So I'm at roughly ten weeks and counting until my fiancee arrives in the US.
I have a lot on my mind, not just marriage and boats.
We're going to see my parents after the wedding.
Now, my parents aren't coming to my wedding - for several reasons. One, they are uncomfortable with Jewish ritual and will feel out of place, even while being honoured. Two, we have moved the wedding site from Vegas - please take note - the kickboxing match post wedding will have to be moved. Third, we decided that we would take the time to say goodbye to people who have shaped a lot of my adult life - my fraternity members.
Now this is not a Greek fraternity - it's a Mongol one. I admit it, I'm a closet SCAer. Not only am I a closet SCAer who's first Pennsic was XVII because I wasn't old enough to go to XVI alone - but I'm also a Brother of the Great Dark Horde. We're getting married on Horde Hill at Pennsic. (It's a big two week camping war thingy - like a private ren fair with no actors.)
So we are what we are and we do many things and for those of you who might not be SCA here's the rundown: The SCA is an educational group that encourages both the research and use of cultural artifacts from between roughly the years 650 CE and 1650 CE. The primary cultures represented are European, however there are some others represented in small groups or even strong willed individuals. It's a really good excuse to wear cool clothes on the weekend and try out the new shield you made or show off a weaving piece with documentation. There is very much an educational and scholarly side to it - and there is equally a hillbilly dreamer side of it. My particular group emulates a Mongol tribe - with very few Mongol personnas. We do our thing within the SCA alongside the administrative "kingdoms" as the only Great Household left from the beginning of the SCA - there were originally five.
Like any tribe we have our dramas and ups and downs, but it's been a meaningful part of my life since I was 16 - and that was a long time ago. I will be far away from the larger gatherings of the Brothers I know for the rest of my life - it's probably a good idea to say farewell.
I'm also saying goodbye to my parents - they aren't likely to fly over to visit us and who knows when or if we will be able to afford to come back to visit them. I live in the same country now and average about once every decade or so. Like all children who have grown up I have my deep love for them - but for me it's along with a side of anger and sadness. We are improving our communications slowly - but there is a part of me that anticipates a very awkward visit. And some of it probably will be.
We're not only chassidic, but we are coming back from Pennsic - so I will have the big Jew curls going full on - it's past my shoulders now and about ready for a cut after Shavuos. (Jewish holiday, giving of the Torah on Mt Sinai and end of the hair cutting restrictions of the Omer ) We dress differently even in daily life to an extent, we eat differently - and there is no question a man with a kippah and peyes is going to seem pretty damn weird in Lafayette, Louisiana.
And that's a whole other thing itself. I've been really slack as a Jew for a while now - basically since my chavrusah died. (learning partner) He was my best friend, my mentor, my teacher - the guy I wanted to be like. I owe his widow money and I've been too ashamed to contact her - and it's been over two years now. I don't know how to explain to her that when he died - I wanted to die too. I loved him so much - but I couldn't intrude on her grief and their children's loss with my feelings and then time passes...
But when I cut my hair and go from pirate!Jew to Yid again - there's no hiding what I am. Not that I try to hide - I'm the town Jew. But I have to mean it if I'm going to wear peyes again. And I have to mean it to be a husband and father and stand under a chuppah before G-d. And I'm scared.
Not because I don't think I can do tshuvah,(repentance-ish) I can. But because I know how hard it can be to transition back to that world - and it's a whole other world, even when you live away from a community. Time is different for an observant Jew, broken up into different hours and measurements of holy time on a different calendar. Whole sections of my life will go back to what they were - with more people and more responsibility and even different mitzvos. (commandments) Even my clothing will change. No more shorts, no more tee shirts with obnoxious messages on them - black pants and white shirts all the live long day.
And it will be difficult, of that I have no doubt - I've done it several times before. It is hard for me to give up the easy comforts of Saturday for the holy rest of Shabbos. I'm a horrid singer. I get an itch to work, to finish things, to ride my bike - to break Shabbos when the sun shines and the wind is sweet and the days are long. We have so much to do - and yet I want to become shomer mitzvos (guarding the commandments literally - fully observant) again. But that is what will get us through - to cling to the Tree of Life.
I am also guilty about leaving my country. Now, I didn't feel like I grew up here much - we were an overseas Army family for some pretty important stretches of my life. But we were very much an America! Fuck Yeah! kind of family. I even enlisted in the Navy myself. And I'm leaving.
I try to comfort myself by saying this is not the America I grew up believing in - but I believed in a myth - I wasn't here for a lot of the reality. I lived in a world of green. In the old series M*A*S*H Major Houlihan had a line that honestly defines my early childhood "I thought civilians were people who's uniforms were at the cleaners."
But the America that we live in today scares the hell out of me. The Christianisation of the military, the attacks on women by legislation, the fear and the hate and the willful stupidity and selfishness - that isn't something I want to be a part of - or think I can really help change.
Alas, I must grow up. To be a mentch - that is the goal of every Jew. I have not been one in a long time, but I feel the desire to be one again. To stand in shul with my coat and my tallis, to sing awkwardly to my wife, to bless the world as I experience it in holiness and look for the good. I will never be the man that sits and learns all day - I do not have the patience for that. But I hope that when I stand before Hashem I can at least say that I certainly enjoyed the world I lived in and lived by the Torah given to us.
So there's a lot swirling around in here. But it's just another day on the edge of America.