For My Sister; For Us All

When I was a child, there was a family that lived in the closet my younger sister and I shared. The father’s name was pronounced Gee [hard “g” like girl] Aye. I don’t remember Gee Aye and his family doing anything except hanging out there. They had a neighbor named Mimi. I think our closet neighborhood must have been very pleasant. Nothing much happened there, but everyone was happy, sort of like the neighborhood of Mr. Rogers. There was also a person named Dee-Dee-Dum who lived under a chair in our kitchen. The chair had metal steps that folded out from below the seat. If someone pushed the steps back under the seat, they bounced a bit and made a sound, dee-dee-dum.

            My sister and I made up words. One was “grapey,” which meant something better than good, an indescribable wonderfulness. We had a song, “Daddy is good. Daddy is bad. Daddy is GRAPEYYY!” Then we sang it again and again, each time using another family member’s name—because we were all good, bad, and indescribably wonderful.

            We made up other songs for family members, pets, and daily routines. We had a song that reminded us to practice good table manners: “Napkin on lap. Doo doo doo doo.”  My children surpassed my sister and me in imagination and song.  Even their stuffed animals composed songs, and they had a radio show. (People might think the show was imaginary, but I think it seemed as real to my husband and me as it did to our daughters.)

             I celebrated my birthday this weekend as the nation mourned. Hanukkah candles and birthday candles produced a glow that chased the shadows of tragedy from our dining room. One year ago I faced a medical crisis. My own private miracle in the season of miracles has made me cherish the love of family and friends. And so I reflect upon my life, and I am thankful. I know that there are people who have only memories of their loved ones to sustain them now. I have no answers, except to say, do not glorify the perpetrators of violence. Hug your loved ones, cherish happy memories, do something silly every day, and, if you can, make up a song and sing.


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