Two posts in one today; I’ve had a lot on my mind but not a lot of time to write, so here they are all mashed up into one.
It’s a white-shelled reminder, just sitting there, staring at you from the middle of the seder plate: beitzah. The egg. This symbol of life, fertility and beginnings as we retell the story of The Angel of Death whole reclaimed all the first-born Egyptians as he passed over the homes of the Jewish slaves, their lintels marked with blood. Passover is one very, very loaded holiday when it comes to infertility.
Passover is a really special holiday to me. It was one of my first introductions to Judaism and I was so intrigued by the tradition of storytelling, foods, and symbols. By its very nature, Passover is steeped in fertility symbols with the concept of progeny the focus of the entire seder meal: we are commanded to retell the story of the Israelites to each new generation.
When I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure in 2009, it was just a couple of weeks before Passover. I was dreading the seder that year, knowing full well how fertility-entrenched the holiday can be. Amazingly, I didn’t let my diagnosis ruin the holiday for me. If anything, I became more introspective about my faith in the context of my fertility :
The beitzah is perhaps the most visible reminder, the first of the emotional landmines on our holiday table. This year, instead of looking at that egg and thinking about the fact that I don’t really have any good eggs of my own, I see the beitzah as a symbol of hope. There’s something about a thin little shell containing possibility within: the act of hatching, of breaking through- this is a lesson in patience, struggle, and ultimately, hope.
However you celebrate Passover this year, I hope it’s filled with tasty matzo balls and plenty of joy.
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I was up to my elbows in matzo balls yesterday (literally) and it wasn’t until I had to make a quick run to the grocery store to pick up some more brown sugar and baking sheets for another batch of salted toffee matzo crunch that I realized what day it was: the year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing.
Let me set the stage for you: I was in the middle of working on a fundraiser for a Boston-based leadership institute, with many of my cohort Fellows either running in or cheering runners at the Marathon that day. I was seven months pregnant. Larry was in either London or Vienna at that point, away on a last-minute international trip for work. I had just happened to log onto Facebook at about 3pm, just 10 minutes after the first bomb went off. I had been working on fundraiser tasks all day. A friend had posted about an explosion at the finish line. Then I saw the news reports come one after another on my News Feed.
I felt this sinking feeling in my stomach: I immediately thought of the dozens of friends of ours who frequent the Marathon, as runners and volunteers. I started a quick email chain among the NLC Fellows: “Just reply back with ‘okay’ or ‘safe’ to let us know you’re alright,” and one by one, everyone began to reply that they were okay. We didn’t hear from one Fellow for a long time, but I had forgotten he worked in the city’s emergency management office, so he was swamped with emergency response coordination.
I texted everyone I could think of who might have been there. One close friend of ours was there, not too far from the finish line. When the first blast happened, he thought it was a canon blast. When the second blast happened about 100 feet away from where he was standing, he ran from the finish line area to Everett (it’s a whole town over). Luckily he escaped with only a very, very temporary loss of hearing from the blast.
And then I started watching the news footage. I couldn’t stop watching as my mind reeled with the news that the bombings were some sort of terrorist attack.
I was most struck by this footage from Steve Silva with The Boston Globe. (Warning: graphic.)
The first thing that sticks out to me: the person shooting the video runs toward the explosion. He’s followed by police, National Guardsmen, and even Marathon runners and volunteers. As I watched these people start tearing down the barricades along the run route, I lost it. I started sobbing uncontrollably at my desk. I desperately wanted Larry home, but I knew he wouldn’t be for another day.
I am very lucky that no one I know was hurt or killed that day. And for days and weeks afterward, I thought often about those who lives were forever changed in a matter of seconds. I was surprised at how much I was affected by the Boston Marathon bombing; I’ve always felt like a transplant everywhere I’ve lived since moving out of my parents’ home after college, but I feel real, deep ties to Massachusetts and Boston now – we’ll have been here 7 years this August. In the days that followed, particularly the dramatic chase and capture of Tsarnaev, it was a scary time. It left me unsettled.
Now, a year later, I keep going back to those images from Silva’s video: they’ve stuck with me.
The ones who run back.
As the daughter of a photojournalist, I get it. Someone has to be there to cover the action. When the Berlin Wall fell, when Operation Desert Storm launched, when planes crashed into the Twin Towers: my dad was the one who ran back .
On April 15th, 2013: so many people ran back. Ran towards. Ran in. A fitting act in the context of the Boston Marathon.
“A normal human instinct is to run from, not to,” Vice President Biden said at yesterday’s anniversary memorial. “…but yet instinctively, he ( Carlos ) ran to. That’s what Bostonians do. That’s what Bostonians did. That’s what the whole world saw.”
You have the people who run away: a valid response out of self-preservation. You can’t fault a person for that. You have the people who witness, the bystanders: the ones who can neither act nor react but bear witness to the events unfolding around them. But I just keep thinking about the ones who run back, the ones who run headlong into crisis to help however they can, without a moment’s hesitation.
So many people ran back to help those at the finish line last April. It was humbling to witness, not just the first responders and volunteers, but in the days that followed: people opening up their homes to stranded runners and their supporters, millions of dollars raised, so many people not just asking “what can we do” and “how can we help” but rolling up their sleeves doing and helping.
That the world should have more people who run back.