I arrived in NYC. JFK felt as I remembered it – a bit grubby and unfriendly, a long walk from the plane and the annoyance of having to pay for your luggage carts. It’s so nice that they’re free at Ben Gurion Airport. I walked out with my luggage and enjoyed the searching glances of people waiting for their loved ones – ‘is that her?’ ‘no,’ said with a deep sigh and a glance at the cell phone, willing it to ring with news from baggage claim.
Being picked up was a plus. Sitting in the car next to little Michael, now aged 7, with friends Don and Judy in the front seat, I felt at ease. Driving on the Belt Parkway in stop and go traffic, I felt a shock of déjà vu. Pulling up in Brooklyn in front of their lovely brownstone, I felt at home. Or, at least I sort of did.
What was once deeply familiar, almost unpleasantly so at times, has become somewhat novel and even nostalgic. Walking on Court Street, I noted what stores had closed and who had survived the recession. On Smith, noting the usual array of new restaurants alongside the stalwart favorites held its same appeal, perhaps with a note of melancholy for the havoc that the economic collapse had wrought on the always happening and hip restaurant row.
The subway thrilled me with its speed and ease of use. Being underground is so much more pleasant than shlepping along the street on the bus. I assumed the NY train stance – legs hip width apart, body held conspicuously tightly so as to avoid any untoward contact during rush hour. I made eye contact with almost no one and enjoyed the anonymity and studied unfriendliness – well it’s not exactly unfriendliness, it’s just minding your own business.
I walked the streets of Manhattan and enjoyed the press of bodies, the noise, the color, the thrilling pace of it all. I was dressed like a business person myself – unusual for me – I fit right in with the rank and file office worker. I yapped on the phone with the locals, ate soup at Hale and Hearty and shopped when I had a minute amongst the malls of Manhattan. Shocking really, the mallification of NYC.
And yet, I kept wanting to say excuse me in Hebrew, or sign my name on the credit receipts in a foreign language. I yearned to sit outside and linger over an espresso, Starbucks just didn’t call to me.
The weather was fine, except for the ‘Nor’easter’ over the weekend, complete with intense rain and wind. It was a novelty that had it’s pleasures – I’ve grown to enjoy rain and to be grateful for it. The fatalities that accompanied the weather took the pleasure out of it for sure and when the sun finally shone, it felt like a rare and special gift.
But home is where the hearth is. My thoughts were with my family – my husband coping with home and Akiva. The big boys sending me notes every so often letting me know they were alive. The back and forth with Jessica about work – the bits and pieces that let me know that she and her family were fine. Wondering about everyone else – Ira filled in my questions and wrote long and informational emails.
Even the Kane Street Synagogue, my spiritual home for so many years was not home anymore. It still impressed me with its beauty and its lived in historic feel. Sitting next to friends felt wonderful. Eating lunch with friends was equally wonderful. It wasn’t home though. I may struggle each week to figure out where I want to be on Saturday mornings and who my friends and community are only 3-years into our Israel adventure but I’ve moved beyond the style and feel of my Brooklyn home of yore.
That’s okay, I think. Home is a changing notion over the course of one’s life. It shifts with age, development, emotions and thought. It can be something simple like walking down a favorite street, or laying in bed next to your partner, or sharing a good laugh with a dear friend.
Home now? Israel. Where I’ve learned that I can live – despite the challenges. Where will home be one day in the future? Not sure. Hopefully, with the people I love best of all.