Places Are Important

8:07 AM 0 Comments

I suppose that I have always known that physical spaces are important. Locations create perspective. Perspective creates our reality; and thus, our memories. That is why I can remember vividly every detail of the childhood home that I grew up in. With my eyes shut, I could navigate that house without having to worry about tumbling down the stairs (although I did do that when I was a kid in the middle of the night). I have many potent memories directly tied to the physical space where my sister and I grew up. Places do matter. Space can be holy.

About one year ago, and after thirty years, my parents sold that house. No longer could I visit my childhood home and feel the comfort of the bedroom where I slept from toddler years on up. But despite the loss felt in knowing that it was time for my parents to move on, and watching another family move into my home, I shed no tears. Perhaps I was able to rationalize away the emotions.

And so it was the same as we said goodbye to our home on Bishop Street. Again, no tears. My wife and I have put countless hours into making that our home. We have cried and laughed in that home. We cared for a cat, and a dog in that home. We brought three babies from the hospital to that home. But saying goodbye again brought no tears. Maybe it was just a place after all. A place where stuff resided for a fleeting moment in time. Even my ever-perceptive son was able to rationalize away the emotions: "I hope someone new will live here and love this house."

Hearing this breaks my heart, and makes me proud simultaneously. I am sad for him as it has been the only bedroom he has known as his own. But I cannot help be be astonished by his maturity in being able to grasp the situation, and wish upon another family the joy we have had. To him, the space is sacred, and it will continue to live on long past our days on Bishop Street. Just not as our sacred space.

I was snapped back to my reality of the importance of locations when seeing my children playing at the park. You see, about one block away from our Bishop Street house is a playground. It was where I brought my oldest son to sit on baby swings as he carefully watched the "big kids". Where I took him to play while his mom and newborn sister got to know each other in their beginning hours together. And where that same daughter has strived so mightily to keep up with her now much more able-bodied older brother. I remember acting as the crossing guard to make sure that my toddlers would be certain to get a chance on the slide and not overrun by older hooligans. I remember trudging there in snow up to my kids' waists. I remember placing my youngest baby into the same swings, just so that I could see him smiling in the same way that I saw his older siblings.

But, it is this last memory that will stick with me: In watching my kids joyfully extract every ounce of happiness out of that playground for the last time, I started to cry. And I find myself crying now. That playground is on special ground. It is important. It has given me much in the way of memories. But the perspective of seeing the age of my children on that park strikes a chord very deep within me. It is static. A monument to childhood. And, because it is a fixed place, how my children interact with it is what changes.

And with that in mind, I yearn for the land of  Eretz Yisrael. For land that is more holy. For locations that will hopefully bring me perspective. For the physical space that has been at the hearts of the Jewish people since the story of last week's parsha unfolded in real time. For the land promised to Abraham, and ultimately settled by Joshua. Will it bring me tears in the same way? Stay tuned. Time will tell.

Thoughtfully written by: