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Posts Tagged ‘Beth Israel’

broken hearted(Trigger warning: This excerpt may be harsh for those who have experienced childhood trauma or who love me.)

My mother tried to kill me.

I don’t say these words lightly nor do I know if my mother’s intention was in fact to kill me. I will never know that. And in truth, the moment she started swinging the butcher knife towards me may not have been a conscious one for her. Marilyn was mentally ill, a drug abuser, and a very sick soul.

But none of this matters. What matters is that I had no where to go to be safe. No one loved me enough to take me in or to protect me from the barrage of eruptive energy that I faced daily. I was alone. Or should I say that I felt alone.

The feeling of loneliness has never left me. My childhood impacted me on a cellular level and while I have family, friends, and tools that fill me with love and often show up when I need to be physically or metaphorically held, it doesn’t always help. The shattered feeling that has been part of my life since birth is still part of my life; it just is. And the good news is that I have filled my world with so many beautiful people that I can usually push through my default sense of loneliness.

My work is to keep showing up, living authentically, and sharing my stories so that others don’t have to be alone and so that we can all inspire one another. And today, I know I can reach out to my tribe. While I will not necessarily ask for help or even share the specifics of what is hurting me, I am so much better at letting those who love me know that I am having a hard time and that I need to be held. Perhaps one day, I will learn to better ask for help.

Back to the knife . . .

As a child I used to love living across the street from my synagogue and celebrating the Jewish holidays. Judaism was always in my blood and the fall holidays when I was in 8th grade were no different. I would walk out of my house, turn right and walk up Pikeswood Drive. I knew just about everyone who lived on my block. Once I got to the traffic light at the top of the street, I felt somehow more relaxed, safe, and free. I would cross over Liberty Road and my synagogue would be awaiting my return. I loved Beth Israel.

The deal had always been that I could stay home from school on the Jewish holidays if I went to Beth Israel for services. This was a no brainer; I loved going to shul, which is what I called my synagogue growing up. I loved everything about the congregation. I loved the services, the onegs (nosh after services), my friends, their parents, and all of the older members. As long as I was at Beth Israel, I felt a sense of solace in my stressful life.

Nearly every Shabbat/Saturday, I went to the morning services and on most every holiday too. After services were over, I would read and do homework during the afternoons and evenings.  By junior high school, now known as middle school, I was a fairly good student. I did have some challenges, but I generally tried to do well.

On the night my mother came into my room swinging a butcher knife, I was so worried about a biology test I had coming up. I hated the teacher who seriously had it out for me. I was hyper-focused and trying to learn the material; I didn’t want to fail. But life took a dark turn that would forever impact any false sense of security I had.

Initially, I was hearing my mother screaming, slurring her words and banging something against my door. This was not unusual, so I tried to ignore it or maybe I screamed that she shut up. By junior high school, I was done withstanding abuse, but that didn’t really change anything. I was bigger and stronger which helped, but my mother was still a mentally ill addict.

When the noise didn’t quiet down, I opened my door in exasperation and was stunned at what I saw. A huge knife getting ready to come down on me or into me or wherever. I was scared shit-less. All I remember is somehow pushing my mother down and hearing her yell obscenities at me as I ran out of the house and to a neighbor. I can’t imagine what my friend’s parents thought of me when they opened the door to see me sobbing and shaking.

Sadly, I only have a vague recollection of what transpired over the next few hours. The police came followed by social services and I was taken away to temporary foster home. As time went on, I realized that no one in the foster care system believed that a young Jewish child could be abused by her Jewish mother.  The nightmare was horrific, but the aftermath was even worse.

Without anyone there to believe me or see me, I was forced to navigate the world differently. And my mother was mortified about all that was going on and begged social services not to put me into a Jewish home. She was really worried about what would the neighbors think. So they did the next best thing, they took me to live with a couple that were active in their beautiful Methodist church. So during my time in that foster home, I went to church every Sunday. Sigh.

So not only did I lose my home, my school, Beth Israel, my friends, I lost my spiritual home. I was really on my own.

Not being seen and not being heard started me on a path of self-destruction. I did drugs with little or no worry for what I was taking, I climbed moving trains and jumped off the top of them, and I had little regard for my life. I wasn’t worthy enough to be heard so I started to embody a life that reinforced just that. I also learned that my voice didn’t matter, so silence became my closest friend. Over time I stopped sharing my stories and started lying. Nothing I said mattered so I learned to share what I thought people wanted to hear.

Months later, I returned home. The alternative was going to a girls’ group home where the girls were brutal to one another. At least at home, I only had to keep myself safe from my mother not another 15 – 20 teenage girls. The good news is that I don’t remember as much violence once I returned. The eruptions never stopped, but I don’t remember any more physical pain upon my return.

But 14 years of hell and many more years of volatile outbursts caused a lifetime of healing ahead of me. While I accepted that I was broken, I also understood that I was a thriver and actually quite whole too. I am a work in progress. My work has always been to keep taking one step and then another. I had lived through hell and I had ultimately found my voice.

And the good news is that my mother didn’t kill me.

Hineini, I am here!

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Thriving: No Option. . . . If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, And if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

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Liberty Road Shopping Center Courtesy of Maryland State Road Commission 1967

Liberty Road Shopping Center
Courtesy of Maryland State Road Commission 1967

Sweet memories are starting to form.

I was born and raised outside Baltimore in a fabulous suburb called Randallstown.  Randallstown was an awesome place to grow up for most people.

In the last 48 hours, I have had an amazing experience reconnecting with my Randallstown memories.  For three decades, I nearly never went back; I needed to heal from the a violent childhood that had little to do with my Pikeswood neighborhood and everything to do with what was going on in childhood home.  After three decades of healing, I am loving the memories that are now flooding my senses.  Caplan’s Deli, Baltimore County Public Library, Read’s Drugstore, Liberty Road Bowling (I can’t remember the name), Caples, Beth Israel Congregation, and so much more.

My first job outside of babysitting and a family business was scooping ice cream at Carvels; I loved that job.  And later I pumped gas at Crown Gas; I never could handle the money correctly.  Along that corridor, I also worked as a waitress at an all you can eat restaurant, a cashier at Tangier’s Crab House, and babysat whenever I could.  I learned a lot on the Liberty Road Corridor of my youth.

For the first time in so very long, Randallstown and the community I lived in is putting a huge smile on my face.  The stories are endless.  I wonder where all my neighbors have gone; I wonder about my old friends, the teachers we had, and the shopkeepers that we all knew by name.

I wish I could remember all the names of the roads.  For 10 years or more of my childhood, my bike was my safe escape; I used to bike on the road between Randallstown Senior High School to Deer Park Junior High.  The road didn’t go through, but that didn’t matter, we biked it anyway.  Not even the threat of being shot at by a bee-bee gun from one of the neighbors made us stop, we just rode as fast as we could.  I loved my neighborhood!

What’s funny is looking at the active Facebook page, and seeing so many names I can’t quite remember, but know that I know. 🙂 It has also been fun to reconnect with a few old friends/neighbors.  I am having a blast watching our memories go into overdrive.

While I missed out on a lot of my childhood due to whatever I was facing at home, I feel blessed to be remembering life outside my home now.  I really grew up in an amazing neighborhood.

And then there was Ms. Pfeiffer. . . 

Due to the Facebook page, one funny memory keeps coming back up.  While it isn’t the most important, it is a riot that so many of us remember THAT teacher.

On Facebook, where I am connecting to my old neighborhood, one person asked, “Does anyone remember Ms Pfeiffer? That teacher was so mean to me.” And with that the memories came flooding back.   Ms. Pfeiffer was mean to me too – so mean.  In the end, I became really disobedient when I was in her class. . . .I learned to push her buttons. She may have been the only vile teacher I remember growing up. Maybe.

My little cousin, made the mistake of going into Ms. Pfeiffer’s class during his first day of class and saying, “didn’t you have my cousin Toni Bloomberg (changed my name)?” He had a horrible year after that.

Funny, I had never been so disobedient before her and never after her. But it was with her that I decided to stick up for myself and push the envelope. Mostly I did this quietly, but I pushed back.

She used to make me write 100 times something like I should not talk in homeroom. I vaguely think the sentences were longer than that. In response, I decided to write her notes about what I really thought of her arbitrary rules.  Other times I wrote random sentences just to piss her off. It worked.

The good news is that she taught me resilience and how to advocate for myself.

The best part of the conversation about Ms. Pfeiffer is that I now know that I wasn’t alone.  I didn’t know that so many, if not all, of us found her to be vile. Wow!

We all grew up. . . .

Now that I am reconnecting to my roots, I am also reconnecting to some of my friends and acquaintances that were part of my Randallstown days.

One of the funniest things that I am realizing is that most of us have evolved.  Or maybe we have devolved (is that a word)?

Yesterday, I started thinking about what would it be like for a bunch of us to meet at Maria’s Pizzeria; I used to love that place!!!  The only problem is that at nearly 50 years old, my food choices are quite different and so is the way I think.  Here are some of my realities and preferences:

  • I am krunchy granola and full of passion.
  • I live as a progressive Jew – love the music, the learning, the practices, and the stories.
  • In 2002, I was diagnosed with celiac disease; I am now gluten-free (not to be cool).
  • Love quiet energy, small cafes, walks along the water or in the woods, and every now and then I love to hang with larger groups of friends.
  • I literally never stop thinking about the larger world – what can I do? progressive politics for here and Israel, workers rights, modern day slavery, the list goes on and on…
  • I am a writer – now and always.
  • Unfortunately, I don’t run 10 miles a day, I have had a few pregnancies, and my body shape isn’t what it was.  And yet I love what it is!
  • Oh, and I used to be Toni Bloomberg – I can’t wait to see people wrap their head around that. 🙂

I am not the same person I was and nor is anyone else.  And chances are if people haven’t changed much, I won’t have much to say.  Since I am a work in progress – now and always. Aren’t we all?

In this moment, I am so grateful to whoever started the Facebook page called Randallstown, MD – 1970’s and 1980’s and to Frank Davis for posting the picture above just a couple of days ago.  The memories have really brought me home to a neighborhood that was full of gifts.

 

“There are places I remember all my life
Though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain

All these places have their moments
Of lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I loved them all”

Written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon

 

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