In retrospect, I’m glad we made Aliyah at the end of a calendar year. At the time, moving during the first of New Jersey’s many blizzards and dealing with holiday travel didn’t seem like such a good idea. But now, as I reflect on the year that we’ve been living in Israel, I find comfort in the awareness that I will never have to struggle to remember when we moved here. It was at the end of December, in the winter of the end of a decade.
And, as if leaving our friends and family to move to a new country wasn’t turbulent or memorable enough, there was plenty else to mark this year in my memory. I lost a cousin. I lost my grandmother. And through these and other extraordinarily difficult times for my family this year, I was here and they were there.
In the chapters that mark my life, 2011 will be one I remember without a bookmark, without a folded over corner.
My kind friends and loving husband might argue with this, but the marks of this year also show on my face, which seems to be finally showing signs of age. This year, as exciting as its been, has also been the year that I started feeling aches in my joints and noticing that my body is not as resilient as it used to be.
This was the year I closed my business and started a new job. It was the year I gave up my Blackberry and then found it again, at least the Israeli Nokia version. It was the year I moved to the house down the street of one of my oldest childhood friends and the year I found that sometimes, moving away from your closest friends, actually draws you nearer to them.
This was the year I stopped obsessively focusing on healing others; and truly starting looking inward in an effort to heal myself. It was the year I rediscovered the healing power of song and prayer; love and community.
This was the year I decided that a heaping helping of humble pie was good for me. That learning something new every day can be painful, but active listening sometimes works better than talking when you want to communicate who you are and what you want.
This was the year my husband really learned to appreciated me as a mother. And I him as a hard-working professional.
It was the year I let go.
This morning, after I dropped off my five-year-old at gan, I shook my head in amazement. He had woken up this morning with a bellyache and asked not to go to school. After hesitating only a minute, we decided it was okay if he stayed behind and rested in his room this morning. After all, it’s a long week, and Fridays are half-day, looser schedules for kids in preschool here.
At around 9 am, he decided he felt better and asked if he could go to gan. I asked him, “Are you sure? You can stay home if you want. It’s fine.” He insisted he felt well and asked that I take him up.
When we got to the door of his classroom, he gave me a quick kiss, and with one last look back, left my side to play with his friends.
This was the same kid who one year ago, walked off the plane at Ben Gurion Airport, pale as a ghost, after vomiting for 12 hours straight. This was the kid who cried every morning for months when we dropped him off at gan; who wouldn’t let us leave; who begged us to stay home. This same kid was now opting for gan over a day off at home. This same kid, didn’t know a word of Hebrew when we arrived a year ago, but now speaks completely in Hebrew with his friends…and with confidence.
This morning, my five-year-old’s brother is off playing with his own friends; and his sister, I’m sure, is chatting away in Hebrew with hers at her own school. My husband is preparing food for our Shabbat meal tonight with friends, and I’m here, taking a break from cleaning the house.
This was the year we turned our life upside down.
And the year our life righted itself.
Jen Maidenberg is a writer, editor, activist and former assistant editor at the Arizona Jewish Post. Visit her website at http://jenmaidenberg.com/.