Monday, November 26, 2007

Salt and Pepper

It is more than noticeable. Down a long series of twists and turns, blind alleys and rabbit holes, I have flung myself. Through the flinging (sometimes, yes, in the literal sense), I have been disciplined enough to maintain my optimism whilst running down the street with what has been left of my dignity, wits, common sense (and so forth) all scrambling to keep up like stray dogs and loose aluminum cans stringing along in my wake. All of these trials and tribulations have somehow delivered me to the doorstep of this very interesting place in life where my ability to love is somehow manifested in my ability to be loved. More than this, my openness to this pursuit is simultaneously bearing witness to a sudden urge for nesting. The moment is most serendipitous, causing me to feel as though I might fully wet myself if I sneeze. So, G-d forbid, please no pinching...

Gift-giving is very important to me. Eight weeks ago, I left Israel with two important gifts in my bag. The first was intended as a wedding present for best friend. The other was identical to the first, and intended to be shared with the man who made it clear to me that he was waiting for my return from the Middle East. In my hands, both gifts felt fully manifested with magic. They were hand-painted sets of salt and pepper shakers, crafted by the Israeli artist, Yair Emanuel, who makes all sorts of beautiful, Jewish-inspired artwork. I chose these gifts for their uniqueness and functionality. I also chose these gifts because they depicted colorful scenes of Jerusalem. I wanted them to go in the homes of the people who were so dear to me. On the auspicious occasion of my best friend's wedding, they certainly seemed like optimistic gifts.

Of course, my best friend and her husband loved their new salt and pepper shakers, and immediately displayed them in their kitchen. Unfortunately, however, the man waiting for me at home apparently wasn't doing so with open arms. And so, my well-intended gift of cheer got tossed in the clutter of that weird and uncomfortable vacuum of sudden relationship death, into that airless room without a door, where there was no longer the possibility of life, much less of hope for a future.

On the evening of my less than auspicious departure from the room without a door, I made the decision to leave the salt and pepper shakers behind. However, in the days that followed, this decision haunted me. It was then that I realized that I did not intend the gift to be given to him alone. Rather, it as a gift for us. At most it was my way of showing that I was willing to inhabit a space in his life that involved bringing with me the smallest trinkets of the places I have been on my path back to him.

...Of course, what I haven't mentioned is how I came to know Yair Emanuel's work. Nine weeks ago, my favorite rabbi and I were on yet another one of our friendly dates in Jerusalem. As friends do, we were strolling arm in arm in the German Colony neighborhood, visiting bookstores and laughing about the oddities of ex-patriot experiences in the Holy Land. From the moment of our first meeting, we were a serendipitous blending of religion and political philosophy. Added to this was the way that our laughter seemed to rise us both out of the dense heaviness that inevitably hangs on anyone who attempts to inhabit Jerusalem for too long. But I digress. Yair Emanuel is more important. That evening, my favorite rabbi asked that we stop at a little store to look at a candle set that was in the window. He led me over to the section of the store with all of Yair Emanuel's colorful stuff--candlebras, Shabbat and Havdalah sets, etc. Between the hippie colors and the functionality of the art, I was an instant convert. I fingered the two salt and pepper sets, but decided not to buy them because they were so expensive. I also felt a little guilty buying a present for my guy at home while I was on a friendly date with someone else. Still, I loved the concept and design of the salt and pepper shakers, and went back the following day to buy them.

...It was a weird, tough decision, but I took some time and ultimately decided go back to the scene of the crime and and reclaim the salt and pepper shakers that I had gifted to my former love interest. I had never taken back a gift in my life, but it just didn't feel right to leave that much of my energy behind. My reasons for the gift reclaiming were two fold: First, when I closed my eyes, I pictured him eventually throwing them away, just as he had the tendency to throw all good things out of his life. Second, I was haunted by visions of a pinched woman using them to cook his eggs. I didn't spend what little I had on a gift for another woman to enjoy. Yes, it was a small gift, but it was a symbol of hope for me. Clearly, my hope didn't belong in his life, and it equally didn't belong between the manicured nails of the lucky lady who will ultimately reside there.

So, the salt and pepper shakers landed in the kitchen of my other best friend. She fell in love with them as immediately as I did when I saw them for the first time in Jerusalem. They are now hers, and I feel confident that are as precious to her as she is to me. At the very least, I am assured that she knows the value and meaning of proper product placement; she will never throw them away because she will never throw me away.

As these things do, time and space has a way of collapsing in my life. Six days ago, my favorite rabbi and I found ourselves walking arm in arm a world away from the old streets of Jerusalem. This time, the harmony of our laughter was rising over the tight aisles a kosher market in Boston. This time, we didn't say an awkward good-bye at the end of the night. We were arm-in-arm, hand-in-hand, and heart-to-heart as lovers who began as friends. This time, we came back to our cozy nest in Bean Town with an array of exotic ingredients for our first Shabbat dinner as a couple. As the time for dinner drew near and our guests started to arrive, my favorite rabbi dipped into an unpacked box that he brought from Jerusalem. Imagine my shock when I looked over and saw him placing a colorful Shabbat candle set made by Yair Emmanuel on the table. When I asked him where he got the set, he said that he had gone back to the shop the day after our last date in Jerusalem, just like I did. Apparently, we missed each other at the shop by just a few minutes that day. I laughed out loud when he remarked, "I thought about getting the salt and pepper shakers, too. Wouldn't they be great in the kitchen? Maybe I'll go back and get them next summer when we go."

In life there are so few things that we really have to give. In my opinion, there is just as much artistry in giving as there is in living. Obviously, one can't go around constantly demanding take-backs and re-gifting, which is why it is important to give with authenticity and purpose. However, all of the goodness in the world won't open a locked door. At the very least, I have learned this--that love, like life, can't be flung out, then repackaged and used again, which is why I haven't made it a practice of flinging my heart out on the regular. This time, I knew how to tell a bad poker face when it presented itself.

I am still of the mindset that what we leave behind us is far more important than what we take with us when we go. In this case, I am confident that my salt and pepper shakers have found their proper home in Washington, DC, and what little remains of me in the life of my former love interest is entirely for him to decide. In the meantime, I am back to enjoying my crazy, carnal love affair with life. As these things go, I am no longer a one-sided giver of love, but endowed with an equal partnership in the business. Funny how that happens...



Anonymous said...

A great, long post. It is always interesting to see how your sort out your way. As an aside to this, I hasten to add that if the DC guy was "the one", then you would not have been on any "friendly" dates in the first place. Writing was on the wall with that one. Still, your optimism and hope still shines. You seem like someone who needs to be with a man who worships life as much as you do. In some ways, you are a spiritual leader in your own way, so finding another spiritual leader makes sense. Best of luck to both of you. You are amazing, and you deserve nothing but the best.

VJ said...

Mazel Tov! Wishing you & the Rabbi much luck together. It is a fine finish to the DC chapter, and the start of a new adventure for certain. You are indeed fortunate & blessed in your travels & good luck.

Me, I had a darker story of 'give backs' of a gift I gave for a wedding that was refused, part of which was a fine direct print & hand illuminated replica of a 16th century Jewish Bible front page from these folks: []. But I can't even find it any more on his site! So it's a good thing it was returned to me I imagine too.

But confusion reigns. There's a cozy nest in Beantown & one in NY state? Again as I ask all my friends, and I the last one I know with just one home? The mind boggles. But this is a delightful and highly favorable outcome (IMHO), and one that was slightly foreshadowed too!

As always, Cheers & Bright moments to you, 'VJ'

Restaurant Gal said...

What we bring to the feast, not just the table, for one another. Must remember that lesson.

Laura said...

Mazel Tov on the rabbi!

And thanks for the gift of this post.

guy from the bus said...

ah, dear. all of that bluster and the lucky guy couldn't hang onto you? from experience, i dare say that you are a tough nut to crack. shame on the last guy for hurting you, but best of luck to the rabbi. sounds like this is what you need--someone more secure with himself overall. glad to see it has all worke dout. it seems that you always land on your feet.

let me know the next time you are in the area. i have a proposition for you for a project i am working on.