“Good morning yesterday
You wake up and time has slipped away
And suddenly it’s hard to find
The memories you left behind
Remember, do you remember…”
As a people, Jews are good at – or cursed with – remembering. The command “Remember” – Zachor – echoes throughout our texts and history. We are taught to remember the Exodus from Egypt; to remember Amalek (or rather to remember what he did to the Israelites after the Exodus, but to erase all memory of him!); and to remember the Holocaust. There is, however, one notable “Remember” that comes with a twist…
The fourth of the Ten Commandments uses the word Zachor to remember the Sabbath (Exodus 19: 8-11). The sages teach that remembering the Shabbat during the week, even looking forward to it, is a virtue – a mitzvah – in and of itself. But, when the Ten Commandments are reviewed later in the Torah (Deuteronomy 5:12), the word Zachor is replaced with Shamor, which means safeguard or preserve. By this subtle change, we are taught that remembering should lead to safeguarding or preserving.
For as long as I can remember, I have cared deeply about making and preserving memories. And, I do my best to cherish each and every one of them. Every year, during this particular week of June, I feel fortunate to relive and embrace a poignant few.
I can’t help but remember the day my husband became a father twenty-three years ago. My due date had come and gone. The doctor, at my weekly morning appointment, finally agreed to induce labor because I was two weeks late. I excitedly called my husband at work and announced, “Today’s the day! We have to be at the hospital at three o’clock.” He calmly replied, “Honey, today’s a bad day. I have back-to-back meetings. We’ve waited this long; one more day won’t hurt.” “DAVID,” I yelled in far-too-loud, impatient, pissed off voice, “I am having this baby today, with or without you!” Click. I hung up on him in a huff.
Contrite, but true to form, he dutifully walked through the door at 2:30. I wordlessly drove to the hospital while he sat in the passenger seat eating lunch – a Whopper, fries and Coke – that he picked up on the way home. My mother sat silently in back knitting the sweater the baby would wear home. Ten hours later, our boy was born.
The next day, my husband arrived at the hospital for dinner bearing roses, flashing a smug smile, and wearing his tuxedo. The on-duty nurses swooned, the other maternity patients pouted jealously, and their visiting husbands simply glared at him. I, in my bathrobe, simply beamed as we strolled down the hallway.
June 19th — Our Wedding Anniversary
We got married twenty-nine years ago on the same day as my parents. It was less than a month after we graduated college; seven years after we started dating in the ninth grade. Frankly, I don’t remember much about the wedding itself (thank goodness for pictures!). It was my mother’s affair; not mine. She handled everything from the invitations and the band to the menu and the flowers. She even picked the colors. My job was to show up, smile for the pictures, and say my one line.
I do remember, however, the process of choosing my dress. There was the trip to Kleinfeld’s where we struck out; the fight with my father over the cost of the fairy-tale-princess-dress I wanted from Bridals by Roma; my mother sobbing to my grandmother over the phone; and ultimately the thrill of buying a dress that I’d only wear once, but years later would also be worn by my sister and cousin.
The truth is that – even after all these years – the point of it all was to marry my guy. The rest didn’t matter. And, fortunately, he and I didn’t have to pay for a thing!
June 20th — My Husband’s Birthday
He loves to joke, “On June 19, 1983, I woke up a twenty-one-year-old, single, and excited about the life ahead of me. On June 20, 1983, I woke up a year older, married, and worried about the road ahead.” Ha, ha.
His memory aside, I’ll never forget the shocked look on his face when I surprised him with a “Sweet 16.” He never liked being the center of attention, so I worried for weeks about how he’d take it all — and if anyone would come. My parents were very supportive and helpful, and didn’t mind the party being at our home. All of our friends showed up and helped make it a memorable birthday. He was a good sport, but made me promise to never do it again.
“The laughter and the tears
The shadows of misty yesteryears
The good times and the bad you’ve seen
And all the others in between
Remember, do you remember
The times of your life?”
(Paul Anka, 1975)
Shamor v’Zachor … May you make, preserve, and remember your own wonderful memories.