While on the phone with my father yesterday, he interrupted himself to say, "Julia, I'm sorry for the things I've done this year."
I waited. What had he done? And then I remembered: it's Yom Kippur.
"Oh, yeah," I said. "No problem. Me too."
I suppose it's fitting that I felt bad to have forgotten the Day of Atonement. As a child I used to dread Yom Kippur. What was the point of fasting, of spending the day in dresses and uncomfortable shoes, forever standing and then sitting and then standing again in High Holy Day services?
I'll never forget the year that we came home from service to find a small domestic crime in our kitchen. My cat Nighttime had crept into my brother's room and snagged his pet parakeet Jib, a small, green joyful thing, and dragged him down the stairs, leaving behind a trail of green and orange feathers. There wasn't even any blood. Josh had only had Jib a few weeks. We'd picked out a special cage and special toys and everything. When he saw what happened, he chased Nighttime outside and threw rocks at him, yelling, "Stupid cat!" I stood on the porch, trembling, thinking, so this is what it means to feel sorry.
In college I went to Hillel because they served delicious (and free) Shabbat dinners and because a boy I liked agreed to go with me. That first Yom Kippur, I remember the palpable relief I felt when we stood up and I knew the words to the Hebrew prayers. At 18 it is so tempting to live within the confines of what only you can see. Hell, the same can be said for any age. But to remember the melody of a centuries-old prayer, even if you're still grasping its meaning--that was a reminder that there is so much more to this world than what's right in front of us.
Frankly, I could use more moments like that.
It's Yom Kippur and I'm thinking not just of Syria, not just of the flooding in Colorado and the fires, well, everywhere, but also of the 9-year-old boy who lives upstairs, who just opened his screen door and said, out onto the patio, "Could you please be quiet? I'm trying to watch YouTube and my baby brother is crying." I'm thinking of the phlebotomist who drew my blood at 7:30 this morning (ironically, I was fasting), a Vietnamese man in his 50s who handed me a green ticket and asked that I call the number and rate his customer service. I'm thinking of all the anonymous errors in our lives, and how sometimes we try to fix the wrong ones. Or that problems aren't always for fixing so much as acknowledging. I'm thinking of my grandparents, dead and alive, and the traditions they have observed. I'm thinking that Ryan wants us to be carried on chairs at our wedding--how I'd said, "You don't really want that, do you?" and then immediately regretted it.
It's Yom Kippur and I've turned off the music. I'd be able to remember the prayers if someone else started singing. The kids at play have gone inside. I may not be at synagogue but I am observing the quiet. And maybe this year, that's enough.