Saturday, April 25, 2009

Shul as Spa Treatment

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Enjoying a Spiritual Soak

Shul hit the spot last night. Pat's on her annual trip to Tennessee for several days of golf with buddies from her Northern Illinois University colleagues' golf team, since a couple of them retired there. I'm famous for not liking to stay in the house alone, i.e., without other people, not including cats, and so my mom's here.

"Like most women, I decided who my mother was long ago, sometime during childhood," Ruth Reichl said in an interview on NPR the other day.

My mom went with me to services last night and I was reminded of that quote as we sang "Oseh Shalom" together; growing up, no matter how chaotic the week/morning/moments prior to sitting in the pew had been, we got into such a cheerful, peaceful mood whenever we sang that piece of the liturgy. Same effect last night. I was eight again, and still shorter than my then-totally-able-bodied, Girardo-frosted-hair mom.

Driving home, I thought about Ruth Reichl's statement and how through writing a memoir about her mother, her decision about who her mother was broadened. This weekend, with just the two of us, I want to be open to a further expansion of the definition I have of my mother.

Last night was just the start, and a welcome way to begin: For particular parts of the liturgy, I stood with the congregation and my mother sat -- unable to stand anymore for any sustained length of time; we held hands, though, and she began swinging them. I didn't even need to close my eyes; we were six and 46 again, skipping together down any of my hometown's streets.

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