The Fragile Composition of Disjointed Remembrances
Bizarre, isn’t it? Looking back and realising love meant cooking endless tasty meals, care meant excessive cleaning, validation meant new clothes and proper posture, memories waved into smells and nostalgia was spent in the chores you were assigned.
I relive, recollect, and rewatch those days, yearning for the triumvirate of us, strutting down the stoned and muddy pathway, proudly presenting the little family, hand in hand, arms in arms, heart in heart.
The Good Friday and the Bad
The days seemed longer and different.
Those days smell of stress and chores. Stretched over millennia and hunger, a forced dark fasting, after the forced lend, oblivious to the hypoglycemia lurking around, commemorating the pain that was once felt.
It was a night of crouching together, too many of us under the same roof, a room big enough to house the village.
Together but segregated, children in the middle so attentive eyes could scrutinize the smallest manifestation of boredom or, worse, too much fun, men together in the front, closest to god weren’t they untouched and unbothered?, old widows in the back, forgotten and pitied.
There was the hymn, sung with exhaustive care for the musical palette, ever changing, ever the same, in perfect harmony but unrehearsed, each knowing when to listen, when to sing, tone-deaf people singing slightly louder, your social status automatically making you a more talented vocalist, and everyone had better known.
Verses singing the sorrow and pain, disturbing images of the dead breaking the chains and rising up from the graves, hell breaking loose, tombs crackin open, the sun hiding from the sky, crying mothers wailing at the feet of the tortured, curse and reverence entwined around the antisemitic substance of it all.
All crowned, of course, by the procession in the pitch dark that came upon us while we were singing the obligatory 170+ stanzas, oblivious to the psychological damage it might cause upon the innocent child, learning about the story of torture and crucifixion.
A three-times turn around the worship.
Bricks and wood, and paint, and benches, and the stench of melting wax suddenly becoming something sacred, our hands held tight as to not give in to the sudden bursts of energy it’s normal to feel after standing still for so many hours, singing the song of death, a three-times turn around the worship, trying hard not to set anything on fire while keeping the flame alive, a three-times turn around the worship as we faked devotion and pretended we won’t scrutinize and analyze every coat, dirty nail, tone of voice, crooked smile.
The Good Friday and the Good
The sky stretching endlessly above our heads, other small families joining in on the only road in the village, the procession to the worship place, intimately connected in knowing how we would all spend our evening, performing the same ritual as many others, in other places, across other roads, bounded together by our faith.
Looking down at the pavement and the tiny feet tap tap tapping to catch up with the long stride of taller people, both hands held tight in love, my own two bodyguards, caretakers, mentors.
Rubbing the candle stubs between my palms until the slender wax molted to my will, creating shapes and figures out of them, hidden under the kliros, creating my own little tucked away world, as people were chanting, and kneeling, and chanting, and praying, and hoping, and kneeling, and chanting, and kneeling.
Keeping the flame alive close-close-close to the chest, the flame only goes off for the sinner, but not for us, we were good people, always good people, walking into the night, silent and contemplating, flame lit and kept alive by the pure-hearted wishes of a soul that had yet to be sullied.
Easter Saturday and the Bad
The festal trio being almost over but not quite, as dark fasting was followed by more non-sense of cleaning, and prepping, and cooking, and pretending.
Matzos, and soup, and haggis, and salad, and roe, and mash-potatoes, and roast, and eggplants, and wine, and cakes, religiously cooked and baked and gathered for the feast on the horizon, to the soundtrack of passive-aggressive comments, eyerolls, and whispers.
Something always being not quite right, not tasty enough, clean enough. Someone always being not happy enough, or fast enough, or simply — enough.
Easter Saturday and the Good
Sprinting into the garden, grass-picking for the arrangements, collecting eggs from the chicken’s coop for decorating, fetching potatoes from the basement for the second course, or flour from the shed for kneading the cakes, bringing in oil for the salad, delivering one thing or another from the garage, always running, always free, always alive, unbent and unbound.
The ease of how we fell into the cadence of every chore. Taking pride in your meals.
The loud laughter coming from everywhere, being tucked away and conspiring, taking in stride everything and everyone, making a joke out of the smallest detail and carrying it around into all the sacred busy days, the symphony of the private jokes echoing day and night over the cleaning up, and the food making, the chores, and the even more food making.
Beautifying the mundane, saving the best of you for the special night, showing your best self to the world, the gravity of picking a tie that matches your good shirt, taking turns for the washing up using the good soaps, pedantic shaving and hair combing, presenting a pampered, care-free, solemn version of yourself.
Sunday of Pascha and the Bad
Wake up and hurry up, we’re going to be late, the service starts at 4 am, don’t complain about the hours of standing still and listening to make-believe, your REM forgotten with the glycemia of the dark fasting, be up, and awake and alert, reciting words of worship as you rejoice and celebrate the 2000 years old lie.
Looking to see if you’re seen, trying to be admired while pretending you don’t envy, deny, and judge, act as if you’re not packing it up in goodie bags, only to be discussed in a couple of hours, while you’re eating your weight in boiled eggs, the food coma not being powerful enough to stop you from your hypocrisy, from making that nasty comment, from drinking a bit too much, for crying in the kitchen washing the dishes, while the man bond over their half-cooked meat, giving in to the raw instinct of putting meat over the fire, expecting praise when presenting the cholesterol-filled lunch they prepared while getting drunk from stale beer.
Sunday of Pascha and the Good
The silence, the ease, the simplicity of it all.
Beautiful, wrinkled, solemn faces staring at the pages, doing their best and their worst at mumbling the verses, ear-worming their ways inside our brains, austere benches and carpets and door and window frames beautifully decorated, surrounding the magnitude of what was happening, the certainty of having that night coming no matter the struggles of the daily, forming a beautiful mass of broken people and tired bodies, always looking their best while harmonizing over the true belief of their hearts, ancient verses carrying out into the night as the dawn dawned over us, proof of light and live and rebirth, and peace, and quiet, and joy.
New clothes, the one-time a year we could indulge, down to the underpants, everything from the top shelf, all expensive, all pretty, all prepared from months ago, kept hidden so they don’t get ruined, gazed upon as a new born baby, waiting to be taken out, worn, shown.
The sweet sleep when the service was finally finally finally over and special clothes have been tucked away, so now they were just clothes which you could wear anytime, knowing you could sleep in tomorrow, no one will wake you up for a meaningless chore.
Lying into the clean bed sheet, excited for the tomorrow, when the yard will be filled with love, the table would be set outside, and you would take the special set out, the one with more plates, because more people were coming, and the sun shone hard, glimmering over the old glasses filled to the brim with house wine and coca cola, three cars outside, and chairs taken out of the attic, full house, happy house, loving house.
The love, belonging, innocence, naivety. Armchair not empty. Scented hugs, the aromatherapy of the after shave. Car in the garage. Stories being told. Laughter in the wind. Cayenne, salt, and pepper on the stew. Cream in the mashed potatoes.
Silence and the undertones of life being lived. Clean air smelling of fresh-cut glass. Sunshine burning freckles on our faces. More laughter, more wind. Bare feet tearing up the grass with your toes. The competition of cracking eggs and being the last one standing. Hyacinth, and lilac, and daffodils, and tulips bursting with color, nostalgia is strongest felt through fragrance.
And more laughter, carrying us all into the night, as we rejoiced and celebrated, not the rebirth of a god, but ourselves as people who truly loved each other and belonged next to each other, a family whole, our kin’s death too far to even scare us.
Waving the goodbye from the gate.
Somehow feeling emptiness in the saturated gut. Watching them going away. Locking up and waking the pavement up to the house.
Darkness enfungling, sunshine gone, stars holding the vigil of the days passed, never to return, not to be forgotten, but to be remembered as fragments, a museum of feelings, tastes, smells, rather than an encyclopedia of facts and anecdotes.
The little triumvirate, now back to being a trio, no longer a small klan.
Walking around the house, on the pavement you poured with your own hands, guided by the kitchen light shining through the window still, getting the call of the washing-up left to do, a blanket of silence and soon-to-be-made abandonment issues covering the now laughter-free yard.
And the tree of us, little family pacing the pavement, walking the distance, hand in hand, arms in arms, heart in heart.