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A little of this, a little of that, and a whole lot of blah blah blah....

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

When It Rains, It Pours...

Ah, summertime in Albany, New York...

...seems about right...
But the wonderful thing about summertime in Albany, New York--the thing I most remember about it from when I was a child, is that whenever you don't like the weather, you can wait five minutes and it will change.

Yup, it's been one heck of a wet summer in between spells of sun, a rainbow here and there, some clouds and maybe a chance of meatballs.

I live (until the end of this month!) in a basement level apartment. It's an older building and from the time I moved in, I noticed it's western slant. Basically, like so many buildings of its age in the area, my apartment is sinking. Amazingly though, it's always remained unscathed by the torrential downpours that flash through, by days of endless rain, by melting snow, even by Hurricane Sandy.
So when yet another torrential downpour rushed through the area this afternoon while I was still at work, I didn't expect anything different when I got home. Nonetheless, I had a soggy surprise seeping into my living room, also known now as my indoor pool room. (If we weren't in the nine days now, I'd totally invite my friends over for a nice swim!)

For better or for worse, I've had ample experience with house floods. The morning after we moved into our second home in upstate New York in 1993, the hot water heater in the basement burst, flooding my brand new playroom. When we moved to Massachusetts in 1999, our quaint cape style house was built atop a wetland. The first Rosh Hashanah there, it rained. Inside the kitchen. Every single year, without fail, we had at least one significant flood in the basement. In 2003, that flood was accompanied by an electrical fire. I learned in many ways not to be attached to material objects. It was actually a positive lesson all things considered. If I got home and heard the familiar sound of rushing water, I knew there were a few things to check. First living creatures. Then the piano. Then my stuffed Kermit the Frog and my binder of song lyrics. I learned, much through experience, that the rest was not so important. Photos are lost, books are damaged, clothes get ruined, tchotchkes break; this doesn't take away from the memories or sentiments they bring. Those you hold onto forever, no matter what. Cross country moves, electronic storage failures and the inevitable passing of time taught me more still. You can't take it all with you. Home is wherever you make it with whatever you have. It's the people you are with and the love that surrounds you that is always in your heart. If your hands are full of miscellaneous stuff, you've less room to hold onto the relationships and stories we share. Maybe it seems callous, maybe it seems superficial, but this is what makes it possible and easier to go in whatever glorious direction life takes me without clinging too strongly to the small stuff.

So when I got home and saw the water collected outside my front door and then squished my way through the living room carpet, still seeping with incoming rain, I did what I always do. I checked my now nearly 20-year-old stuffed Kermit the Frog. And the brand new sheitel I'll wear after my wedding next month, G-d willing. And I started to unpack all the soggy boxes. Laid out the books to dry. Threw out what wasn't salvageable, B"H, not too much. I changed from my canvas shoes into rubber boots. I called the apartment maintenance. I called my fiance. I called my mom. Then I cried a bit. Some family were going to visit for dinner tomorrow night on their brief way through Albany. They live in Israel and I've not seen my cousin in at least 15 years. I have yet to meet her two beautiful children in person. I am still very excited, though my apartment is no longer inhabitable for a dinner party with kids. No matter, my family is all about adapting and adventure! I moved the rest of the stuff out of the way so they can put a big fan in here tomorrow to suck out the moisture the shop vac couldn't. I have amazing friends here who will help me out with a cool, dry place to stay. It's yet another reminder that those relationships and connections we build are the most important thing. All the rest is replaceable.

Humor and meaning can be gleaned from most situations in life. My apartment is so wet, there was seriously a live earthworm on my carpet. That was amusing. I probably won't be charged for ANY stains possibly found on this carpet when I move out at the end of the month! That's kind of nice. The sun is shining now, but in a New York minute, that could change. It could pour again and in all likelihood, with the ground at saturation point, the flooding could continue. And that's where the meaning comes to play. It's the relationships we build and not the structures that truly matter. Whether we are close or far away, whether we see each other every day, or once every 15 years, the connection we develop and maintain is not part and parcel to the journey, it is the journey. This is why we must nurture those connections and why we must nurture ourselves. If we hold on to old hurts or fears, we, too, will reach saturation point and the very places we call home will seep through the surface with the flood of our tears and pain.

Each and every night as an observant Jew retires, (s)he is called upon to let go of the day. To make amends for any personal wrongdoing. And to forgive anyone else who may have wronged her/him. It is a tall order on some days, but in that, we let go and start fresh. So, too, is G-d so incredibly merciful that He allows us each day to start anew. A little flood in my living room is truly a gift to remind me not to sweat the small stuff. That in the face of pending and exciting change--a move, a marriage, a new life with my soon-to-be-husband, I don't have to cling to the details. I can do my part and in the rest, I can trust HaShem will do His. Water is sustenance. It is life and breath and possibility. It can also be destruction and death. Everything in this physical world is neutral. What we make of it is what we become. Sink or swim. And again and again, with G-d's help and with the love and kindness of the connections made along the way, I choose to keep calm and just keep swimming.