The shtetl, for those of you who don’t know Yiddish, was the Jewish “ghetto” back in the day, in Eastern Europe. Jews lived relatively isolated in these little communities. Lived and died there, never left, until finally driven out by persecution, as depicted in Fiddler on the Roof. So this week, I’m thinking about that construct, living in a close-knit circle of friends and family, for one’s entire life. I left my home where I grew up and travelled far away, all over the world and all over the country, in fact, before I settled in California. I don’t regret moving to Cali. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Ron and I share a deep love for the ocean and would never go too far from the Pacific. I have a circle of friends here, my own self-made shtetl of community. Yet this week, when my Cousin Marcie passed away in N.Y. at the age of 89, I had a few pangs of remorse. Our family is now so spread out that I rarely see the cousins with whom I grew up (including Marcie’s children) and my cousins’ children. I would have enjoyed watching these children grow up and being a part of their lives.
Today, on Father’s Day, my dad is in Israel visiting his first cousin Sari, who was born and raised there, and her sister Dalia, from Canada. Sari’s daughter was married last week so Dad and Dalia (and some of Dalia’s children) went for the event. When the Nazis began to overrun Europe, my father’s family scattered to the four winds. Canada, America, Australia, Israel, France, wherever they could find safe haven. Sari and Dad are close and visit each other back and forth internationally once or twice a year. Sari calls Dad each week on her cell phone, often more than once a week. I suppose if our family had stayed together in a shtetl, we would have been in each other’s business, it would have been nasty, quarreling, gossiping, driving one another crazy while loving each other to death. Maybe it’s better this way. And yet.
My children took my (and Ron’s) adoration for the Pacific away from their childhood with them. I doubt they would ever leave Cali. Like me and Ron, they need to be near the ocean. They are spread out across the state, but that’s doable. Close enough. Ron and I will be having a reunion with them in August at the beach (of course) when we drive down to San Diego. The Cali shtetl? Maybe a little bit.
Happy Father’s Day to my lovely husband and my terrific dad.