My 3-year-old nephew, his voice raspy from a recent cold, has been directing a long-winded narrative my way. I catch only a few words, but they startle me: Santa will be sliding down chimneys, and then there will be presents.
“Oh really?” I say, my eyebrows rising, inwardly vowing to speak with my sister.
Maybe it’s the high heels. Maybe it’s the sky-high spirits. Maybe it’s the smile hinting ever so slightly of mischief. But when I meet Rochelle Shoretz at a downtown Starbucks on a recent bright September day, I’m surprised.
On the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, a time of reflection and renewal, I often find myself fantasizing about bagels and orange juice. By late morning, my thoughts turning ever more frequently to coffee, my temples throbbing from caffeine withdrawal, my belly gnawing from hunger, I begin to snarl. As my stomach growls, so do I. By noon on Yom Kippur, I’m often a cranky mess, anxious and irritable with my husband and children, angry at myself for my shortcomings of spirit.
On a chilly spring morning, I faced my grandmother’s grave for a second time, there to mark the ritual unveiling of her tombstone. My grandmother, a woman of good cheer and many years, seemed to hover about the small gathering, lending the day a bittersweet spirit.
But what I remember distinctly about that morning of mourning, is not just the moment when my 8-year-old daughter Talia and I huddled together and blinked back tears as we stared at the gravestone. What I also recall is the other goodbye.
When the going gets tough, DJ Jensen throws parties.
And so, on the eve of DJ’s prophylactic double mastectomy to ward off breast cancer last year, she could be found grinning in a room festooned with padded bras and balloon bouquets, savoring a breast-shaped red velvet cake, surrounded by women she loved. Like the guests, DJ wore pink. Her T-shirt read, “Shh. Don’t Say Anything. They Don’t Know Yet.”
‘It’s not my thing,” my daughter Talia, who just turned 8, politely informed me on more than one Saturday this winter, when I tried to lure her to synagogue with promises of alone time with me, and the opportunity to wear party clothes.