Learner’s Service

541226_10151376622688297_1151181688_nThe last thirty minutes or so of Hebrew School on Sundays is a Learner’s Service, to which parents are invited to come sit with their student. Yesterday, I arrived a few minutes early. Pearl was playing at a friend’s house, so it was me and Aviva. Also a guy in a Red Sox t-shirt on guitar, the awesome rabbi, several classes’ worth of elementary-school-aged kids, some other parents, and a great-grandmother with an accent that took me back at least two generations.

The minute we started singing, tears sprung up and I could have sat there full-out sobbing. I kept it together, though my daughters are used to my easy show of emotion. The act of sitting down has this effect on me–on a cushion, on a mat, in a sanctuary filled with children learning, no matter some of them were glancing impatiently at the clock and out the window, eager to get on with a superbly sunny day, the last of the spring vacation week.

Six months after moving south, it’s like we’re emerging from a cave, and I feel new, like the mama bear who glories at the tender tree blossoms. I looked around and realized I even recognized some faces, other moms, women I’d like to call friends. A community.

The rabbi began to sing, and we with him, and I cried, if mostly to myself, moved by the music and the presence of my not-so-young daughter beside me, the one who requested talking “in private” last night about “being almost eleven” and therefore ready to make more of her own choices, showing me an acrostic for the word FAIL that put everything into perfect perspective: Forgetting And In (Useful) Learning. The one who reminds to me to keep remembering, who laced up her new Electric Melon sneakers to walk to the pond with her Guy Friend (because “boyfriend has a bad reputation”), who landed herself a volunteer gig this weekend for half the summer helping out at an environmental preschool summer program, who wants to be a Special Ed teacher.

The one who first spoke to me in 2001, months before her conception the following January, in the form of light on the lake. I was walking slowly home down a steep hill after a yoga class on a late-summer evening, and the light was brilliant, like the mythic end of the tunnel we hear about–and don’t have to wait for death to see.

“I will be your teacher,” she said. Or I heard. Something like this. Somehow, just knowing she was ready to be born, and I, her mama, was ready to learn.

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