My Headscarf Is Not A Moving Target

Red, yellow, and blue vibrant designs overlap on soft cloth wrapped around my head, yet I am in mourning. 

As I munch on granola bars, sifting through inner and outer dialogues, sorrow sweeps around my eyes and descends miserably, unresolved, into my gut. 

Blond boys sit next to me, a family of them, white as white as white, and their whiteness contrasts with my husband, stroking his ruffled beard atop darkened skin, strange strings hanging from under his shirt, cascading off of his chair. I see them seeing us. In the midst of my silent conversation to the history that’s being typed at that moment, I assume the thoughts in their head. 

None of it is fair, maybe, but I’m aware of myself in a way I’m not always, with a red, yellow, blue cloth around my head and the news report of a machete and a Hanukkah party and human beings with metal stabbed into their flesh fresh in my minds.

I’ve quit social media for weeks now, so there’s no one for me to wrap my Facebook-arm around to exercise outrage and horror and collectively shout “what?!” 

No, today I am stooped in my knowing that we are alone and that life is scary, and the sadness of it all kneads into my membrane layers and envelopes me. I grieve silently. The shock of terror from the latest revelation descends at idyl moments throughout the day. I sit in my grief and rise from it without articulating the transitions.

My children are young, and we hope they will never know, and never sense it, as we allude to Monsey and so sad what happened, without saying any more. For a moment, my eyes water as the memory passed down of Jewish children thrown into a cart to be killed fills my brain while I stare at my three year old. I shake my head and remind myself that that was then and this is now. We do not know what now will bring. It might not bring that.

But that is the trouble with terror attacks. It reopens the sown-up, overflowing vault beneath our skin of all of those scrappily tossed together tales of trauma, and when the stitching comes apart, blood rushing, I forget if it ever clotted in the first place. Did it?

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I grieve for America. Dear country, dear people, where are we going? What is to become of us ?

Is it safe to go pray? Is it safe to go outside? When did we become this Jewish? 

My brain pours oxytocin into my body when I rationalize my security at various levels of contemporary violence in America: It’s not my nationality that’s being put into camps. It’s not my faith that’s being attacked. It’s not my type of Jew. It’s not in my state, my town. 

Yet my mind interjects today, shooting cortisol into my veins, that it was my friend trapped inside the shul in Germany on Yom Kippur. It was my friend smacked in the face in Brooklyn last week. Out of all the thousands of shuls, out of all the Jewish faces, you had to walk into mine…

Some days I run free, knowing that goodness thrives and life will be different, and that there are so many reasons to dance. But not today. Today I am a walking mourner with a loud, out-of-place scarf. Yet it does not feel like a moving target. Rather, this drape of clothing consoles and holds me in the midst of this trauma, as it proclaims to the world everything about the suffering that was and the suffering that continues. It admits that I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

It is in that not-knowing where the grief sits. The red, yellow, and blue headscarf circles that non-knowing and hugs it and whispers to me: “You are here. You are you.” This I know. Today, here, now, this second, I am safe. I am fed. 

Perhaps I needn’t expect more. In the present moment, the scars of the past and the screams of last night do not exist. We are just people, with different colored hair and skin, munching on food, and maybe we will find love after all.