Monday, June 06, 2005

Old friends

I had a really lovely day yesterday - for all the wrong reasons. CJD, and his wife FD [nee FM] (that really doesn't work in abbreviations, does it?) were in town. You remember them. I went to Texas a couple of months back for their wedding. I don't normally mention real people by recognisable abbreviations on the blog (that way libels lie). But, for CJD I feel I can make an exception. Firstly, despite constant reminders, prods and hints he has STILL not actually read this. So the chances are that he'll never know what I say here. Secondly, we are both notoriously bad at staying in touch. We can easily go for months without a single phone call or email. So I figure, if he does ever get round to reading this, at least I will have told him my news without having to remember to contact him directly.

I must admit that the reminders and prods to read the blog seem to have done the trick. He even jotted down the address yesterday. When I say 'jotted down' I actually mean that he inputed the data on his blackberry. All very hi-tech. He is the epitome of PDA-man. While I have become PTA-woman. But that's a whole other story. The point is that CJD might well be reading this right now. Which is oddly heartwarming. Friends in far-off places, and all that.

He was in town due to a death in his family. I was delighted to see him, of course, but it was difficult to be too effusively happy, given the circumstances. I mumbled all the right things, I think. Happy to see you, but sorry it's because of such a sad occasion. That kind of thing. I managed to avoid saying "Only at simchas". It's SO Maureen Lipman. And reminds me of my uncle who once explained that what people really mean by "only at Simchas" is, "We can't stand each other. So let's not keep in touch voluntarily. If we have to see each other, so be it. But only at Simchas!"

Meeting an old friend that you don't see very often is all very well. But it's not so easy to do in a shiva house. There should be a book about acceptable behaviour in a shiva. I mean, is it inappropriate to scream "Oh My God!" across the room (in front of the mourners), fling your arms round someone's neck and tell them they look amazing? I thought so too. So I played it cool and hoped that CJD and FD knew how pleased I was to see them.

I managed to avoid any obvious Shiva-house faux-pas. Unlike my friend C who, at a recent shiva we both attended (which, admittedly, was very crowded and very hot) rushed passed the mourner (wife of deceased) and shouted "Let me out of here. I'm gonna die".

Luckily I popped round during the afternoon, rather than in the evening so I avoided the Prayers. (Have you noticed that people never refer to the Evening Service at a Shiva. It's always Prayers). I find the prayers so awkward. You never know where to stand. You try to stand at the back of the room because it's so embarrassing being at the front. But people who arrive later than you try to slip in behind you. So the crowd gets further and further away from the chap leading the service. Or worse, you think you're at the back, but then the Rabbi arrives and says "East is this way" and everybody turns round and you're at the front again. And if that's not bad enough you spend the whole service trying to think of something appropriate to say to the mourners. "I wish you long life" is so cliched. "I'm so sorry" is frankly bizarre - it's not your fault. In the end I either avoid talking to the mourners completely, which is hardly comforting. Or I just give them that Shiva-house smile. The one that looks like Miss Elly from Dallas. I use it when I want to convey "I know how you feel. Even though of course I don't really know how you feel. But I'm terribly sorry. Even though obviously this isn't my fault. Is there anything I can do? If I was less awkward I'd put all this into words. Is this at all comforting to you? I'll just leave now". You know the kind of look.

But, thankfully, no prayers for me yesterday. I was there for an hour or so in the afternoon, with a huge crowd of people. Standing room only. And relatives walked round the room handing out cups of tea and finger food. In fact, it was pretty much exactly the same as CJD's engagement party. 100 or so family and friends, standing up in their best clothes, making small talk with people they don't know and eating chopped-herring bridge rolls and fish balls.

It's the circle of life, I guess.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

R. Hi i'm PMT from LA, R ur Blog is interesting. We have a mutual friend DJ from D.C. that suggested i read ur blog. Although im in the UK for a short while its interesting that the SP for shivas is the same as the US. Burials and Shivas back home come round on the ASAP which i thinks a good thing for the mourners, all the scenarios are very much the same. Well this is PMT from LA friend of DJ from DC on the old QT saying TTFN & i'll read it again.

10:17 am  
Blogger timecharger said...

have been neglecting these...soz, but been very busy at work. lovely one re shivas. Ax

1:21 pm  

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