I had a wonderful childhood. I was raised in a home filled with love; filled with laughter; filled with family; filled with sports; filled with a strong work ethic. We had family around us a lot. My aunt and uncle lived three doors down from us. Another aunt and uncle lived five blocks away. Another aunt and uncle lived a few towns away. We had cousins who were like siblings. We spent holidays with family, vacations with family, and we were a family.
We watched my dad work hard as an engineer. He traveled a lot when I was quite young and continued to build his career as a professional, the first college graduate of his family. Although my mom didn’t work outside of the house when we were young, she sold Kimberly Knit suits to other women out of our house for her cousins…more family.
The Domenick’s were the original Griswold’s on vacation and we all had the same sense of humor. We each can laugh at ourselves and eachother but all with love. We got through a lot of mishaps with laughter!
The one thing missing in our lives was religion. My mom is Jewish and my dad Catholic (and Italian). Neither of them were religious. My mom’s family were Orthodox Jews but her parents owned a business, they didn’t practice the way most would. My dad was excommunicated from the Church when he married my mom in 1949 and he never seemed to be bothered by that.
They did ensure that we understood religion. We had a bible at home and that was read to us from time to time. We celebrated all holidays. Now at times that was pretty cool, especially with Chanukah and Christmas. But we didn’t receive a gift per night for Chanukah, we received something on the first night and the rest Christmas morning. We generally focused on the more commercial and the family tradition part of the holiday and not the religious or spiritual part. Tradition is something that is very important in my family to the point that there are certain foods that are made for every holiday from a family recipe!
My mom encouraged me to learn about many religions. I don’t know if she ever did that with my brothers. It seemed to go hand in hand with her desire to ensure that I was independent, even in thought. I attended Friday night services at the temple with my neighbors and I attended 5:15pm mass on Saturday with my other neighbor. All so I could learn about each. I also read about Hinduism, Shintoism and Buddhism. I was most struck by Buddhism, the prospect of kindness, compassion, simplicity, being in the now all resonated with me. As they do now. I remember reading more than a few books or articles on Buddhism.
As I have gotten older I have certainly become more spiritual. I also identify more with the traditions of the Jewish religion. Tradition and spirituality, love and kindness, those are what I honor. Each year I spend Yom Kippur with my Mom and Aunt Kit. We go to temple for the Prayer for the Dead (I’m sure that has an actual name, but the three of us together aren’t as knowledgeable as most other Jews!) We are bad and we admit it but we try.
We get to the temple about 11am. By this time, my tummy is questioning why there has been no coffee or water. I focus on what I am letting go but every now and then, there is a growl. I can go all day any Saturday with out eating, but tell me I can’t and my tummy is growling!
We are usually there for the sermon as well as the prayers. Generally we are in the temple for about an hour and half. The sermons almost always resonate. The year I split from my husband the sermon was all about faithfulness. Oy! My mom looked at me and said, “you question God, there’s a reason you are here today.” I agreed with her completely.
We then head to Roosevelt Park and walk around the lake. Last year, mom was out of breath and we had to stop and sit. My guess is this year, I will be the only one to walk, they will sit on a bench and talk. We do talk about things we want to let go. We focus on atoning but we also catch up and enjoy eachother’s company.
We break fast with my dad who actually fasts with the exception of coffee. He’s cute that way. It really is a beautiful day where we connect. It’s a day we allow spirituality and religion into our lives. It is a reminder of the love, family, laughter and traditions that my life is filled with and how blessed I am.
With Yom Kippur and atonement comes a clean slate. A new year to continue the journey. I look forward to being kinder and gentler this year, and as always, I work on my patience.