FREEDOM AND HOME

A beautiful path in the woods. Aussie runs.

Henry the Illegal Chihuahua dashes after her. I call him, he comes back. Aussie, fuggedaboudit.

When finally, after 15 minutes, she returns, she runs right past me and hops into a tiny pool formed by the strong rains we’ve recently had here, gets down on her belly, and smiles. She’s hot and thirsty, and there’s nothing she loves more than to cool down by standing or lying in water. So happy, so proud of herself, as if she’s saying: You give me my freedom to run, and I will find you. You give me freedom, and I’ll always find home.

I had a dream in the early hours before taking the dogs out. In the dream, I’m driving with my sister towards the Henry Hudson Parkway going north, and we get lost in the Bronx. I park the car and we go into a bodega to ask for directions. Luckily, a cop stands there helping people out. He asks us to wait, and when he’s finished he turns to me. I ask him for directions; he knows how we should go but starts bantering. I banter back, he laughs, shakes his head, tells me what this reminds him of, and suddenly my sister, who speaks English perfectly well, says to me in Hebrew: “He doesn’t know what we’re talking about.”

I give her a shocked look. How could she speak in a foreign language about a man standing right there trying to help us, and who knows she’s talking about him? He and I go on, and eventually we get the directions we need, but she again says to me in Hebrew: “He doesn’t know how to go.” Finally, we leave the bodega, and I feel terrible.

I woke up and sat up in bed. My sister, as considerate and sensitive a person as you’ll find anywhere, would never do that. What was that dream about?

I recalled episodes that took place when I’m in Israel. I would be with my brother or sister, we’d stop somewhere for some reason, they might ask a person for something, and do what I did with the Bronx cop: joke around, banter in a friendly way, refer to a new slang that came from a favorite TV program. And while I follow Hebrew, I can’t always follow the rapid-fire jokes, the new lingo, the teasing.

It’s not a matter of language but rather of culture, of comfort and intimacy with those who watch the news, have different ways of celebrating holidays or doing vacation, who unconsciously rely on a host of common history and values that someone from a different country doesn’t share. I can’t participate with them in such a scene, much as my sister, bewildered, couldn’t participate in my exchange with the Bronx cop in my dream.

I got somber. Just the previous day I’d blogged about how important it is to live with differences, how often the Whole reveals itself much clearer when we spend time with people not like us than when we just hang out with friends or like-minded peers. That morning, sitting up in bed, I wondered whether all these gaps that separate us, whoever and wherever we are, could ever be bridged. They loomed large and overwhelming. I remembered what we chant in a dedication at the end of one of our services:

Let us forever remember the causes of suffering.

Let us forever act to relieve suffering.

May we always have the courage to bear witness,

To see ourselves as Other and Other as ourselves.

Is that just dogma, I wondered.

Later that morning, I watched Aussie standing happily in the tiny pond after running. Leeann Warner, Aussie’s trainer who takes a group of dogs twice a week up and into the mountain behind her house, once said to me: “You know me for years, Eve, and I have never let any dog in my care just run. But I’ve made an exception of Aussie because she’s so smart and always makes her way home. And she needs to run.”

 I have deep faith that if I can make space for people as they are, wide open to the different life and reality that they experience, knowing I can never stand in their shoes and they can’t stand in mine, keeping in mind that, given our shared DNA, we have way more in common with others than we realize, and greet them with curiosity and benevolence, if I can make space for that, they’ll come home.

Home can never be on my terms. If I have always to adapt yourself to someone else or that person to me, neither of us is home. My family was split wide open for psychological and sectarian reasons, and I learned early on to go far away, and to mute myself, even hide, when I was close. I kept my family, but I wasn’t home.

I think of the many families who decided not to talk about the 2016 election of Donald Trump in order to keep the peace. Sometimes that seems to be the careful thing to do, or as a friend suggested, consider not talking about the Middle East war when you come together with your siblings. That might make for vanilla-flavored calm, but that’s not home.

If you’re always careful and watching your words, that’s not home.

If you have to hide behind veils of courtesy and denial, that’s not home. It may be nice, even tranquil. But it’s not home.

You might say, “You and Leeann will see, one day Aussie won’t make it home.”

That could happen, but I won’t forget her words to me: You give me freedom, and I’ll come home.

And what’s home?

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