silent sisterhood once removed

i’m at a restaurant whose neon sign is 2 ducks facing each other. geometric shapes stick out of the walls and lamenated pictures of ducks twist with the air conditioning. i must be suicidal to be at this restaurant. the security is a far-sighted old guy and this is the heart of netanya. i’ve been holding my breath til i leave.
last night i met up with cousin debra who flew in from nyc a few days ago. she’s staying with her boyfriend’s parents, who recently immigrated to jerusalem from nyc. she spent the day with malca and the boys and after work they came to pick me up. malca kept calling to get directions. i work out in the middle of nowhere. i anxiously punched out and raced down the stairs. i saw mikey thru the door and he gave me a big hug. next was noam. then debra came running towards me. the first thing i noticed was that she grew and was now towering over me. and then i noticed that her hair was shorter than last time i remembered. debra is my uncle seymour’s 2nd daughter. she’s my most religious close family member and up until i immigrated we really didn’t have much in common. but now, in our bonding, i’ve learned so much about her family. there are also 4 girls in her family, like mine. and also in her family there’s always been tradition. but they took religion further than we did. they be came very observant…kosher, keeping shabbat. theirs was always the religious korns and we were the korns that fell further from the tree. i remember sitting around the passover wondering what they thought of us. and after my sister renee had 2 babies from 2 different fathers (one of them unknown) i began to even avoid eye contact. i didn’t understand, just as i’m sure they didn’t. i had pink hair at the time and those korns seemed to be existing as a tight-knit involved sane family, something i strangely craved but couldn’t quite imagine. but i never knew them… never had anything in common. we saw each other twice a year. they lived in brooklyn and then moved out to long island. we were in nj. but knowing debra now i feel that our cousin-ness is silent sisterhood once removed.
she hugged me completely. she hugged me in happiness and in connection and that is when she became real to me. she then hugged me for every member of her family. “this is from my mother” she bagan…and we ended with her long-dead fish. just an excuse for another hug. our faces were permagrin for the next few hours and we walked numb thru the mall talking about things. she brought up the passover night when mom hit diana in the car. she never quite understood. she was so sweetly naive about that yet careful not to insinuate that we were the people she was warned, possibly her whole life, to not become like. i told her a bit of what happened that night. that it was late and di was cranky. she asked adrienne to move over and mom hit her. i hit mom back and told her that this isn’t love and i was ushered into seymour and linda’s house where i admitted regret for a quick desparate raging comment that i said. ‘why didn’t anyone see how mom was treating us?! why didn’t anyone help us?’ i told debra that and she bit her lip. i assured her that i didn’t mean it… a lot has happened since my mother’s ignorant raging violence. my mother has grown mountains in the last 6 months and i grew into my own person.
i introduced myself to my own happiness. i absorbed my father’s strengths and shunned other’s weaknesses. we spoke quietly about things and spoke openly. i didn’t want to delve further into a world she was so close to as a lifetime family member, yet so distant in morality. we were/are immoral and my own ignorance made myself believe that her family judges our family. ‘girls, this is the wrong way to be a korn.’
she explained the family meeting that was called when the children were told that renee was pregnant. she said that her parents laid it out this way. “someone in the family is pregnant” and they systematically, perhaps chronologically, named names til they got to renee’s name… and it was confirmed.
debra told me that the only way that she learned of renee’s second child, kyle, was thru my website. “mom, who’se this?!” how could we be korns with 4 girls originally from bklyn and how could they be likewise and how could we have such different beliefs. debra is a 21 year old virgin. when she openly discussed her boundaries in sexual expression, i felt a mixture of respect and pity. surely you must taste the goods before purchasing. but her spirit comes from an older time. her upbringing encouraged her modesty and her respect for herself. i threw myself on the coals in the name of exploration and here she is saving herself. and yet we openly shared our thoughts and i thought that was just beautiful. she is the exact same age as adrienne. her emotional intelligence far surpasses even mine, 8 years her senior…there’s a simple contentness about her self-awareness. i’m happy just knowing that someone of my blood thrives in tradition, strives for a location that i tasted but couldn’t savor. it wasn’t meant for me, this israeli experience…it was meant for her. i’m glad that i could be her familiar contact here. we all have malca, that to be sure. she is our eternal israeli mother.
diana and stef slept in her bed when they were visiting and debra and i too slept in her bed last night. i even couldn’t sleep thinking h ow diana once was there on the same pillow. i slept lightly curled in anticipation. for every day the rest of my family is about to arrive, the more i push off the reality that we’re about to have our wedding in 12 days.
this feeling is unreal. i feel like a happy wagging dog running from sunset to sunset in happiness for the next thing.

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