I sometimes think of Barbara Stanwyck’s last scene in the classic film “Stella Dallas” where she is gazing through rainfall past a blurred window and into a bleary but distinctly warm, well-lit wedding celebration. Her tears are commingling with the rain. It’s her estranged daughter’s wedding. She never really knew her but tried her best to make sure she was adopted into a good family. The fruit of her heart-worn labors is this last shot through the tear-stained besmudged window into what must seem a fantasy.
It might seem overly dramatic, but that’s what I’m reminded of during the Days of Awe. I do not have a chavurah and in this small town that means I can eat and fast alone. Yes and of course, I have many very good friends whom I cherish. I’ve known most of them for over 40 years. But I wasn’t involved with the Temple when I first moved here, and that formative time and a husband who had no use for such socializing kept me from making these ever-evolving and constant life-cycle friendships.
In truth, it shouldn’t bother me. I grew up watching friends who were never that close go to other friend’s homes or family gatherings to honor the High Holidays and other Jewish celebrations. Growing up in an overlarge family and having almost anti-religious parents made me a blank slate for these events. I didn’t know what others did. Within my family, my younger brother, cousins, and I were seated at the New York Table. That’s the one separated from the large main dining table and created for the kids. Even the table settings, though special, were less. With eight or more aunt and uncle couples and their two to four children each, my mother kept the house busy with sharing the cooking and preparations for these events well within our walls. We had the biggest house, so it was Jewish Central for The New Year and Passover.
But there were never any prayers and the fact that there was a custom and order to the meals was never really pronounced. It was more of a food zoo. And it was insulated. No one else ever came. Not even my father’s family.
Now I have dear friends to share a very full life. There is no problem about these events, just an awkwardness. It’s the Days of Awkward around here. I go to any event where a chavurah does not plan, even though these family-like hubs contain so many of my friends. But I am not invited if it is organized by a chavurah. I admit my feelings do get hurt. Oh well.
Like Barbara Stanwyck, I know it must be beautiful on the other side of that window, but I have done well and celebrate with my ‘stray cat’ friends. The world still turns, and the Days of Awe are still honored.