My daughter has eight American Girl dolls and more than 200 outfits for them. They occupy a trunk, a dresser drawer, and a considerable amount of the floorspace in her room. I only wish they occupied an equivalent amount of her time, but I’ve learned not to expect that of childish things.
The sum of all this is so outrageous, so embarrassing, that I hesitate to do the math, but I will. Here is how we got in this mess: one doll was a hand-me-down, one came from her parents, one was awarded as a prize, one purchased with her own savings and the rest resulted from masterful pleas to aunts and grandparents.The newest one is always loved best of all, “best” and “all” being subject to the excruciatingly short lifespan of any fancy.
A year ago, I decided to put the kibosh on the whole thing, since to me at least, eight of anything has always been enough.
Yesterday I received something quite close to the following email.
Hi Karen: Well, our contingent feels pretty pleased with themselves regarding Chanukah. When Georgia was here in September she was very enthused about the new AG Doll, Rebecca. Of course we were all delighted. I just ordered Rebecca, plus accessories and the book, ______ got the pink “movie” dress, ______ got her two more books about Rebecca, and ______ got her Rebecca’s fur coat and muff set. It means a lot to us that she wanted it.
For those of you who don’t follow these developments with rabid self-interest, Rebecca is a soft-body plastic doll sold for $114, book and accessories included, embroidered with the storyline of a girl who celebrates the treasured traditions of her Jewish family.
From time to time I’m asked what it’s like to be married to someone who doesn’t share my practice, or more to the point, what it’s like to be in an interfaith marriage. This is what it is like.
The brilliant novelist and kindred spirit Elissa Elliott, herself a disaffected former fundamentalist Christian, has a fascinating post up today. I just read it, and it arrives like heavenly host into the dark storm of my wounded heart. She takes up the curious ramifications of the rising percentage of Americans who have no religious affiliation, a segment that will likely reach 25 percent of the population within two decades. She quotes one religion writer as saying “believers are perplexed and disappointed with God.” I rather think people are perplexed and disappointed with other people: their internecine fights and religious-political warfare.
At my weariest, I feel all alone, but more of us are beating a retreat every day.
I’ve written before about how my daughter views all this, or at least how she used to. It was inspiring and uplifting to me to see how purely she saw us all as one: the divisions meaningless, the sum greater than the parts.
If you click the link you might be wondering how the trip to Israel went. We didn’t go, because the brothers couldn’t work it out.
Yesterday I sent something quite close to the following email:
You can rest assured that Georgia sees herself as Jewish, and always has. No one here tries to take that away from her, or impose anything at all on her. What it means is entirely up to her. My only job is to leave all her options open, pick up the clutter, clean out the drawers, and love her no matter who or what she thinks she is. She doesn’t have to please me. No one in my family has ever insisted she be Christian, for goodness sake, or Buddhist, for that matter.
I am fully aware that this is the most trouble I have ever made about this, but then I’ve been uncharacteristically loud lately.
More and more it seems to me that there is one truth, and it cannot be named. Religious faith is one thing, but religious identity is another: like all identities, a complete human fabrication, and the source of perpetual conflict and suffering. Alas, we like to suffer, and spread it.
Elissa’s post closes with a sentence that pierces me through and through. It seems the name for people who claim no religious affiliation in our country has been shorthanded to “nones.” She writes, “I had no idea that there’s an actual term for all of us.”
There has always been a term for all of us. It’s called us.
But that’s what wishing is for.