Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Coming to America

Six months ago I dropped everything on Chol HaMoed Pesach (the middle of Passover) and ran to America to see my father who was extremely ill. That was the first time I had been back in the country of my birth since we moved to Israel three years ago. Because of the circumstances, I did not fully absorb the fact of being back in America, in New York City, the city I grew up in. I did take breaks from my father's bedside to wander the streets of Manhattan. It was springtime, the air was beautiful and crisp, the daffodils were everywhere and the tulips were pushing through thte softening earth. But I didn't care about where I was because I was busy being with my father for what turned out to be his last days....

Tomorrow night, I return. The reasons this time are bittersweet. First, I get to attend the bar-mitzvah of my nephews (2/3 of a triplet set) and, a week later I will attend the unveiling of my father's gravestone.

When I first made Aliya, I was once admonished not to call America, or New York "home". But, Israel, much as I loved her, did not seem like home in those first months. Everything was strange, from the house where we lived, to the products in the supermarket, to the way people drive here. Home was America, New York, Cedarhurst, in a little beige dutch colonial with green shutters. Home was shul on Edward Ave., friends surrounding me for a five-mile radius and work at 177. Home was seeing my mother, and my father and my siblings on a regular basis.

Now things have shifted. We've bought a home here. We are speaking the language. We have jobs here. And friends surrounding us for a five-mile radius. We are happy to be here, living as Jews in a Jewish country.

But I would be lying if I told you I didn't miss America.

Mostly, I miss my people, but I miss other things, too. I miss the changing seasons and pedicures. I miss being the one to make the joke at meetings (but I'm getting closer, I can feel it). I am looking forward to my visit, to hitting the shops and the restaurants and to seeing my people. I wonder how I'll feel wandering around my old neighborhood. Will Sarge at the candy store remember me? Have the stores changed? Will it feel like home?

For 40+ years New York was my home. Not to be morbid or anything, but there's a good chance that at the end, my years there will outnumber my years here (with G-d's help, NOT!). Living in America shaped who I am and what I think. She will always be a part of me.

Can home be two places?


rutimizrachi said...

In a word: Yes.

Thanks for another lovely and thoughtful post. Your heart is big enough, dear one, to be in two places.

Anonymous said...

your "people" are anxiously awaiting your arrival!

Anonymous said...

Enjoy every minute of your trip. But hurry home! have a safe trip.

Gila Rose said...

We'll miss you here!
I miss America, too. There is a certain category of olim who refuse to admit there's anything good about living in America. I am not one of them. There's a lot to miss, even besides Target and Dunkin' Donuts.
Also, you look fabulous in that picture.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! Even after almost 28 years here in Israel I still miss New York, but as time goes by it will start to feel less and less like home. Enjoy your bittersweet trip, and come home soon!

Anonymous said...

Have a safe trip and enjoy NY!

another former 5townser... said...

Sarge will remember you :)
Have a safe and enjoyable trip!

Unknown said...

can i bring Tali and Orli to the season opener this Monday - it's at 18;30. Keep a kiss in your pocket, from your dad.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

The real success of aliyah isn't for the oleh; it is for his/her next generation. The ones who most fully integrate (most of the time) are the children. Before you know, please God, you'll have Israeli grandchildren (not too soon!). Their parents will reminisce about Israeli schools, tiyulim, tzava. And that will be your great success and aliyah accomplishment.

Leah Goodman said...

I'm nearing the halfway mark - I made aliya at 17 and I've been here 15 years, and in some ways, it's harder. I'm neither an Israeli nor an American. There comes a point when you are absolutely a tourist when you visit the USA. You might know the streets, but you're no longer a native.

And you never really become an Israeli either.

But ... there's a point when it becomes second nature to offer even a workman a glass of water or tea when they walk into your house. There's a point when you can't imagine washing a floor with a mop. There's a point when pounds and inches stop making sense, and you stop converting your money into dollars.

And there's a point when you stop asking people to bring you root beer or vanilla or whatever.

And then one day, you realize that if your friends and family were here, you might miss the shopping and the donuts, but you really don't wouldn't miss America all that much anymore.

And of course, there's the first time you get on the plane back to Israel, and you get off and you're relieved to be back home where you belong...

These things take time, but it's a process....and we all go through it.

Just be glad we have heinz ketchup. When my brother made aliya, there was NO real ketchup in Israel (1984).

And whenever I really miss America, I take a bite of cucumber and think that a country that can't even keep the flavor in their cucumbers isn't really all that great...

Anonymous said...

My sentiments exactly! It's EXHAUSTING feeling so torn between two places all the time. I feel guilty still calling the US home but yes, I'm homesick! And it's not going away. How do you cope?