Friday, July 09, 2004

Some of you may know that my father is a lawyer. He happens to be a very talented lawyer. Harvard Law graduate. Worked for the State of Massachusetts for 19 years, writing a few of its laws. Very honest, tax-paying, respectable, intelligent guy. But not a guy who ever made a lot of money, compared to his classmates from Harvard, being that he worked for the government.

About 10 years ago he was outed from his government job because the new governor wanted to give the position to someone who'd campaigned for him (welcome to politics). It took my Dad a while to find another position, since Massachusetts was in a recession at the time, and he was already older and way overqualified for most of the positions.

Eventually he found a job with a good law firm and things were great. But with the recession, the law firm laid off a huge portion of its staff, including, eventually, my dad.

So, he's been unemployed, again, for the last couple of years, and things have been tough for my parents. Thank God, they've been financially smart in the past and know how to live frugally, so they had enough income coming in from other sources to squeak by. There was never any fear that they'd starve or lose the house or anything like that, but squeaking by isn't a comfortable way to live.

Well, good news! My father just got a federal judgeship! Yay! My dad is now "the Honorable Dad of Chayyei Sarah." He's leaving for Washington in about a week for his 5-week training.

The bad news: The judgeship is in Cleveland. I have nothing against Cleveland, but it's not my hometown. My parents are going to sell their house, the house I lived in from the time I was five years old until I graduated from college, and buy a new one in Cleveland Heights.

I feel bad for my mom, who now has to pack, sell, or throw away the accumulated junk of the past 26 years of living in one place. I'm not so sure how well she deals with change, although parents have a way of being surprisingly adaptive sometimes.

I also feel a little bad for myself. Though my parents won't sell the house for a few months -- so I do have some time to go back to the US, pick up my remaining belongings there, and say goodbye to my old room, and my yard, and all the neighbors -- I don't know when I'll ever go back there again. My sister lives in California now, and my friends are all over the world. I have no reason, really, ever to go back to Massachusetts.

You have to understand that my being from New England has always been a source of pride for me. I love Boston. I love the fall foliage. I love the fact that sometimes I could smell salt in the air near my house. I loved that sometimes seagulls flew overhead. I loved my quirky little neighborhood, with all the Irish Catholic neighbors and the German lady at the corner who was always so nice to us. I loved Mrs. Z, the lady who controlled traffic at the intersection every morning and afternoon so the kids walking to and from school wouldn't be hit by a car. She's been working at that intersection for at least 27 years. I loved the Armenian family who owned the grocery around the corner.

More than anything, I love the Secret Garden a few blocks away. There's an old, old mansion there that was converted to condos, but from the outside it still looks like a summer home for royalty. The front lawn is huge, and all around is a grey wall. The wall has a little gate in it facing the street, but no one uses it because they just drive in through the front driveway. So trees and bushes grow just on the inside of the gate. When I was little, and didn't realize that the house had been turned into condos, I liked to look through the gate and squint my eyes through the trees and bushes, toward the big lawn, and imagine that it was the Secret Garden and a beautiful princess lived in the house. She had a white horse and used to picnic on the lawn.

Will I ever see the Secret Garden again?

Anyhow the neighborhood has changed. Mrs. Z told me last Pesach that she's retiring and moving to Florida. The Armenian family has sold the grocery to some Pakistanis, who I'm sure are nice but they didn't see me grow up. But still, there's a real neighborhood feeling in that community, like in Mr. Rogers, and the people in Cleveland have no idea who I am.

I am happy that my father has a good job, though, and my parents can start living comfortably. Maybe they'll even visit me in Israel, which would be fabulous. Also, my father will make an excellent judge. The fact that he got the job restores some of my faith in American justice.

Lots of bittersweet feelings all around.

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