Moving On

The count down has begun to my moving day. This feels both exhilarating and overwhelming, and even a tad surreal. But I’ve always tried to be the kind of person who looks at change whether willed, natural or unexpected, as a positive and necessary thing. If there is to be life, there has to be change. I can’t say I have lived my life so far avoiding leaps into change and difference: moving from one continent to another, converting from one religion to another, going from single to married to single again; these have all been huge emotional movements above and beyond the more natural but no less grand events such as motherhood, degree-begetting and, alas, “THE change,” (the latter making every day potentially but unpredictably a hot and flashy experience, mid-summer aisde). In less than one week I’m heading north to Maine, but first the journey goes to Israel to write, do research and learn more Hebrew, a dream I’ve had since my early days as a Jewess.

I’m basically an empty nester now, all three sons having graduated from high school and moving on with their life plans, leaving me able to imagine a different dailiness than the one I have lived for the past 28 years in my safe and pretty privileged Connecticut suburb. This is where I moved as a newlywed, raised my children, and experienced an extraordinary Jewish community that I was in many small ways part of building. It’s also where I have lived through the painful process of separation and divorce, and the odd but convenient last few years of living in a condo ten doors down from the large house where I had raised my kids, and where their father still lives with our boys’ step-mom. Both the children and we parents shared the ease of this proximity, since there was no need for the adults to drive the kids to mom or dad’s house, and the kids could just stroll down the street to either home, to fetch a schoolbook or that favorite pair of jeans left behind. The oddity came with remaining so close, too close, to the place and the person I was no longer connected to in that intimate and familiar way; the nooks and crannies of the big, old house, and the movements, habits and sounds of the guy whom I had lived with since I was 19 years old.

But if there is one advantage to being an adjunct professor it is that, professionally, there are no ties, and although the adjunct may be poor as a pauper, she is free as a bird. The other day I was sitting at my kitchen counter, having written out a check for a bill needing to be mailed, and realized that the roll of colorful return address labels I ordered when I first moved into my new condo, over six years ago, is almost empty. While tugging at the now tiny roll nestled inside the clear acrylic dispenser holding the labels, I thought, what a coincidence. Or, good timing! There’s a time to nest, and a time to fly.

I won’t be able to order new address labels yet, since I’m going to live a bit of a vagabond life for a while, but shedding the ties associated with regular suburban living will also mean fewer of those kinds of bills to pay. Away goes the mortgage, the condo fees, the massive property taxes, the utility bills, the JCC membership…Uprooting, even when it doesn’t happen often, is never easy, but it can feel both liberating and destabilizing.

Leaving the place called home, however, has never meant severing the ties to the heart. Although I left Oslo, Norway, 32 years ago this month, my friendships from growing up there remain among my most dear ones. And now, after 28 years in my second hometown, it is not with glee or carefreeness that I up and go. As much as I feel the change that lies ahead is a necessary and a good one for my growth as an individual, a significant piece of my heart will always linger here, among the special relationships and places I have been so lucky to know and love.






Oh, No Please, Please Don’t Go!

I am not liking the news I’m reading on Facebook and in the newspaper, and hoping it’s a bad dream. Please don’t tell me The Crown Market – our one and only old time family owned kosher grocery store – has decided to close the doors for good without reaching out to the community, without going with a fanfare; with the same gusto, love and attention to our community and the long relationships we have build over generations…

Please tell me that all that – all our history and the meaningfulness and importance of it – was not just an illusion? We all know it’s been difficult for the Crown these past few years, with the increasingly tough and heartless competition from corporate America creeping closer and closer for each year; I admit I personally loathe the chirpiness of those in our community who were excitedly running to the Wal-Mart “Neighborhood Market” (what a farce!) to buy “cheaper kosher cheese and meat” – yeah! to your blind support of corporate America at the cost of supporting our local treasures. Morons.

But dear Crown: don’t forget all the hundreds of families who have stubbornly stood by our favorite market, even if we knew it might mean we paid a few cents or dollars extra for this or for that. It was our pleasure. And we would continue to do it. Because you have been our hands down favorite grocer, and your professional, wonderful, caring, warm and endearing Market staff, from the bottom and all the way up the ladder, feels like an extended family, no wait a minute, part of MY REAL community. “How are the boys, Nina?” “How’s your dad, doing?” “When is your mom coming for a visit next?” My Norwegian parents loved to come along for a shop at the Crown, becasue this was what they knew the old time America was supposed to be like. Charming, friendly, service minded. Try taking them to Wal-Mart for that experience. Bevakasha – you’re welcome. Yuck.

It seems we all – the long time Crown employees, as well as all the Crown’s faithful customers – deserve to be able to say thank you and good bye to each other in a dignified and positive manner. Would it not be a great thing to be able to reminisce about a memorable and worthy closing event? Even though the recent heads up has felt shocking to most people who are not insiders at the Crown (unfortunately, I’ve heard that even for some employees, this is a surprise), if it’s not an outright surprise, it IS very, very sad. All day yesterday I felt as if I heard the news somebody I loved and cared for was dying. But for real. And what’s up with that? I drank wine again in the middle of week, even though I haven’t for a long time, in a concerted effort to lose weight and be healthier. But last night, I felt the unstoppable urge of a looming depression. Sadness and powerlessness over an impending cloud of inevitable loss.

The Crown leadership, and we, should seize AND create an opportunity for a community outpouring, and if there really is no way to SAVE THE CROWN (see Colin McEnroe’s clever idea here: How to Save the Crown) they all deserve a chance for kind farewells from all the people for whom the Crown has been a meeting point of our daily lives, shared stories, from the casual or hurried “how are yous,” to those sometimes unavoidable longer lingerings in the isles or over the meat counter, where one could hear, perhaps, the whispered secrets of a neighbor’s relationship advice, or reminders of the critical ingredient in that unforgettable chicken soup you had last month at the Feinbergs. And sometimes even of tears of joy or of sadness.

I try to imagine getting ready for Shabbat, this coming Shabbat, and the one after, and for the rest of my life in West Hartford, without a run to the Crown. It will be like re-training my muscle memory, much like it was so difficult to change my habits of thinking and planning and caring when my dogs died after 14 years of life together, or after I got divorced, after 22 years. I imagine empty nesters go through the same emotional re-training. New thinking patterns, new habits. It will take time to not have the Crown “right there” in the frontal lobe. I try to imagine not seeing the employees anymore that I enjoy running into and bantering with. I shiver at the idea of having to one day see the Crown store as an empty, cavernous space, as the inventory is plucked away and the eventual “refurbishing” begins…

In the meantime, I’m going to make every effort to do some squatting there in the days to come, so that I can say thank you for your service, for your smiles, for caring if my eggs are broken or if you have gotten the specific brand of sauce I requested. Thank you for being a store that reinforced my feeling of being Jewish, by being closed when all the other stores refuse to set boundaries between that which is sanctified and that which is not. 24-7, come on. Who needs it. I hope everyone will join me in the opportunity to gratefully and gracefully be part of, in a way, the closing of the Crown, so dignified as it is in its long and memorable existence in and service to our community. Here in MY Jewish American life.

Let’s create our own “sanctified space” in the next few precious days or weeks that the Crown’s doors remain open, to be thankful, show our appreciation in any way we can, and celebrate the future; because we must keep believing in good things and in a process of change, and in the eventual need of moving on when the time has come.