Tuesday, April 19, 2011 • 7:34 AM Comments ()

Perseverance Macro (& Little Plastic Toys)

posted by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

If I were to boil down many Jewish holidays—their stories, their themes—down to a single word, it would be perseverance. Exodus, the paucity of oil, the lack of time even to let the bread rise, I mean, life was hard again and again. Judaism marks its hardships and celebrates the spirit to prevail.

Oh, it does a whole lot more, too.

There is, from my gleaning, a message tucked in there that celebrating—or for that matter, understanding—true freedom comes from understanding oppression, that the appreciation for it comes from empathy, from not taking anything for granted. You folks that know much more than me about all this, chime in. Correct me.

In New England, we are not only appreciating the spring this year, we’re kind of knocked out by its eventual appearance and how the markers—I am listening to birdsong again; I am gazing at forsythia; I am walking my neighbors’ tiny lettuce planets—know how to return, even though it took seemingly forever long (the dear husband and eight year-old son so obsessed by his newfound love of downhill skiing spent Saturday on the slopes in Vermont, where the snow was still plentiful). We are, in essence, very much in touch with this theme of perseverance.

To the extent that the most disturbing news domestically stems from the widening gap between the small percentage of the richest and pretty much everyone else getting pushed toward having less, perseverance seems a theme the whole country should be getting behind—and then pushing to change. On a number of fronts, it seems exodus desperate. Who gets pushed to desperate times first? It’s women and children, that’s who.

I thought about all this yesterday, Seder-less. We generally celebrate with our friends-slash-cousins and that didn’t quite work this year (although the tween went to help—and stayed. My friend called after supper: “As I ladled the first bowl of matzo ball soup I realized I forgot to call to see if we could keep him,” she confessed. I’d assumed he would stay. The eldest was helping out at another friend’s Seder. The eight year-old had felt sick in the morning and his younger sister spent about 24 hours (fingers crossed it’s done) with the aptly named “puke bug.” She had a fever and those large, beseeching I’m-sick eyes.

We had the Plague covered, so I felt as if my Judaism was perfectly intact.


For all those bigger world thoughts, yesterday my world felt really tiny: four kids at home (it’s vacation week for the eldest two, which I guess, with only half the kids on vacation could be called half-cation and one starting the day off feeling unwell and the small one really sick, no-cation). I felt vaguely claustrophobic and worried and bored truth be told.

The morning went like this: call farmer’s market manager to ask a few questions for a story. During interview—sitting beside sick child lying down on the couch—watch her projectile vomit her two sips of apple juice lower than her toes. Mop her and the couch up. Don’t miss a beat of the interview. Repeat.

During the afternoon, I ventured as far (when she was sleeping) as the playroom and worked on weeding through piles of miscellaneous toys and weeding out toys we just don’t play with any longer (and, I’m declaring, won’t again: sorry, three year-old). I’d been inspired-slash-a-wee-bit-traumatized reading about this one woman’s incredible day of house organizing (in preparation for her open house to sell the place). My performance was nowhere near as impressive. But still… it represented some steps in the right direction.

As the evening progressed, the vomiting episodes seemed to dwindle and then stop. Fingers crossed, we have persevered plenty—for now.

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