Blessed is the man who fathers a child, for he is a bridge between heaven and earth.
These verses, from our girls’ baby naming ceremonies, came into my head while I was out running this afternoon, after spending most of the day cleaning and doing errands. It is spectacularly beautiful out – crystal blue sky, crisp foliage you could practically eat.
Today is our ninth anniversary and Aviva’s sixth birthday. Aviva, who danced for me and Greg a few nights ago in her room, after her little sister had gone to sleep. Who put on first the Indian flute music I listened to in our hospital room when she was a newborn, then later, the Jewish lullabies my mother gave to me, that brought me such comfort at a low point living alone in NYC. Aviva, who closed her eyes, and danced from within herself around the room, at one point cradling a baby of her own with such tenderness. Six years old! That’s a third of the way to eighteen! I began to cry, sitting there on her bed, leaning into Greg, watching my daughter, our daughter, our Aviva Lou.
When Aviva was a baby, she would fix people with her big blue eyes in such a way that some would shift uncomfortably, as if she was peering right into them. No doubt, she was; she has that, that ability to see the things that cannot be seen. She still has it.
Yesterday, for Yom Kippur, we rented a couple of houses on the lake with our havurah, a group of six families that comprises our innermost Jewish community. We decided to spend the holiday unplugged, together someplace beautiful and away from our usual routines, rather than in synagogue. Several of us adults fasted, and the kids ate simply throughout the day. Experiencing hunger added a heightened awareness to our time, which culminated with a beautiful, home-grown service outside. Hearing the shofrim (plural for shofar) call out across the water gave me chills.
In my interpretation, to hear the shofar is to truly wake up. Simplistically speaking, Yom Kippur is about repentance and atonement. Last night, as Greg and I watched the moon rise in one part of the sky, truly silvery against the grey clouds and darkening blue sky, and the sun set in the other, all peaches and oranges, he was talking about the fact that he doesn’t connect with those words, those concepts. They sound so heavy and laden, rigid, punishing. Our friend Jonathan, Greg told me, had been talking earlier about how the holiday is all about awe. The two dads talked about how our kids all say, “Awesome!” (Even Pearl!) But do we really see? Do we experience awe? Do we see, with awe, how miraculous life is? Do we notice the moon, the sun, the looks on our children’s faces as they listen to the shofar blow, calling us all to attention, interrupting our busy day to remind us we are here, alive?
If there’s anything to regret, it’s only that I wasn’t always awake. Chet, traditionally translated from Hebrew to English as “sin,” really means something closer to “to miss the mark.” Bullseye, baby. I keep throwing those darts, trying my best, coming into awareness, waking up, raising my hand, hearing the shofar blast, seeing what cannot be seen, experiencing love and spirit and life in the same way I experience oxygen – we’re swimming in it. Except so often, I am asleep at the wheel, blasting through my days. Yom Kippur, holy of holies, woke me back up.
So did Aviva Simma, Joyful Springtime Treasure. I always knew she would be my teacher. I knew it in August, 2001, leaving yoga one evening and seeing the light on the lake, almost blinding, a light I still associate with Oneness. I heard her then, in my heart, wordless. I knew she was ready, and I went home and said to Greg, “It’s time to start trying.” This took some convincing on his part, but he trusted me, and I trusted her, and we trusted each other. It took six months (which felt like forever), but she picked my birthday to be conceived and our wedding anniversary to be born. Indeed, Aviva is so self-possessed, so deliberate. To watch her grow, to be her mama, is such a privilege.
Aviva, may you be inscribed in the book of life for the year to come. May being six be filled with joy and delight and play and sleeping late on Shabbat and chapter books and girlfriends. May Obama become YOUR president on November 4. May you continue to teach me, and may we continue to wake up, to be awake, to see each other, every day, with awe. Aviva, you are such an awesome kid! I am so, so proud of you.
Thank you for being here, for choosing us. (As you say, we had arrows on our bellies, to show you that we were available. See? Even in the sky, you could see.)