Cracks, my best friend Alice says on our way home from school, quick, don’t step on any! We pinkie swear, knock on wood, cross our hearts and hope to die and stick figurative needles in our eyes. Jinx 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 makes us pee-in-our-pants giggle if we say the same thing at the same time. At every sleepover birthday party, we take turns lying on the shag rug, spread our fingers under Julie-Diana-Deanna’s head/shoulders/hips/arms/legs/feet, and recite little-girl mumbo jumbo, trying to levitate each other. We hold séances, placing hands on Parker Brothers’ Ouija board’s planchette and moving them in small, slow circles, trying to conjure faraway spirits. We shake black plastic Magic 8 balls, trying to see who’s mad at us or which boy likes us or whether we’ll pass the history test.
Ritual, religion, or innocent child’s play?
Elohim and Eloah mean god in Hebrew, but growing up in our Reform Jewish household, the monolithic all-knowing, all-seeing Supreme Being only makes a guest appearance when my mother breaks something in the kitchen and screams god damnit! followed by Pardon my French! I attend Hebrew School twice weekly for ten years, chant from the Torah for my bat mitzvah, spend five summers at a Jewish camp and six weeks in Israel with my youth group. We dress in our September finest to sit in temple every Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and celebrate Sukkot and Passover eating iceberg lettuce salad and chopped liver with my Eastern European grandparents. But no one in my midst mentions anything about creed or starts a sentence with I believe in the Big Boss Upstairs.
Decades later, a married mother of three and new immigrant in Israel, I gravitate toward palm-shaped hamsa amulets, fondle my gold eye bracelet from Greece to ward off evil spirits, and pretend-spit over my shoulder, saying tfu, tfu, tfu like an 80-year-old Mediterranean yaya.
O—the 15th letter, squished between numbers 7 and 4—makes me wonder if the hocus-pocus from my childhood primed me for a path of superstition, if said superstition and ignorance are synonymous. And if I don’t believe in the three-letter g-word but do fear uttering certain thoughts aloud because words have power, does that make me irrational or simply naive? I rant against my own faith, full of so many laws and limitations concerning food and comportment, especially my husband’s no-electricity-no-spending-money-no-cooking-no-driving Sabbath-observant lifestyle, yet close friends and yoga students call me spiritual. And I wonder what they see in me that I don’t see, what do we see in others that we cannot see in ourselves? How the cracks between let the light in.
Jennifer Lang's shorts have appeared in Atticus Review, CHEAP POP, Pithead Chapel, and elsewhere. "Repeat the Enchanting" won first place in Midway Journal's flash contest. A four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, she holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and serves as Assistant Editor for Brevity. Born in the San Francisco Bay Area, she lives in Tel Aviv, where she runs Israel Writers Studio and hunts for a special press for her memoir in vignettes.
Photo by Jonas Denil on Unsplash
Wonderful! Your thoughts and insights truly resonate with me and my upbringing.
So beautifully written, as always. You take me right there with you giggling along with your friends.
Excellent as always! I am so blown away by how you join together these thoughts from your childhood to your adult life in Israel.
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May 12, 2021
Amazing way of turning innermost thoughts into words. I’m in awe, as always with Jennifer’s writings.