During the recent polar vortex, I was blessed to be vacationing in Miami Beach, Fla. I was invited to speak in Palm Beach Gardens and my daughters were on winter break at the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland, so we booked tickets and flew south. The plan was to stay in my grandmother’s condo for three days and two nights and chill at the beach and pool – and eat lots of good, kosher food.
I’ve been to my grandmother’s condo many times as a child and through my adulthood. My grandmother wintered in Miami every year and I’d meet her friends and sit with her at the pool. I have fond memories of Collins Avenue, 41st Street, and the boardwalk. We strolled, my grandparents and I past “Millionaire’s Row,” past the Mimosa, the Eden Roc and the Fontainebleau.
But this year is different. This year is the first year that my grandmother has been unable to travel to Florida. Thank G-d, she turns 90 this spring, and she is just not strong enough to travel. For the first time, we stayed in her condo without her.
In a way, she was there. Her clothes were in the closet. The space was filled with the furnishings I remember choosing with her. Her presence hovered over everything. In the lobby of the building is a synagogue, and I remembered spending Shabbat with her and my grandfather, of blessed memory, and sitting in that synagogue praying among the perfumes and jewels of the Hungarian women who fussed over me like peacocks. In that space I was the crown jewel of humanity.
I missed her but in a way, we still wintered in Florida together.
What spell did my grandmother cast over me, that every time I think of her, I am filled with love and nostalgia?
To me, my grandmother always represents pure, blind, unadulterated love. Reality be darned, I was the shiniest star in the firmament. Although I knew good and well that I wasn’t, the knowledge that to someone I was, was a rock-solid basis for my self-esteem.
Each of us has endless interactions with others – what spell are we weaving in our lives? When people walk into our space when we’re not there, how will they feel? What will they think? What emotions will fill them?
I want to be that for someone. I’m not a grandmother yet, but I don’t think blind love is limited to grandparenthood. Can we be that for a spouse? For a child? For a sibling? For a friend?
Will the smell of my clothes in a closet fill someone with a deep sense of calm one day?
I hope so. This I know: I choose to live my life today so that I am that someone for somebody. And I hope you will too. And they will pass it on, and they after that. And that, my friend, is how we change the world.