The house is peacefully, slumberingly quiet, and before I give myself the luxury of a (relatively) early night, I thought I'd write this blog while it's still fresh. (Cuz when they're stale they're so...stale, y'know?) I just came home from my precious daughter's school bat mitzvah celebration. It was, in a word, magical.
The girls sang, they danced; their costumes, sewn specially for the occasion, glittered in the stage lights. The teachers produced a stunning video featuring the girls, shot in various places all across Israel--so professional you could plotz! (And I am one of the biggest critics I know!)
It's so euphoric, so moving, to see all these girls--nearly one hundred of them--up on stage, singing their hearts out; to hear the principal's inspirational words; to embrace that girl who once, not so long ago, was an infant, and who now stands at the threshold of adulthood.
At the same time, it's sobering. Next week, my daughter will become a "bat mitzvah", obligated in performing mitzvos (commandments). Have I prepared her well enough for the task? Is there even a way to properly prepare anyone for it? (Is that second question the real answer to the first question?!)
What has until now been a whisper, roars tonight: Will I be a good role model for her as she takes on her new responsibilities? It's a frightening, soul-searching thought. Those are the best kinds.
Well, today I got hate mail.
Not exactly HATE mail; more like, STRONGLY DISLIKE mail, as in "Your serial story, Charades, stinks." It's par for the course, and I've, sniff, dried my tears and will, sob, carry on with my life as best as I, hiccup, possibly can under the circumstances. Okay, seriously, though, it's fine; everyone's entitled to their opinion and this is what writers contend with all the time. The reason I raise this is not to complain about negative feedback; it's to point out a really fascinating observation I've made lately.
There's a psychology to everything--to the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the things we say and think. It's nifty being married to a psychologist because my husband often shares with me the psychological side to things, but my mind tends to gravitate to psychology as well.
When I set out to write Charades, I wanted to explore a new genre: mystery. I've never written a mystery before and I thought it would be really neat. Aside from the fact that I needed to have my main character disappear in order to deflect attention away from a very sensitive topic, abuse, I thought it would be fun and intriguing for people to be kept wondering, as the story developed, Where is Mottie Schneider?
Yet the mystery was a very side-plot to the story; the real bricks-and-mortar of Charades is the exploration of a family looking perfect on the outside but struggling on the inside; of a therapist who can save the world but cannot save herself and her children; of turning to food to stuff down emotion; of the balance in female friendships. All these threads are woven into Charades in what I feel is a fascinating, very authentic way. And yet, today's letter-writer and some others have complained about the story saying it is dragging out, it has no action, it's "disappointing."
Well, I think I've pin-pointed why. I think I've discovered that mysteries don't work well in serialized stories the way they work in a contiguous book. Why? Because a certain type of reader will be unable to focus on the rest of the plot, honing in ONLY on the mystery. She will flip to the end of every chapter without even reading the whole story, intent only on knowing, Where is Mottie Schneider? She loses the forest for the one, suspenseful tree! And that's truly unfortunate, considering the fact that it's a wonderful, complex, interesting forest!
Anyway, that's my theory and I'm sticking to it. What say you?
Well, at least I have a plausible excuse for neglecting this site for a looooong time. The newest addition to the Pomerantz family is adorable Moshe Yona, born December 18th which makes him about a month old now, baruch Hashem!
It's amazing how many emotions a new baby can spawn. Awe. Joy. Fear. Stress. Love. Pride. Dozens more that can't be named. I'm happy to report that, slowly but surely, we're all getting used to a new rhythm and a new reality. Every time we add a new member to the clan it takes a lot of reshuffling and realignment as everyone--young and old alike--struggles to reclaim their place, to see how the new addition fits into their own world. I remember reading somewhere that introducing a new baby to older siblings is akin to one's husband coming home one day with a new wife. "Hey, honey, I brought home a younger, cuter model. But don't worry--I love you JUST THE SAME!" :-) That analogy definitely helps me hold on to empathy as I go through the sometimes tumultuous fall-out from the other kids who are bravely trying to make it work with a new baby brother.
But it's all good!
One thing that has been hitting me so deeply these days is the absolute trust that only an infant can display. He cries and cries and doesn't give up until changed, fed, or held, and there is something completely peaceful in my baby's demeanor, a deep certainty that his needs will be taken care of. He doesn't wonder where his next bottle will come from, or who will make sure his sleepers are laundered. It's beautiful, this tranquil faith. A full-fledged microcosm of bitachon vs. hishtadlus. Definitely something that even me, in my sleep-deprived state, feels stirred to emulate.
About Riva Pomerantz
I'm a freelance writer, widely published in several magazines including the internationally-distributed Ami Magazine and Mishpacha Jewish Family Weekly. Riva's work also appears on the award-winning website www.aish.com, amongst others. You can buy my books here.