From the moment it began, we knew, it was obvious that peace and freedom were under assault, Russia had thrown societal norms to the wind.
Under gunmetal gray skies they attacked by air, killing women, children, destroying hospitals, homes raining hell on the innocents with nowhere to turn. All we could do was watch, pray and offer paltry aid in the hope that this proud nation could hold out, negotiate some peace, maintain their freedom, emerge like the phoenix slowly rising from the rubble.
One downside of growing up Jewish is that you never meet an angel or a church mouse
I have met angels, although they were in the guise of Bodhisattvas, and there are a surprising number if you look carefully enough.
As to church mice, I do have to wonder why they are symbolic, for they have vast homes, direct access to God, or the Bishop or synod, and if they aren’t tapping into the collection plate, they aren’t real mice, and as for starving, do they keep the communion supplies in a safe, for if not, the mice are certainly never go hungry.
The moon has gone past full and as waning as I write, it’s slow retreat hopefully taking with it the burden of winter, that we now must measure in feet, the inches having been heaved up, one upon another. Spring will come soon for a taste of it, for spring is an inveterate tease, preferring to appear only long enough to let the melting snows floor around, and to occasionally into our homes, so that we, maps and markets in hand, pause to dream of the summer which we now doubt will ever appear.
As a child, a Jewish child no less, December was always a bit difficult. We had Channukah, which no Jew would dare claim grew solely to compete with Christmas, although we all knew that was precisely what had happened.
The problem was Christmas, but had nothing to do with Jesus, or the church or even its historical teachings about the supposed role we Jews played in that story, a role for which we had been paying for two millennia.
The problem was far more basic, and all you needed to do was drive down virtually any street in any city and it would be at once apparent. Christmas-celebrating homes were decked out in all colors of lights, while Jewish homes, those few who competed, were left with a palate of white and blue, or up to nine candles, and that was a guaranteed for sure last place finish in the December game.
The trees seem to know that we are leaving, why else would they shed their leaves so early, the only tears they are allowed to cry. It cannot be a blight, or so we think it, just our departure that has caused this premature pining for a winter we all know will arrive too soon any arrival being that. We rake them gently, lift them into bags positioned under their once homes, waiting for the truck to move our lives, anther to take them away.
The streetlight is a nocturnal Sentinel staring down. In some cities in other parts of this it could tell of the cries of drunks stumbling from closing bars, ambulances flashing in its cast shadows. On the street with sleeping homes it tells only of the snow that cradles its base.
When we were much younger we would meet by the edge of the pond each day after winter’s first taste and pry rocks from the bank with frozen fingers, one the size of a fist, others even larger. We would carefully aim and in a crystal parabola watch as they hit the frozen surface, one upon another in hopes they would not break through to drown in a strangled silence.
When the largest stones we could heave would clatter across the ice, great uneven ruts in the covering snow, we would reach for the shovels we had sneaked from the garage and slowly roll the blanket of snow into a pillow on the banks. Lacing on our skates, some a size too large, stuffed with paper others too small, toes crushed, we would step gingerly out like sailors too long ashore and lean on our hockey sticks like three-legged stools tottering across a shined floor. We would take off a hat or a glove and mark the corners of the rink and the edges of the goal mouth, two sticks wide. We would take the almost round wooden disk of layers of plywood crudely nailed together and begin a game whose periods were marked by the cry of our mothers.
Today the pond is gone replaced by homes and our shouts barely echo off the brick facades.