This afternoon I picked up my sister, Ruth, from New Haven, Connecticut, almost a 2-hour drive from home. Above is a photo of her from some 12 years ago.
It poured practically the entire way down, but I still made it in good time to attend a Zen Peacemaker meeting by Zoom before her train arrived from Newark Airport. Union Station was noisier than I ever heard it, I’d forgotten to bring headphones, and banners flew welcoming the class of 2026 to Yale.
Ruth lives in Jerusalem; I rarely get family coming to visit. We’ve been very close for many years now and always mourn the long distance between our homes.
Driving back took us some three hours on account of a bad accident near Hartford, where we sat completely still. Above us roared big trucks on the 84 Interstate highway, pounding the concrete overhead as they sped towards Boston, while on our highway, 91 going north, everyone had turned off the engine. We went nowhere for a good hour.
“If this happened in Israel everybody would be honking their horn this entire time,” my sister commented.
I remember a time before free WhatsApp video calls, when international calls were so rare and expensive that we could hardly get the words out of our mouths before we had to hang up the phone. We used them almost exclusively for big news or to mark the major Jewish holidays. Everything else was written on the onion-thin blue aerogrammes that we penned to each other every week.
We both became terrific letter writers, accumulating piles of letters from each other that we kept stacked up and tied with rubber bands. Any day when an aerogramme arrived in the mail was a good day. We’d look forward to them, tear them open very carefully, and read them again and again. So much anticipation, so much patience, so much reflection on the one that arrived before the next one came in. And when letters didn’t arrive, we’d get worried. Did something happen? And then there were the great days when two aerogrammes arrived at the same time.
The phone calls were brief, words tumbling out or else frozen in our mouths. How quickly can you tell someone about your life? How quickly can you tell her how important she is to you? The words I love you seemed to fade across the distance. I used to imagine waves and currents buffeting those long phone cables laid on the ocean bed, a vast body of water separating us.
But here she is, in person. Not on WhatsApp or Zoom or FaceTime, the whole body, the walk, pulling a large navy valise on wheels, and I yell at her on the train platform to stop before she takes the elevator down. The whole person is here, and she brings with her the faces of her partner and daughter, the face of my brother, even the face of parents who’ve died. Dogs we shared, foods we love, the same silly jokes nobody else laughs at but us.
She’s here for 9 days, a full 9 days.
As usual, I’ll try to parse out some work time, sitting time, dog walking time, reading and blogging time. The blog posts will be uneven, maybe a little rushed. I’ll get nervous about commitments and not falling behind. Ruth understands; she knows me better than anybody. She’s already settled down with a British detective novel; she’s come here to rest. In a few days my pace will begin to match hers and it will slowly be what it always is, as if we’ve never been apart.
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