On a dreary day…in my car…transported by Max Bruch’s violin concerto in G minor.
Mind at rest, soaring with the solo violin.
Eyes shut against the day, the present.
Heart yearning for the next note.
Voicelessly singing along and
Reaching such peacefulness.
Now…here comes exultation, hope and joy triumphantly played by each and every instrument of the orchestra…pulling me along…on and on and on
to a crescendo of ever more emphatic glory!
At last on the plateau, full-throated satisfaction.
A wistful glance back to the road traveled.
Then…rush, rush thrillingly, trilling to a huge open-armed embrace
–belonging, yes, belonging at last!
I have arrived. Eyes open. Glancing around, the public parking lot has not changed.
A bird keens in the tree tops.
A woman returns to her locked car, turns on her lights, her motor and noiselessly eases out of her spot.
It took a piece of music to refocus me. In the midst of daily errands, I reached for meaning quite by chance. I was on my way to a therapist. Life had gotten slightly complicated and I need some help to sort out priorities and feelings.
Is belonging what I need most now? Was it ever? Was it always? Certainly I have given of myself to all the communities I have joined. Even here in this small New England Polish village, I am part of town committees, I attend meetings, I speak up and I volunteer opinions and actions. They know who I am. But I am still not sure I know who they are. On the kibbutz in Israel, another small village, they learned to know who I was for the very same reasons. A hard worker, shirking no responsibility, always ready to share the burden. Where did this trait come from? How did I learn this?
I grew up in the South of France, in Buenos Aires, in the suburbs of New Jersey and in Manhattan! What an odd mix. In my families I was always the outsider, living part of the year with my mother and siblings and part of the year with my father, as his only child. Among Americans on the one hand, and among European exiles on the other. Different cultures, different (if indifferent) religions, different languages, foods, table manners, and on and on. The photo albums have me popping in and out at odd intervals. I am a visitor in both homes. In my mother’s world I was spoken to in French but they all spoke to each other in English. Moving countries meant changing schools and languages and many other expectations. I was an odd tri-lingual pre-adolescent in New Jersey, wearing nothing that my classmates had ever seen before—matching wool skirt and jackets purchased wholesale in the garment district. In America I was the Jewish bookbinder; in Israel I was the American bookbinder. In my Jerusalem neighborhood, all the Americans came from a social milieu that I had barely heard of. I feel so not part of our local Women’s Club; but I tried. I was always the new child who assumed that the new school culture was unknowable. It was the only life I ever knew.
Sometimes I wondered who I might have become had my parents never divorced and had continued living in the NYC suburb of Dobbs Ferry. I was curious, but not eager to have changed my fortunes. I am used to myself, to whom I became. I quite like her. And she, that is I, am who I am because of this odd meandering existence.
I can make myself at home anywhere. I am here now longer than I have been anywhere in my life. I belong, sort of, everywhere. Last week I spent several hours in our local senior center to use their laminating machine for a town project. Quietly, at my work, I overheard many conversations and interactions. There was a bingo game going on, someone counting money from a fundraiser, a couple of women were noisily getting lunch ready, coffee drinkers were chatting and a few immersed in newspapers…and me. I was the stranger for sure. I knew not one of my neighbors, not one. I tried to imagine myself among these people socially. It was a stretch.
I know I don’t really belong here. They would surely agree with me, if I gave them the opportunity to discover me. Not likely. I know that we are each a world unto ourselves. I am working these days on belonging to myself.