I see you at the grocery store, as you carefully select each tomato, and I shove cucumbers sloppily into a bag. We share a casual smile and a quick hello as I search out the potatoes and you head over to the bananas. I mean to ask how your ailing parent is, how your child is adjusting to first grade, but the words are lost as we wend our ways through the aisles.
I see your photos and musings on Facebook. I often click the ‘like’ button. I think to myself how truly overjoyed I am about your new job; I make a mental note of how your baby’s smile really does light up the world. Maybe you can understand my thoughts from my tawdry click of a button…but my guess is that you probably can’t.
You can’t know that I think of you each time I hear the Maccabeats CD, because I heard it the first time in your car; that I think of you each time I knead my challah dough, because yours is the best I’ve ever tasted. You can’t know that I’m reminded of you every time I eat an apple, because you went on a crazy apple diet when we were roommates; that every time my kids play with their friends next door, I think of you, because you were mine.
I don’t think you realize that I think of you when my friends express their concern about their rebellious teenagers, because you used to be one (and survived!). You spring to mind each month when I drop off cakes for our local soldiers, because you once wore camouflage green (or still do). When I make a squash kugel, I think about how you used to bring that for your high school lunch, and when I attend a class, I think about how you’re a teacher now, and how you must be standing up somewhere in the world, giving your own.
When I argue my cause, I think about how we used to practice together on the debate team. When I watch my fourth-grader making new friends and playing with her old ones, I think about how you were the new girl when we were in fourth grade and how I can’t believe there was a time we didn’t know each other. I see your face in the Coke that I serve on Shabbat only, because I know that’s the only thing you used to drink. I think of you each time I cut my child’s hair, because you were the first person who was brave enough to let me cut yours.
You don’t know I’m thinking about you, because distance, time difference and the rat race of daily life precludes me from reaching for the phone. I’d like to think that’s the reason you don’t call me. You should know, however, that it’s not because I don’t care. I do. I pray for your children, for your husbands, for you to find a partner, for the success of your new jobs, every day.
It doesn’t matter whether you live across the ocean or across the street. That I know your childhood phone number by heart, but I don’t know your current one at all. You live in my everyday life, even though we don’t connect as regularly as I’d like. I am a different person – a better person – because I knew you then, and because I continue to know you now, even though it doesn’t always seem that way.
I’m not writing this post only because I’m thinking about how on erev Rosh Hashana we always used to call each other and ask for forgiveness. As it happens, I don’t only think of you on Erev Rosh Hashana – I think of you regularly, even if I don’t always pick up the phone. As always, I hope that your upcoming year is filled with good things – health, happiness and success. I hope that it’s not just an OK year, but that each day is wonderful and filled with meaning. And most of all, I hope that you know how your everyday actions and advice have greatly influenced my life, and that you continue to make the same positive impact on others for years to come.