PREPENT DAY NINE:
Elul 9 5775 – August 24, 2015
When Vera was 20, sometimes in the early 70’s, on her journey away from the Hasidic home where she grew up in Borough Park to becoming a political powerhouse, she’d carry a small bottle of expensive French perfume in her purse – just in case she’d meet the right guy. She carried it for several years, unopened, waiting for the right guy, right moment, perfect spray.
Then one day she ran up the subway stairs during rush hour and the purse fell and a crash was heard and a small cloud of French perfume filled the air and she sat on the subway stairs and first cried and then laughed and then made a decision: Stop waiting to use what life has to give you and live here and now.
She told me that story many years later, as one child of Holocaust survivors to another, sharing wisdom on how to get beyond trauma and fully live a life.
I’m thinking of Vera this morning, as I sit in a pretty salon in the Marais, Paris’ historic Jewish quarter, in an old apartment recently renovated, owned by a Jewish family for over 100 years, including the dark WW2 years when this house was silent and not all returned.
But we are here now. In Paris! It’s a big deal for me.
Paris has been on my mind for decades as a destination for a big romantic pilgrimage or at least a red carpet, five star VIP affair. I’ve blamed on it on past lives – perhaps I used to be a franco-royal and no backpacking coming-home will do unless I stay at the Ritz.
Or maybe it’s just that I don’t speak French and disinclined to be a stranger in a strange land, what with the famous semi-friendly attitude of the Parisians to tourists and my oh-so-manly terror of asking the local for help. So, like Vera’s perfume, I’ve been saving Paris for the right moment and the right guy.
But it worked out, following the week with my mother in London, that a friend’s invitation was gladly taken, and a train booked, and a few more days of vacance secured, and voila. Here I am. Why wait any longer? What if 31 days from now my life is over and I’ve never had Paris.
Consider it a scouting adventure towards the great romantic return.
Day 9 of Prepent invites us to try on something new, big or small, dreamt of or unexpected, delayed and saved for some day. Today. Open that unopened bottle. The jam jar. Wear that scarf or tie that you’ve been saving. Make that call that you’ve put off. Seize the day and do something for yourself or others that you’ve kept putting off. A gentle or bold gesture of gratitude for life.
On the note of gratitude: I took the EuroStar train from London to Paris. Elegant and easy and fast. But as we neared the channel crossing it was announced that ‘migrants had blocked’ the tunnel and the train would be delayed. We sat there for over two hours. The inconvenience was real but how heartbreaking and small in perspective to the plight of refugees from Syria and Africa seeking safe haven and a new home.
Sitting in Paris this morning I count my blessings, grateful for each privileged bite of breakfast and vowing to live life to the fullest so that I too can be here with and for others on our various and quite different journeys home.