Jewish World Review July 25, 2014 / 27 Tammuz, 5774
By Paul Greenberg
Goin' home, goin' home, I'm a-goin' home;
Quiet-like, some still day, I'm jes' goin' home.
It's not far, jes' close by,
Through an open door;
Work all done, care laid by,
Goin' to fear no more.
Mother's there 'spectin' me,
Father's waitin', too.
Lots of folks gather'd there.
All the friends I knew.
Home, I'm goin' home!
We go to Sabbath services Friday night at my old synagogue, Agudath Achim, but it has downsized and moved into a new building plunked down in a new part of town, a carbon copy of little Agudath Achim synagogue in
I keep looking for my old rabbi, who taught me how to sound out the jots and tittles of the alef-bes, the Hebrew alphabet, and the meaning of the ancient words that contained worlds. It wouldn't be till much later that I realized Rabbi had a full name -- Rabbi
Not till we read the Kaddish, the prayer recited on the anniversary of a death, and hear the list of names do I fully realize how many figures of my childhood are no more. Their faces flash before me one by one, even more vivid than they were in life. Even stranger are the faces of the old- timers who are still here tonight, present and accounted for, their walkers at the ready. Which reminds me: I left my cane in the car. I would have fit right in.
We're staying in one of those indistinguishable motels on an indistinguishable freeway lined with indistinguishable franchise operations. It's kind of restful, being in a place that's no place. A man could live quietly, anonymously, comfortably there, with every need in walking distance if anybody ever walked any more: franchise food, multiplex theaters, antiseptic quarters with no distinguishing marks. Even the people seem franchised. It's the perfect no-place to disappear into. I daydream about being in a witness protection program in this neighborhood, work all done, care laid by, covered by layers of protective non-coloration, just blending into the gray.
Oh, to be lost in this sea of bland modernity that now covers the home town I knew. At last I could shed the ever more burdensome identity I've acquired over the years with every wrinkle, vanity, sin and regret. Why, it'd be the equivalent of a moral facelift. I'd be free of the past at last, that is, I'd be free of me. Just another driver in a traffic diagram.
I'm amazed at how little of the home town I remember is left. I keep getting lost. They seem to have paved it over and built some kind of bland, fake
We take refuge from the enveloping nothingness of the modern city at the condo my big sister and her husband have taken for their visits back home. It, too, is indistinguishable from the row of structures alongside it. They, too, are all the same--till you go inside. Once through the door, this is the childhood home I remember, for it's full of furniture from our old house on
But there is one little picture I want, a photograph in an Art Deco frame of 1920s provenance that shows an older sister of my mother's, my Aunt Temya, the one who looked after my mother when they were being raised on what was essentially a battlefield somewhere on the Eastern front of the First World War.
After the war, Temya settled in
We wrap Temya's old photograph carefully in tissue paper, cushion it with wrapping paper, and hide it deep in a pocket of my briefcase for the trip home to
Now I have a niece named for Temya, and she's the sweetest of the whole bunch. She's called Tammy in this ever
None of the visit home over the weekend seems to fit together -- the old and new Shreveports, the sharp memories and dull uniformity, the jagged edges and assuring continuities, the love and the fury, the good and bad and indifferent. ... It is all fragmentary in my mind. Like today's column.
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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer prize-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
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