I drive with Aussie in the back seat to bring some cash for Hilaria, the deaf mother with sons who’s now home after treatment for a brain aneurysm. Thank you to all those who have helped her. Hilaria’s home now, waiting for the swelling of her brain to come down so that they could operate on her, probably at Worcester. A lot of issues relating to medical insurance are still being worked out. Meantime, she can’t work at all.
“You understand the challenges she’s facing, Aussie?” I tell Aussie. “Imagine someone can’t speak English, can’t hear Spanish, and has to lip-read the translator who’s talking in Spanish and translating from English. Think of all the troubles you and I have understanding one another, and now think of what Hilaria faces. Hard to imagine!”
“Given the situation she’s in, maybe it’s good she can’t understand too well.”
“Aussie, we have to fully face and understand our situations in order to take care of ourselves in the best way possible.”
“Ignorance is bliss!”
When we return home there is a conversation with my mother. “How are you, Chavale?”
“I’m fine, other than allergies. I walked the dogs and I can’t stop sneezing since. You know, mom, it’s Rosh Hashana next Monday, the Jewish New Year.”
“Chavale, do me a big favor. Talk to God.”
“To God, mom?”
“You have a good relationship with Him, talk to Him. He’s a lonely person, He needs socializing.”
For a minute I wonder if she’s referring to my neighbor, an older man who indeed lives alone. I had just invited him over for a cup of coffee this weekend. “God is lonely, mom?”
“Of course! Who does He have to talk with? Who’s there to help Him? Ask Him if He needs something from the store, He’ll tell you.”
“I never thought of that, mom.”
“I know, I know, He’ll tell you He’s okay, but who knows? If you could at least talk to Him, He might tell you the truth.”
“Mom, I want to wish you a happy holiday and a happy new year.”
“Can’t you come for the holiday? You’re not too far away.”
“Mom, I’m in a different country.”
Pause. “Since when?”
“I can’t fly just like that for a 2-day holiday. And Israel now imposed new quarantine restrictions even for vaccinated people like me, which makes a trip like that impossible. I don’t want to travel all the way just to go into quarantine and not be able to see you for 10 days. See?”
“Ye-es,” she says skeptically. Then she brightens up. “Well, look, whatever you do, whatever you can do, I love you. Whatever you can’t do, I love you too.”
“The same goes for me, mom. Whatever you do—it’s a good day, you understand things, they make sense—I love you. It’s a bad day—things don’t make sense, you confuse me with my sister, you confuse my father with your father, the present with the past—I love you, too.”
“Yes. But can’t you at least try to come for the holiday?”
I can’t come for the holiday, but to celebrate this Jewish New Year I can at least post a list of back-to-school supplies that children of immigrant families need, like Hilaria’s sons.
I recently read that the average American family spends over $400 for back-to-school supplies. Obviously, not every American family can afford that, and certainly not the children of these families, whose parents work on farms, clean up restaurants after closing hour, or make pizza in the back of pizza parlors. So Jimena, with the help of teachers in the local schools, made up a list of what they need. It’s in the range of $2.47 (highlighters) to $42.99 (calculators), and many in between.
Many of the students from the previous year are still using last year’s backpacks and calculators, so this is for the new contingent of students. For these families, nothing—but nothing—is as important as going to school. The parents especially are well aware how critical that is for their children to make their way in this world, a way which is usually out of reach for the parents, who’re often not just illiterate in English but also in Spanish.
Whatever you can do, please do. You can find the Amazon link here. The boxes will come to me and I will bring them to Jimena, who will then distribute them.
The sun is beginning to set on our record-breaking hot, wet New England summer, which included major flooding. Ahead of us, I hope, are the beautiful colors of fall and the optimism that a new year often brings with it. Covid is still with us; the students all wear masks, not the best school experience. Let’s cheer them up, let’s give them a boost and help them at this critical time. Here is the link for the list for back-to-school supplies once again.
And to everyone: A happy Jewish New Year. If you can help—I love you. And if you can’t—I love you too.