There's ugly stuff going on at our tiny little synagogue. Political, maddening, saddening stuff. Where it will end, no one knows. I'm not sure there's a way back, but I'm not calling the game over quite yet. Where there's faith, there's hope. Or something like that.
But all that's too much for me right now. Too hard, and too long, and too complex, and not really all that much my story to tell. I'm pretty much peripheral to it, though it's been at the center of my thoughts for weeks now.
Which is why, instead, I want to tell you a light little shul story. One that focuses on our temple family, and not on its dysfunction. One that involved laughter to the point of tears, instead of just tears.
This weekend was the bat mitzvah of one of Em's closest friends, the daughter of one of my closest friends there. That meant that all of the key players in my part of our temple's little world were at services on Friday night. And as we are wont to do when we're all together, there was a lot of musical pews going on. Em was in the front row with her posse, all of them cheering on their friend as she led parts of the service. Baroy settled himself a few rows back. I flitted a bit--first next to Baroy, then to quickly whisper to the mother of the bat mitzvah, then to another friend who'd recently arrived. N has never sat in one place for more than 30 seconds during any service. Never. So he was doing his thing, too.
At one point, two of my mom-friends, C and F, were sitting near the back, and N plopped himself down between the two of them. C started idly rubbing his back. After a moment or two, N looked over at F and said, "This feels sooooo good. But you know what would feel better? Two hands!" And then just smiled brightly at F.
C was telling me this story later that evening, and I stopped her at this point. "So how long did it take F to start rubbing his back too?" I asked.
"Twelve milliseconds," she replied. And then started laughing, the kind of laughter that turns into painful gulps of air, tears streaming down your face.
"The thing is," she said, "at that moment, I just sort of flash forwarded about ten years..." And that was all she could get out, until she'd gained enough control to choke out, "I think it's possible that he doesn't really need those social skills therapies, you know? I think it's possible that he's going to be more than just fine."