Monday, June 22, 2009

Lost and Found

It has been a dislocating season, short on sunlight, stalked by rain.

Overwhelmed by wind. Unreasonably cold.

Spring has acted like a mean-spirited host who does snarky things to compel her guests to leave early: skimp on breakfast, cut off the hot water supply, play music loud late into the night.

The only saving grace has been the sense of en masse misery about the weather.

"Ya sure ya wanna go outside?" we asked winkingly in the lobbies of buildings throughout New York as umbrellas were unfurled and raincoats buttoned up. Next came "Lovely weather we've been having," with a sardonic roll of the eyes. That, in turn, morphed into wearily sarcastic pronouncements such as "Really original. Rain again," and now, weeks later, into a cri de coeur -- "Omigod!!! How long is this supposed to last??"

Despite the absolute certainty of rain, HOBB, Little Babe and I drove up to our summer refuge -- Rosmarin's -- on Friday afternoon with bags of food from Fairway, challah from Zayde's, a slab of fresh potato kugel, a pan of broiled chicken, a Rubbermaid container filled with teriyaki salmon and another with sauteed beef, ala Little Babe's secret Asian recipe, a chocolate babka, wine and grape juice and two-days' worth of clothes, books, newspapers, magazines and Alfie and Nala the Pomeranians.

Our bungalow -- 10B, in the lower section of the bungalow colony known as The Flats -- is on the edge of a lush woods that fringe Walton Lake. A grassy field stretches out from the front of our cabin to the main road of the Flats. Only two double units occupy our side of the road, providing much-appreciated privacy in a cozy summer community with hundreds of inhabitants.

Which is to say that when we arrived in Monroe just half an hour before Shabbat, we found our isolation compounded. Only one other car sat in the parking lot. No lights shone in any of the other bungalow windows. Near the edge of the forest, young bucks stood grazing calmly. The air was sweet with the scent of fresh rain.

Trudging through the squishy, saturated earth on our walk from the car to the bungalow while aggressive raindrops pelted our heads. we laughed nervously at our originality...or stupidity.

We unpacked hurriedly, gripped by hunger and the sudden fear that more extreme weather might cause us to move in from our screened-in porch. I lit the Shabbat candles. We sang Shalom Aleichem. HOBB made the kiddush.

We drank wine and grape juice. We washed and I said the ha-motzi, throwing challah to my husband and son, as per the Sephardic custom that I adopted several years earlier. We began our Sabbath meal.

The drops of rain hitting our bungalow's roof formed a friendly percussion to our conversation. We added sweatshirts and socks as the evening wore on. The dogs came to beg, tableside, and we lured them to the back room, where they barked and barked, indignant that the humans get the broiled chicken, the broiled beef.

The dinner concluded, uninterrupted. HOBB went to read in the bedroom and Little Babe and I played a summer-camp game, forming our own teams, competing to find lyrics that contained, first, colors and then boys' names:

"Don't it make my brown eyes blue"
"I see a red door and I want to paint it black"
"Three cheers for the red, white and blue."
"Sky of blue, and sea of green in our yellow submarine."
"Daniel's traveling tonight on a plane."
"Oh Mickey, you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind, hey Mickey!"
"Seein' me and Julio down by the schoolyard."

Soon, I noticed that HOBB had fallen asleep and Little Babe was yawning. I sent him for toothbrushing, we said the Sh'ma together, I kissed him goodnight and then sat in the Adirondack kitchen chair, reading Richard Yates deep into the night.

It is now two nights later. One hour ago, Sunday yielded to Monday. In my urban bungalow, to which we returned several hours ago, I'm still the only one awake...thinking, writing deep into the night.

My husband and youngest son and daughter are long sleeping. Our pooches crawled into my closet, collapsing atop the comfortable pile of discarded items of clothes that they fashioned into their nest. They were exhausted from our Father's Day excursion to Beacon, NY, hour-long visit to the boardwalk at Rye Playland and dinner at the home of FOBB and MOBB (father and mother of Bungalow Babe), where we were joined by Middle Babe, our daughter.

At this hour, my apartment is quiet but my mind is not. I am thinking of so many things -- of the lovely rain-saturated Shabbat we spent in the country, of the Scrabble game played Saturday afternoon atop our bed, of our bungalow friends from The Hill -- up on top -- who likewise journeyed up to their bungalow, despite the forecast; of Richard Yates's bleak world view, of the demands of the work week ahead of me, of the books I want to read and those I wish to write, of the often maddening modern artwork at Dia in Beacon, of the waning month of June, of Middle Babe's approaching 21st birthday, of the free-floating and diffuse sense of loss that I feel on this night.

I am thinking of the myriad unresolved hurts between people who love each other. I am thinking of the missed opportunity to love. I am thinking of the special lovability of those who are different. I am thinking of the challenge of loving those who are difficult.

I am thinking of how time is swept away, never to return. I am wondering if Big Babe, my oldest son, living in Berlin, is right to despair of discovering sincerity dwelling in the human heart.

I am thinking about the violence in Iran and the countless cases of missing children in this country, the sad fact that most are discovered to have been murdered. I am thinking about escaping to Paris. I am thinking of visiting my sister in the Holy Land. I think, happily, of the easy love between us.

As this Father's Day wanes, I contemplate a puzzle worthy of the Sphinx -- when is a father not a father? When is a daughter not a daughter?

I think of how I recently explained the essence of being adopted thusly:

Imagine a plant uprooted from its native soil, replanted in a beautiful grove. The new soil is hospitable to growth, but the plant is nevertheless the product of another grove, transplanted into foreign soil.

I am thinking that my adoption is a fascinating part of me but hardly the totality of who I am. For instance, I am so much more defined by my thirst for knowledge and adventure.

I am thinking about what hasn't yet happened and I what I would like to say.

I am thinking about making a point. I am thinking about breaking through.

I am thinking of nothing and everything.

And suddenly, what I have lost turns into what I have not yet found.

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