Monday, September 24, 2012

Making Amends

A True Story About Aunt Bea And Me:  This is a true story ... just right for Yom Kippur ... by Abq Jew's good friend Tovah Miriam, who wrote it in 2006 and revised it in 2012. Tovah Miriam's got the copyright; all rights reserved.

A True Story
Aunt Bea and Me - Making Amends
by Tovah Miriam

Back in 1993 I had a solo show of my paintings at the Richard Reynolds Gallery on the campus of the University of the Pacific. Entitled Conceptual Portraiture, the show consisted of about a dozen larger than life-size portraits of my dearest friends. Almost every person I had painted came to the reception and each one stood grinning next to their portrait for snapshots.  Except for you. You hated your portrait and told me so.

Naturally I overreacted. I will never paint another portrait as long as I live!

Ten years later I sit across the table from you at Junior's Deli in West LA. We are happily dining on matzo ball soup and fragments of rye bread heaped with chopped liver. Your body is much shrunken because your spinal column has accordioned down upon itself for these past eight decades. Your head is just above table level. But you are bright and lively and alert and we are laughing. I push my soup spoon into the huge soft matzo ball, a dumpling really, and discover that it is surprisingly hot. Big shreds of chicken float around it in the bowl. You are tearing daintily with your perfect manicure and small long fingers at a piece of rye bread. You seem preoccupied.

Then you say to me, “You know that painting you did of me a few years back?”

“Yeah,” I say laughing, “You hated it!”

I concentrate on my matzo ball.

This is not an unfriendly exchange. I am reconciled now, and look up from my soup, a little teasing, and I see you across the table. You laugh a bit, tentative. You are, however, steadfast and I see that you are serious and want to say something more to me. Holding, in one hand, your shard of bread, and with your other hand in a fist, you gently thump at the front of your sweater.

Then you say to me, “Well maybe if I saw it again I’d like it better now.”

“Yes, I think so, too,” I say.

You give me kindness and an olive branch and I take it, gratefully.

Clumsily, I smile then look away at all the families in this deli having pastrami and potato salad and egg creams and epiphanies. A rush of voices, all talking, talking, happy, angry, urgent and some of it just quiet reconciliation. It is so clear.

To be completely truthful, I did not notice the gesture of your hand to heart at that moment in the deli. I noticed it, as a memory, after Yom Kippur services, years later. My memory swept back to our meal in the deli. Your gesture, small and subtle, hand to heart, came into full focus long after you were no longer with us. And, unbeknownst to yourself perhaps, or to me at the time when you were doing it, you were communicating something to me about how to be Jewish in the world.

1 comment:

Diane Schmidt said...

Brings a lump to my throat - beautiful!