Southern & Jewish
Southern & Jewish celebrates the stories, people, and experiences – past and present – of Jewish life in the American South. Hosted by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, posts come from educators, students, rabbis, parents, artists, and many other “visitors-to and daily-livers-of” the Southern Jewish experience. From road trips to recipes to reflections, we’ll explore a little bit of everything – well, at least all things Southern and/or Jewish. Shalom, y’all!
I’m a busy person.
“Busy” has been a proud part of my identity for longer than I’d like to admit. Even as a child, I was always busy, because my family was busy — volunteering, going to YMCA swim classes, going to temple, going to theater rehearsals, and on and on.
As an adult who juggles a writing career, a day job, and a long list of other “to-dos,” I was still very, very busy… and frustrating as it could be, it was also something I still took a lot of pride in. So productive, so many goals, look at me go-go-go!
And then something happened, 18 months ago: My daughter arrived.
Even while pregnant, I kept ridiculously busy. But for the first few weeks after she was born, I slowed down. I mean, I was waking up every four hours to feed an infant, I was learning to nurse, changing diapers, it’s not like I was resting… but my to-do list was pared down to one major item:
- This kid.
But all too quickly, the pace picked up and the list lengthened again. I went back to work. A play I wrote was in rehearsal, and I was expected to be there (my daughter slept through her first table read at three weeks old). Other friends had babies, and I needed to bring them meals. We signed up for baby gym classes. We hosted visitors, went to Rosh Hashanah celebrations, traveled for work, Hanukkah celebrations, road trips, rehearsals…
Last week was particularly busy. My husband was going to be working late, again. I was working from home with the kiddo, because childcare had canceled on us. As the sun began setting outside, I was trying to wrap my regular workday and transition into some edits I needed to get done for a big writing project, and then I needed to fill out the application for her preschool—
“Turtle,” my daughter said, turning her little face away from her coloring and up to me.
“In a minute,” I told her.
“Turtle,” she said adamantly.
Turtle is a purple plush-and-plastic turtle toy with a special feature: When it’s dark enough, you can turn Turtle on and she’ll project stars onto the walls and ceiling, and on to your face and the floor and wherever else you turn her.
“Turtle peeeeze,” my daughter said plaintively, demonstrating her polite words.
I looked at her, my girl, growing up way too quickly. In front of her was not only her coloring stuff, but also a book, and multiple toys, and the remains of her snack. In front of me was her preschool application. She is already so busy, and only getting bigger and busier. But right in that moment, she wanted to shove the rest of it aside, turn off the lights, turn on Turtle, and look at the stars with her Mama.
I snapped my laptop shut, and turned off the lights.
“SIT!” She yelled, thrilled.
I sat beside her on the floor, leaning against the couch, and she pressed the button. Our ceiling was instantly sprawling with blue stars.
“Pre-yee,” she said.
“Pretty,” I agreed, kissing her perfect head, and feeling my eyes tear up.
It occurred to me later just how Southern and Jewish that moment was. After all, a Southern stereotype worth celebrating is “a slower pace of life.” Taking the time to sit on a porch, rock in a rocker, sip sweet tea—cliché, yes, but I’ve done all of these things and never once regretted it. Seriously, at the end of our life, what will we regret more: the sips we savored, or the deadlines we allowed to dominate us?
And then there’s the Jewish angle. In Proverbs 22:6, we’re told: “Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it.”
If I’m not careful, what I will model for her – what I will be teaching her as “the way she should go” – is that busy is best. And we will both spend plenty of our time being busy. So when she wants to take a minute to stop everything and sit on our (overdue-for-a-vacuuming) carpet…
…I’m going to still all those other busy thoughts, and savor this time in my life, where I can gaze up at stars inside my apartment with my tiny daughter by my side.