Monday, September 9, 2013

Rosh HaShanah - Zichronot, by Josh Marcuse and Cathryn Sitterding

Zichronot (“Remembrances”)
- Josh Marcuse and Cathryn Sitterding

Josh: I remember when she walked into the restaurant for our first date. 30 minutes late. The moment she appeared, I saw how lovely she looked. I was glad I had stayed.
Cathryn: I remember being shocked to see him standing there, in the middle of the street. I was in my swimsuit and had sand in my hair, no makeup, no manicure. He got down on one knee. I remember thinking, “Right now? Right here?” and then there was this gorgeous diamond ring. I vividly recall feeling so complete, so unabashedly happy. I’d never felt such happiness.
Josh: I remember returning home after the rehearsal dinner and standing alone in front of the door to our apartment. I knew when I walked out the door again in the morning my life would change forever. I thought, “the next time I walk in this door, I will be a husband.”
Cathryn: I remember walking up the aisle of the Cathedral, holding on to my Dad’s arm. I’d been nervous all day, but at that moment I felt only calm. I finally reached the altar and I circled him seven times. With each circle, this tradition – which was not part of my heritage – felt more and more like it belonged to me.
Josh: I remember lying on the grass underneath a glaring sun and drawing a deep breath. As I listened to the gleeful laughter of our little children running in the yard, I felt swells of emotion: strong, vulnerable, curious, proud. Mostly, as I watched her playing with them, and I felt content.
Cathryn: I remember driving our eldest to college. I was proud and excited, but so anxious. I wondered, “Were we good parents? Did we do everything right?” I didn’t say a word, but he knew. And he took my hand and said, “Honey, everything is going to be fine.” I believed him.
Josh: We are getting married in two weeks. Most of these memories have not yet happened. We will be very blessed if our lives unfold as we envision.
Cathryn: The line between memory and imagination is thin. As we plan our life together, we find ourselves developing memories in advance of them happening. I have Jewish memories. I feel connected to these traditions even though they are not mine. I’m Catholic.
Josh: When I am in Indiana, where Cathryn grew up, I feel connected to her family traditions as if I’d grown up with them myself, as if it was my childhood and not hers. Sitting with her family canning green beans in the garden, it’s for the hundreth time. But really, it’s the first time. I grew up in New York City. Memory is more complicated than your mind’s record of the past. Our memories are constructed. As we have been planning our wedding, we realized we were not only designing an experience for the present, or anticipating a future, but creating a past for us to gaze back upon for decades, creating a new family history.
Cathryn: Our Jewish and Catholic wedding ceremony is grounded in rituals that have been remembered and passed on for generations, that we have adopted as our own, but which were not ours before. I feel connected to the tradition of the seven circles – it will become a memory for me. I assign meaning to it because it is a ritual of a community with which I now identify.
Josh: We began planning our wedding as an event, and assumed the memory gets created automatically, like an album of photographs. That’s false, or at least incomplete. Memory is intrinsic to the lives we lead and their meaning, not the bi-product, but the purpose. We deliberately embraced the role of memory – authentic, imagined, conscious, unconscious, secular, sublime – as we crafted an interfaith ceremony that would mark the turning point in our lives.
Cathryn: It was not only our memories, but our families’ memories that we drew upon, as we chose the rituals we wanted to include as we become husband and wife. The wedding itself is an act of creating a memory of a sacred day not just for us, but for our friends and families, too. That day is experienced by everyone in the context of their own memories of love, marriage, loss, or creation.

Josh: The lives we lead today are the memories we will have in the future. Don’t be careless about the present, and assume the memories that follow will be the ones you want. We must be consciously aware of the memories we are creating and intentional about the lives we lead. As each of us reflects on what has passed this year, and prepares for the year ahead, we ask that you consider how, decades hence, we will remember ourselves, and each other. 

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