My mom calls it blah blahing. The four hours I spend each day talking on my cell phone.
My husband says that the subtext of my life has been my daily search for the most perfect place to converse on the phone…on a cozy couch next to the fireplace, in a vibrant spring garden beginning to bloom, next to a quiet brook on a hot summer day.
I know it might seem excessive (and it often is to me) my attachment to the spoken word. But over the past many months it is those words that have shaped the text of my life.
Through phone conversation I embraced my children, as Chattan and Kallah at the wedding I could only virtually attend. I spoke to them from my library in Detroit; they answered under the Chuppah in the Gush.
Through phone conversation I blessed my lone soldier son with the words, Yevarechecha HaShem v’Yishmerecha. I called in the middle of the night from New York; he answered in Tel Aviv as he stepped on the bus in uniform the morning of his enlistment.
Through phone conversation I reach out to friends – particularly those older and wiser. I call from wherever. They answer in their living rooms. They think I am reaching out to give them connection. I know I am looking for their life stories to reach me – seeking fortitude and strength from the words of our conversations.
I have some rules about my “blah blahing.” I refuse to speak about the pandemic. It brings me down. Consistently, I find myself creating new frameworks for my conversations. I remind myself of the opportunities still availed by the offerings of my words- to plan, to teach, to parent and, most often, to provide a responsive ear. I have sought the beauty that can be expressed with words – like the prayers of Hallel that my four sons have sung for me over the phone – from an army base, from the beit midrash, from Givat Shmuel and from Riverdale. And, then sometimes or maybe admittedly most often, I choose to just talk about nothing much at all, because it matters simply that I called.
In these times, I have tried so hard to take my words, to wrap them up and send them across the virtual spaces –maybe that is why I speak so much. I hope that eventually my sounds will be transformed into something tangible and real -a hug, a favorite food, and even an offer to wash some dishes …. but it hasn’t worked yet.
And in these times, I have tried so hard to call long distance. I ring the One Above and wait for Him to pick up on his side. All I want is a short conversation – to give clarity to the here and now and hope for what will soon be. But He hasn’t answered yet.
It is the Targum who famously says that man is distinguished from all other creations by his ability to speak. Our Tzelem Elokim, image of G-d, is reflected in our ability, like G-d, to offer our words to reveal, to connect and to create. So maybe I should keep talking. After all, if G-d can create and build goodness and beauty with ten VaYomers and several VaYavdels, then imagine the power of all my “blah blahing”- how much good and beauty can I create, build and protect with the power of my conversations.
All that being said; I would throw away my cell phone in a minute if I could have some physical face time with the people I love. But meanwhile, I have just found an autumnal tree in the midst of changing colors – a beautiful place to make my next phone call.