More from NanoWriMo novel

Yeah, out in the streets--no privacy 

In my own bedroom--no privacy 

On the telephone--no privacy 

In the back of my car--no privacy 

I can't get no 

I can't give me no 

I can't give me no privacy

"Privacy" by Sammy Hagar


The next ordinance to reign over the household was perhaps the most difficult to follow. The events which led to this most evil decree are hazy at best. My grandfather suffered a severe hear attack when I was 13. His doctors told my mother and aunt that he didn't look good and his condition was failing. Some hassidic Jew advised my mother to find a pair of tefillin -- also called phylacteries. They're are a pair of black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with Hebrew biblical verses. The hand-tefillin is worn by male Jews over the age of 13, and it's wrapped around the arm, hand and fingers, while the head-tefillin, is placed above the forehead. They serve as a "sign" and "remembrance" that God brought the children of Israel, his people, out of Egypt. Jewish law requires that they are worn during weekday morning prayer services and not on the Sabbath. While worn, a man cannot be in the direct presence of women, and he must not have lascivious thoughts. It's almost a type of enforced meditation to seek the creator and connect with his historically-altering actions. Namely, thanks for saving the Jews from 400 years of slavery. My grandfather had such a pair of tefillin which he took with him when he escaped Nazi Germany. He'd gone from being hooked up to plastic tubes from ICU machines to black leather straps within 42 hours. The doctors were stunned. My mother and aunt decided to give back to God and keep the Sabbath. As with kashruth, there are myriad laws, commentaries, loopholes and regulations to be observed. There are volumes of debates, essays, writings and teachings about the Sabbath. A person could read every single book written about the topic and still be unsure about what it means and how it is kept. In my house, however, the extreme always applied. We did not drive to synagogue or anywhere else for that matter, TV was banned, turning on and off lights (this included the bulb in the fridge, too, it had to be unscrewed), cooking, cleaning, laundry, polishing of any kind, listening to the radio, talking on the phone, carrying things outdoors, and the worst part of it all -- writing was forbidden. Any action which was associated with work or the six other days of the week were outlawed. Cooking was only permissible by using a certain metal tray on top of a stove and the item could not be lifted on or off that tray unless it was being reheated for immediate consumption. Even tearing pieces of paper towel and toiler paper were forbidden in certain circles unless performed with a shenui or "change." This was a loophole. It meant that if you tore it with your left hand or in a different manner from which you would normally tear it, it was allowed. The reasoning here is that a person is being mindful of their actions, and not doing something by rote. It would be associated with actions performed on the weekday. 


The worst was not being able to write. Kenwtood had to come up with games to keep herself occupied. We took what little was left in the fridge and created dishes which were to be judged by each other. Lacey typically won these contests. She made various sauces and dressings to dip vegetable slices in, and we always delighted in her efforts. We read for hours on end, avoided my mother as much as possible and rarely went outside. My Uncle Melvin said, "If you aren't driving the kids to temple anymore, they won't have a life." He came to our rescue when he could. But nothing changed. We were still forced to keep the Sabbath according to my mother's extremist terms. There was no arguing, no compromising. Our cousins lived a good 20 minutes away by car so wecouldn't see them either. From sundown on Friday to sunset on Saturday, Mom was our warden. After I announced that I would be engaged to Jeremy, my house became even more tense. One Sabbath I really angered my mother by telling her our union was imminent. Bored as we were, this conversation seemed to spice things up. "You are too young, I don't like his family." She wasn't wrong on these counts, but she pushed me into his arms by forcing relgion down my throat. For years, I left the house wearing long skirts with pants rolled up underneath so the cuffs wouldn't show. I couldn't dress how I pleased. Wearing makeup was forbidden, too. Any freedom I had was earned by lying, sneaking around, and by becoming myself to everyone in my sphere, except my mother. I smoked my first cigarette at 18, my first joint at 19 and by the time I was 20 I had finally broke the Sabbath and not felt guilty or like I might be struck by the hand of a unseen force, but I was frightened my mother would find out and my double life would be exposed. 


So one Sabbath afternoon during a heated discussion about my future plans with Jeremy, my mother became enraged since I tried tuning her out. "You're not even in college yet, his family isn't like us." "Uh, yeah they aren't crazy." "What did you say to me? How dare you talk to your mother that way! How dare you." "You're not being rational Mom and I can't talk to you when you act this way." "I am the only one with a brain my head trying to prevent you from making a big mistake." All of a sudden I caught my brother's form in the hallway and he winked at me. I knew he and Lacey were up to something. I decided to provoke my mother even more. "I will marry him and there's nothing you can do about it." "Oh yes there is you ungreatful, insolent child!" "Leave me alone," I barked. "Too bad," she said, primed for a fight and a subsequent victory. She was standing outside my bedroom door. I tried to shut it, but she pulled the door handle on the other side. Pulled it hard. She barged into my room and began walking toward me, yelling at me the entire time. "You are one piece of work. You think this man will be there for you, that he's the right one for you that school comes second? You're too young to have any idea what marriage is. You're nothing, a teenager is all." She was so close to my face she was baiting me, I nearly felt spittle on my cheek, and I didn't know how to stop her. At the same time, I heard giggling from outside my bedroom window which was to my left, so I peered over my mother's shoulder and thought I caught a glimpse of a blanket. I blinked. My mother became even more aggravated. "Look at me when I am talking to you! Look at me you ingrate!" She lunged at me I stepped back, she tripped and recovered, found her bearings and yelled, "Look at what you did!"  She was charging at me, and I took both my hands and put them on her shoulders and pushed my weight into her and she stumbled. It was the fifth time in my life that I tried defending myself against her rage. This time I wouldn't stand for her antics. I used all my might to shove her out the door and slammed it shut. She banged on it furiously. "You are a real insolent child. You are nothing! Open this door! Open it!" My hands were shaking, tears rolled down my face. I heard some distand laughter coming from outside my window again. 


I pushed the sil upward and there was brother dangling from a blanket held by my sister. He was laughing because he'd made it outside and practically down the front of the house. I noticed our across the street neighbor was watching. What a bunch of loons we appeared to be. James looked at me and said, "Thanks, you helped me escape. It worked." I smiled in their victory as nutty as it seemed, my mother still pounding away at my bedroom door slinging insults. Through my anxious haze I realized I had won. I helped derail her from my siblings, protecting them from her wrath and from embarrassing them in front of the neighbors. There were too many times when I couldn't protect them but this time I had. It also wouldn't be the first time one of us pulled ridiculous stunts out of boredoom, frustation, fear, and a need for freedom. My sister actually ran away for a spell. She returned after a few hours, but she had been ballsy enough to be gone so long my mother was actually worried. But when she returned, she endured my mother's anxiety and turmoil tenfold. It would be not be the last time my sister sought to escape from her imprisonment. 

During my first year of college in Manhattan, I shared a room with three other girls. One was very materialistic and beautiful. She had a boyfriend who put up with her semantics and ball-busting ways. But we did not get along. I wasn't sure what we fought about but one night it became nasty. Our verbal sparring turned physical and the next thing I knew she was hitting me, yelling at me, and then I was slapping her back. I still can't remember what it was about. It shocked me. I never laid a hand on another human being in defense or out of anger after that incident. She and I became friends and she ended up marring her boyfriend and then divorcing him years later. 



Comments:
 
Trenchtownrock   Trenchtownrock wrote
on 12/11/2008 10:54:35 AM
I love the way which you write. The language is not some fancy words cooked up to sound like everyone with thestory drowning in the process. This reads well. Good job!

baraness
Novel / Novella
Memoir
writing baraness
Non-fiction writer with a penchant for story-telling.
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