Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Wall

Dear Readers,
I have another short story for you. It comes in the form of a letter from a mother to her daughter. Let me know what you think.

The Wall
by Mandy Jones

My Dearest Moriah,
Three days, four trains, and a boat ride later we have finally arrived. I can’t say it was all entirely unpleasant. You know how I love to see the French countryside, and I have never experienced anything quite like the Mediterranean Sea. Your father had quite a difficult time because of his sea sickness, but I think even he would say it was worth it.
The city at large is quite chaotic as expected. It helps me to realize that my decision in not bringing you was the best. Part of me wishes I had, but even though we are seen as tourists here there is still a danger that I would rather you not be exposed to. Perhaps when you turn 18, you and I can take a trip here, just the two of us. I think it would be good for you to see some of your own family history. Now, as you well know you were named after your great grandmother, but I wonder if you know that she was named after the place where Abraham was blessed by the angel of the Lord. It is also argued that it might be the place of the Temple Mount. It is a beautiful name, and I hope you know that with your heart.
Yesterday we took our first trip into Old Jerusalem. I can’t tell you how much meaning it had to know that I was walking in the footsteps of our ancestors. And not just our Jewish ancestors on Bubbi Moriah’s side, but the generations of Christians that are behind us as well. To walk the dirty streets where Jesus walked is awe inspiring. But I came here for Bubbi, and for your grandmother.
It was Bubbi’s dream to come here, and even though I’m thankful she never had to see the destruction of the war or had to be taken away from her home or have to watch the deaths of her children, I so wish she could be here with me now. Perhaps on some level she is.
I think this morning is when I missed Bubbi and my mum the most. We went to the wall at the Temple Mount. The western wall is all that is left of the second temple, and so Jewish people from all around the world come here laying their hands on the wall, praying and weeping. The sight of it all is heart wrenching. It is the only remanence of the second temple, and it’s not even part of the temple. It was the wall of the outward court. To be Jewish, and to know that the place that was once the home of God is not only destroyed, but overtaken by another religion that your people have been in conflict with for thousands of years is a truly morbid thought. As I approached the wall I began to tremble. Your father supported my steps, and then I knelt at the stone structure. An old man was kneeling about 10 feet to the left of me. He wore a beautiful shawl on his shoulders, not unlike the one my grandfather used to wear. The tears poured down his face. A familiar sound came from his mouth. It was a Hebrew blessing, not unlike the ones your grandmother would speak to me before I went to sleep as a small child. He was so passionate that I couldn’t help but envy him. His heart. I prayed silently. I didn’t feel like I had been there long at all, but it was close to an hour before I opened my eyes again. Your father never let go of my hand the entire time.
Leaving the old city was very intimidating. There were many Palestinian guards all over the place. They all seemed to look at us with contempt. Did they know we were English? Did they know I had Jewish ancestry? It was as if we had been suspected of some great crime. Every Muslim woman I passed looked at me as if she was looking right into my soul. I thought to myself that they must be brave. To live in this world where they are in constant war. To submit to it under the leadership of the men.
I still wonder if leaving England so early on was cowardly knowing my mum was in France, but she was stubborn. It was one of the things I cherished so much about her. Besides, she would have been devastated if she thought that her only grandchild was anywhere near London during the air raids. I hope you know how much she loved you, and how much your father and I love you now. It’s funny to think that in my heart I see so many similarities between my mum and these Muslim women. The bravery, the loss, the devotion. She would be appalled. I’m afraid that is one area where your grandmother lacked, understanding for others.
Anyway, there is still so much to see. You will hear from us in a few days. After a week here to explore the Holy Land, we’ll travel back north to Greece. I can’t wait to come home and tell you all about it, and to spend the rest of the summer with you my darling. Give your auntie our love. You are in our hearts.

Your Mum (and Dad)

Hope you enjoyed it!

With Love,

"You will bring them and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance,
The place, O LORD, which You have made for Your dwelling,
The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established.
The LORD shall reign forever and ever.”
Exodus 15: 17-18

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sleepless Conviction

Dear Readers,

I confess to you that I've not been lazy about my blog, but have truly had writer's block. I haven't known what to write about. I'm sure it will come back to me in time. As for the next couple or few entries, I've decided to offer up to you some of my work from my creative writing course. I'd been assigned to write a fiction piece set in the culture I'm familiar with. This is what I came up with. I hope you enjoy.

Sleepless Conviction
by Mandy Jones

The only thing she hated about summer was the fact that the neighbors seemed to enjoy sharing their personal lives with the entire block by screaming at each other outside.
“Come on!” Leah thought to herself. “It’s three o’clock in the frickin’ morning.”
To be honest she didn’t know for sure if it was this argument that was keeping her up all night, or the one she had 15 hours earlier. Ava left rehab again and refused counseling.
A free spirit on the surface, Ava had a storm of turmoil constantly brewing in her heart. It was the inner anguish that she felt that turned her to drugs in the first place. In the beginning, she was simply taking a prescribed anti depressant, but it wasn’t enough. She quickly turned to the mind numbing effects of narcotics. For a long time Leah had sympathy for her sister. After all, she knew why she hurt so badly. Ava miscarried in her late teens and never recovered from the pain searing loss. But enough was enough. It had been too long, and she had hurt too many people in the process.
The anger Leah felt toward her little sister was boiling in her heart. Nothing seemed to dial down its intensity.
“She’s ruining her life!” Leah screamed into the blackness of the night.
The one thing that she really needed to focus on could not remain in her mind long enough for her to feel the weight of its importance, her topical presentation for her dissertation. Leah was an archeology doctoral candidate that was falling apart. She would have liked to have compared herself to Indiana Jones, but she couldn’t keep her head on straight. He could save an ancient artifact from getting into the wrong hands and still teach a lecture on the difference between Egyptian and Central American pyramids. Leah couldn’t even maintain a relationship with her sister to say anything about focusing on her future.
Leah had always seemed so much stronger than Ava. She was a statue which protected her emotions and heart. She had always known what to do and what to say, following her mother’s lead as they looked after her fragile baby sister together. It could no longer be that way again. Leah’s watchful eye could not protect Ava from self destruction.
The hours moved so slowly, each minute that passed ached. She became very conscious of each motion she made, tossing and turning every 30 seconds. The thought occurred to her that she should just get up but stopped, thinking, “If I only get an hour or even 20 minutes I could....”
The thought was never complete. She knew that an hour or 20 minutes would make no difference. As the blaring oration next door died down she began to replay the conversation she had had with Ava in her head.

“I can do this, Leah. I wish you could just trust me.” Ava pleaded with her sister.
“How can I trust you after all you’ve done?” Leah felt like she was choking on the words.
“That’s not fair. I’m not the only one who has done something wrong here. And I’m trying to change, but I need your support.” Ava begged.
“You would have my support if you were more willing to get help.”
“I am willing.”
“Really? Really? Is that so? Then why the hell are you in my living room instead of rehab? Why aren’t you sitting down with a therapist rather than laying frickin’ problems at my feet? You are completely unwilling, ungrateful, and selfish? You don’t think about anyone, but yourself!”
“I couldn’t stay there.” Ava said still pleading. “The doctors, the counselors; they didn’t care about me. And the people there, they were nothing like me.”
“You mean addicts? Because you’re kind of wrong there.”
“I don’t mean that. I mean they won’t understand!”
“You’re right, I don’t. I don’t understand how you can be so selfish! How you can just throw your life away without giving a thought about those who love you and care about you!” Leah shouted. “I’m done being your crutch.” Her voice became muffled.
“My crutch? I don’t need a crutch. I need a friend, a sister.”
“You don’t even know what that means. But I’m afraid I can’t be that for you either. Please leave.”
“Yes. Get out!” Leah’s voice cracked. “I can’t even look at you right now! You’ll never be anything more than this, and I can’t watch it. Get out.”
Leah’s face went from a burning pink to ghostly pale. She walked to the door slowly, but with visible force. Her eyes glared intently into space as her head tilted downward. She opened the door of the apartment not once looking up at her sister. Ava went from a state of confidence, which had been clear in her stature, to complete brokenness resulting in a waterfall of tears. She covered her face and ran out. Leah wouldn’t look, but she still caught a glimpse of her sister’s burgundy curls flying out the doorway.
A single tear fell down her gray cheek as she slammed the door shut. One minute went by, then two. The strong statue finally fell. Leah, still clutching the door knob, collapsed under the weight of the conversation. The tears quickly became uncontrollable. She crawled on her hands and knees to the living room rug, curled up into the fetal position, and cried for what seemed like an eternity.

As the moments of the previous day were recaptured in her memory, a sudden shift occurred. She repeated in her head the angry words she had said earlier over and over again. “You’ll never be anything more than this.”
The anger melted away, or perhaps not. Perhaps it was just redirected. As the repetition of thoughts lingered in her head a small voice deep in her heart began to say, “What have you done?” Had she completely ruined her relationship with the one person who has meant the most to her?
Seven AM slowly approached. Leah quietly lay as a new tear trickled down to her pillow, the slow motion of a sleepless night seemingly making it splash. Her heart slowed, and she began to drift off. Beep!! The new day was here, and she would have to make it through her presentation with only 30 seconds of sleep.
The morning was full of just going through the motions. Somehow Leah was showered, dressed, and ready to go without recollection of any of it happening. The coffee got made, the bagel got toasted, and the cat got fed. The robot that was Leah functioned without a thought. However, the pieces of her heart still lay on the living room rug. She sat on her couch to collect her thoughts. “How can I possibly get through this day?” She asked her tabby cat Elvis, who reveled in each stroke of Leah’s hand on his velvety neck.
As strong as she could make herself, Leah stood up. She leaned over to put her cell phone in her purse. She stopped for a moment and stared at it’s blank screen. There had been no calls, no messages. Her heart sank. “I don’t know what I’d do without her.”
Leah called Ava. “Hello?” Ava answered.
“Leah? You there?”
“Yeah.” Leah pushed the nearly inaudible words out of her mouth. “I’m here.”
“Are you okay?”
“Leah, you’re kind of scaring me.”
As if Leah had picked up the pieces of her heart off the rug and tried squeezing them into her chest she confessed, “I’m so sorry.”
“Oh, Leah.” Her words were filled with tenderness.
“We’ll talk.” It was the only sentence Leah could think to say.
“Of course. Good luck today.”
“Thanks.” It was a quiet release, but the word was strong.
As Leah hung up the phone, a flood of emotion came pouring into her soul, yet somehow a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Her sister was okay, and now so was she. She didn’t know how to help her sister, but she realized that she loved her. That was a start. There was no resolution. There was no ending to the story, but she knew that at the very least a new beginning could be had. Leah put her things in her purse, and walked to the door. Her strides had conviction. She was going to love Ava wholeheartedly whatever that may look like, but for the next few hours she would be focused on her future. Maybe she was at least a little bit like Indiana Jones.

Hope you enjoyed it!
With Love,

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
Colossians 3: 12-13