?!” and “Enough!!!” threatened to overcome my mind, I was grateful to bend outward to find relief in routine, and solidarity, wisdom and hope in the words of others.

There is no doubt that the healing properties of my daughter’s smile  – and her sweet kiss – helped buffer the shock of the news, but that smile often vanishes when it’s time to put down the crayons and go to bed.  But go to bed she must, and the myriad tasks that accompany bedtime, though mundane, served to remind me that life does go on.

And now, in the quiet house with the child fast asleep, it is the words of a friend, a comedian, an icon and a musical genius that are helping me claw through the darkness and find hope.

  • From the achingly beautiful blog post of my dear friend Martha: “I hope all of you in Boston can hear me, and feel my hand reaching out.”
  • From the pen of comedian Patton Oswalt: “…the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak.”
  • From the brilliant mind of the cherished Fred Rogers (aka Mr. Rogers): “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
  • And finally, always finally, this song:”You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”
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Photo credit: Village Photographer

Next week I will be taking my daughter for her first real visit to Boston. I can already see her joy at chasing the pigeons across the Common, making faces at the fish in the Aquarium and trying to take a swim in the Charles. And I can also hear John Lennon in my ear, soothing me as we traverse my wounded city and tugging me from despair and towards hope.

A More Perfect Union Called Marriage

Last week was a big week. To open it, we celebrated Passover by reading our Haggadah and eating our matzoh at a Seder hosted by my family.  To close it, we celebrated Easter at the lovely United Church in our neighborhood, a welcoming congregation that espouses kindness and tolerance (and had a great horn section).  And right in the middle were two Supreme Court hearings regarding gay marriage rights.  It was an interesting and stirring juxtaposition, that drove home the urgency of the issue and reminded me of just how lucky I am.

I remember how, as we planned our interfaith wedding three years ago, we ran into some religious dogma from institutions on both sides that gave us pause.  But for most practical purposes, few people now bat an eyelash at the thought of a Jew marrying a Christian. In fact, we had a lovely time sorting through hundreds of “humanist” and “interfaith” options online before finding a lovely celtic-inspired ketubah (the traditional Jewish wedding contract).

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But of course the real questions arise once the ceremony is over – how to give equal time to each others’ holidays and traditions, how to engage with new family members on subjects of religion or spirituality, what place those things may have in the household routine – if any – and how to impart spiritual guidance, learning and traditions to your children.  This is especially fraught if you question the nature of your own spirituality as I have touched on in this very blog.

But these issues are what being married, being in a partnership, is all about.  Successfully navigating the pitfalls as well as the triumphs of life together is what takes a marriage from the wedding day through countless anniversaries. As I listened last week to the arguments against gay marriage (some of which should never again see the light of day, such as the procreation stance), I heard two main themes, one regarding the honor of the institution and one regarding the definition.

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On our ketubah read the words, “We promise to work together…in this Convenant of Marriage… to create a harmonious relationship of equality,” and that seems like a fitting definition to me.  These words are followed by, “we will comfort and support each other through life’s sorrows and joys…we shall create a home filled with learning, laughter and compassion…” and if we can do that year after year, we will have done great honor to the institution.  That, I believe, is all we need to know. Any couple, gay or straight, who willingly pledges themselves to a lasting union based on love, respect and an understanding of the complexities and work involved, and who endeavor day after day to see it through, deserves to have that union acknowledged and honored.

And though the legalities are of the utmost importance, they are not really at the heart of this issue. It is the love that matters. You see, I was never a girl who dreamed of getting married, picking out every detail of the wedding day and spending my youth searching for the right man.  And yet, I found him and now cannot conceive of my life without him, nor of a life not married to him.  And now, three years in, we still get giddy when think about our marriage to each other.  I see the same youthful excitement in my parents after 51 years of their own bumpy but beautiful ride. And I imagine Edith Windsor, one of the plaintiffs in the DOMA case – would have been the same way with her partner, Thea.

In the future, I do not know how we will manage bat mitzvahs and communions, but I do know that I have a partner who will work with me on these questions and support me, as will for him.  As I watch my gay friends who have also found their life’s partner – some legally wed and some waiting for the day – building their lives together, raising children and facing hardship, how can I not take their cause personally?  Many detractors say that gay marriage will besmirch the institution, but they are simply wrong. It is, in fact, this prejudice – this inability to see that the love and commitment expressed is the same – that truly taints the institution and makes it so much less than it could be for all of us.

To those detractors I offer Depeche Mode – “people ARE people“,  to the LGBTQ community and allies, I offer Erasure…”don’t give up, together we’ll break these chains of love,” and to my daughter I offer Cyndi Lauper…may she always live her true colors and see them in others. I fervently long for real equality to arrive and for this issue to simply dissolve into the framework of a more just society.  Now is the time.