Loving the things we loved together makes me feel whole. It’s taken a long time to recapture some simple joys, and sometimes I don’t notice I’ve done so for quite some time. It was late last year when I began to enjoy the local flea market as we used to together. I had been going solo for a few years (mostly for the pickles), but not experiencing it as a delightful adventure.
I’d like to think that this particular turning point was due to Tzeitel, because dammit, I love me some Fiddler. Late last October, the day after the Tree Of Life Synagogue attack, I was in pain and feeling hopeless. I walked to and through the flea market on auto-pilot, not seeing or hearing much. Something sparkly caught my eye (see above: “I am what I am”) and I asked to try on the ruby ring. The vendor and I slowly started chatting. We spoke of the tragedy, of the shock of how far we have not come, and of the strangeness of life. She shyly spoke of once being an actress and at that moment I really saw her face. “Tzeittel?!!”, I sputtered. “Yes”. I gushed, we sang, we hugged, we took selfies. That encounter embodied so many truths for me; my past, my culture, human connection, and joy. I’d like to think that’s when I “took back the flea market”.
Last week I found myself utterly thrilled to have absolutely positively no social plans on Sunday. (In the past, I would have worked diligently trying to avoid being alone on the most “family” of days.) On my “maybe I’ll do it maybe I won’t” list was a stop by the flea market. It was an almost uncomfortably warm day and I found my interest faltering as I entered the shadeless space. I ducked under an awning and then another almost tempted to buy an overpriced straw hat. Then something caught my eye. (My husband had a great eye, two in fact. He was able to spot the most magnificent vintage coats or bags when all I could see was chaos. He was a big picture guy with a fine aesthetic. I on the other hand am easily overwhelmed.) Tucked in a corner was a booth filled with magical watercolors. The style brought to mind a blend of mysticism and children’s storybook illustrations. The artist and I chatted and I managed to choose only one to make my own. It felt odd to buy artwork without my husband. Together we collected, rescued, hung, rehung and loved over 80 pieces. This was my first solo addition and hanging it would mean moving something we’d hung together ten years ago. Every part of doing so brought back so many memories. I marked the wall with a pencil as he did so many times. I asked myself, as he had asked me so many times, if it was straight. This new painting, ethereal in its depiction of a girl flying on a swan over a Mary Poppinsesque river Thames, now hangs over “my side” of the bed. It is a sweet reminder to nurture my dreams and desires.
That would be an uplifting and hopeful ending to this story. Nothing in the past six years has been that simple. The other truth is that each time I change something in my home, I worry he won’t recognize it when he comes back.