Wednesday, June 27, 2007

For Dustfinger

    "Fire. So different in this world and the other one. How good it would be to hear its crackling voice again at last, and to be able to answer. Dustfinger collected some of the dry wood lying among the trees, with wax-flowers and thyme rambling over it. He carefully unwrapped the fire-elves' stolen honey from the leaves that kept it moist and supple and put a tiny morsel in his mouth. How scared he had been the first time he tasted the honey! Scared that his precious booty would burn his tongue forever and he would lose his voice. But that fear had proved groundless. The honey did burn your mouth like red-hot coals, but the pain passed away- and if you bore it long enough, then afterward you could speak to fire, even with a mere human tongue. The effect of a tiny piece lasted for five or six months, sometimes almost a year. Just a soft whisper in the language of the flames, a snap of your fingers, and sparks would leap crackling from dry wood, damp wood, even stone."

    ~Inkspell, page 56

Dustfinger is the child of flames.

Dustfinger, my Dustfinger, my sister, is a girl who is wholly made of fire. Her soul is of fire, her attributes are those of fire; in all things she resembles my mother. She is passionate, bold, a leader and a giver, someone who feels things deeply and who cannot hide behind lies.

She is beautiful. She has long auburn curls that frame her heart-shaped face; even her hair is made of fire. Almond-shaped eyes of a chocolate brown, long black lashes that rest against the supple skin, her skin itself a toasted brown, a darker color because in her all that is Sephardi resides. She has my mother's fire and my mother's flair; the drama, the passion and the strength that is our household displays itself in her.

Dustfinger is a leader. She rallies others to her cause, has the ability to make them join her, listen to her when she speaks. She is outgoing, highly extroverted, a social butterfly. She is The Boss. It is not I who gives the orders in my house; you will not find me doing dishes or folding laundry or otherwise aiding in the common cause. No, I will be in my room, caught within my web of dreams, reading a book or writing or perhaps brooding in my tragical way when I will hear Dustfinger over the intercom informing me that, "Chana...you need to get downstairs right now." At this point I sigh, put away the book, and pound down the stairs, ready and waiting to obey orders.

Dustfinger is the practical one. She is pragmatic, strong, very much rooted in this world. This is not to say that she does not have flights of fancy, that she is not a strong reader and writer. She is; her forte is dialogue. She's excellent at bringing characters to life. But she is much more aware of her surroundings; she is here, very much a part of this material world. Dustfinger is the one who will live the joy of life, who is to be found outdoors, riding her bike or trekking across Chicago with her friends. She is always surrounded by friends, always the center of attention, laughing or smiling or otherwise popular. She is always on the phone. These phone conversations have become a subject of much awe in this house; none of us were aware it was possible to talk to so many people within one night. But Dustfinger manages it.

She has all the qualities I do not have, and she has them in abundance. Dustfinger is extremely considerate. She is extremely caring, extremely giving; her personality is the chesed personality, the kind that is very involved with communal affairs and with the troubles of others. I focus on individuals; Dustfinger focuses on groups or communities. I jealously guard my time; she makes time for everyone. I have never seen her turn down an opportunity to help someone else. My sister does things thoughtlessly, simply because they will bring another pleasure. I have often seen her in the kitchen whipping up one of her baked goods; she does it out of pleasure, for her friend's birthday or for the family, eager to help, not needing praise. Dustfinger makes muffins, cakes, cookies and more and does so with much enjoyment; she does not begrudge anything to anyone.

That is perhaps her key quality- that she does not begrudge her effort or her time. I can imitate her but it will not be the same; I will not have that effortless joy, that ability to truly love to make others happy. This comes naturally to her. Dustfinger emanates good will and desire; she is fun, interesting, amusing and otherwise engaging. She is talkative and empathetic. Dustfinger feels for her friends on a very deep level; she will defend them to the bitter end. She is loyal. If you have earned her trust or her loyalty, you should consider yourself lucky. She will always defend you; she will not allow others to hurt you. Dustfinger does not allow people to hurt one another in front of her; she is their protector.

Dustfinger is in a very interesting position at this time of her life. Our situations are reversed. I went to Templars and had an awful time there, switched to North Shore and was truly happy. She, quite differently, is now in a Jewish high school that is extremely modern. Because she is such a genuine person, my sister is unable to comprehend the phony society that is her high school. She is Holden Caulfield amongst the liars, albeit a far wiser and prettier version. Upset by her classmates' indifference to religion and pursuit of all things material, Dustfinger gravitates towards religious trappings. She likes black hats. She likes kneesocks. She likes long skirts and shaitels and the style of fashion that one might refer to as "funky frum." She dresses in a manner that demonstrates her allegiance to this cause. This earns her some teasing by unkind members of the class. But Dustfinger is strong and she is a leader and she wants to demonstrate in some tangible way her difference, her allegiance and this is the way she chooses to do it.

I won't pretend I like this. I don't like it at all. I see no reason for her to adopt these practices, this strange idealization of the black hat or her preference for Jewish music over secular but most of all I disagree with her understanding of herself. Dustfinger is more easily influenced than I am. She considers this a cause for concern and rigidly guards herself from misdeed. I think that it is a part of her personality and can be channeled to do a great deal of good. So long as she knows her limits, I think she ought to trust herself. She, however, does not feel she can.

We have fought about this. We've fought bitterly, angrily; we've exchanged harsh words and called each other names. Much of this is because of my own experience in an institute that valued the trappings that Dustfinger values. I do not like to see her do it. But more than that, I did not understand her. That was until my father threw a phrase at me: "One man's conformity is another man's rebellion."

That stopped me in my tracks. I had to think about it for a while. He was right, of course. I was upset with Dustfinger because it appeared as though she wanted to join the ranks of conformists I had fought so hard to escape. But within the confines of her high school, Dustfinger is not a conformist, rather, she is a rebel. What she truly respects is the religiosity behind the symbols she chooses, the commitment to God and to the Torah. Dustfinger respects what is genuine. She would never act in a condescending manner toward a person who does not practice Judaism in the same way that she does; she does not look down on someone who wears pants or otherwise differs from her. She does not force her opinions down other peoples' throats. She is simply confused by the divide between the way her classmates act and the way they are supposed to act, the fact that they are taught halakha but simply choose to ignore it if it does not suit them. This does not sit well with Dustfinger. She acts as she was taught.

Dustfinger trusts more than I do. Her relationship to God is modeled on such trust. Dustfinger does not need sources when it comes to religion; at least she does not crave them at this time. I live for sources; I need texts; I need to think through everything, to understand, to read books and find out the meanings. Dustfinger is not interested in this. Her relationship to God is purely emotional, felt rather than understood. I have characteristically looked down on this; I feel that all things must be examined and explored. It is hard for me to realize that not everyone is wired the same way, that what is best for me is not the same as what is best for her. I need to do my exploring. She does not.

Dustfinger is smart. We are smart in different ways. Dustfinger's strength lies in creativity; she is an extremely creative and artistic individual who dedicates a lot of time and effort to all her projects. I look at what she has made and can never conceive of how she thought it up. She had to represent a juror from Twelve Angry Men; she literally created a juror's stand out of a styrofoam base, took the trouble to color and paint it, to form a minute gavel, to cut out small pieces of paper and write the different phrases her juror had spoken onto them, to make use of toothpicks and other assorted objects. She invested this project with everything she had. She always does. I look forward to Dustfinger's projects and papers because I know they will be unique, different, decidedly creative.

She is also able to live in both worlds. She goes to a coed school, learns Gemara and Mishnayot, wears knee socks and long skirts, and to top it all off, watches Grey's Anatomy. She also has an odd affinity for TV shows that I don't find so appealing; she enjoys Supernanny, for instance, and American Inventor. This makes sense once you consider her personality; she's the boss and decidedly maternal and empathetic, so of course she would be intrigued by the ways different people parent and how Supernanny fixes them up. American Inventor speaks to her creative soul; she's fascinated by the strange and odd creations that others dream up. In great tones of glee she'll inform me of the latest invention; she finds them all fascinating.

She is compelling. People like her. She does not lack for friends, although many of them are from outside of school. Like me, she is sensitive, and especially given the way she has decided to act and dress at her school, she invites comments that are cruel. She does not like them but she has decided not to change to suit others, will not buy the Tiffany's necklace just because everyone else has one. In her own way, she is just as stubborn as I am.

She is also, I might add, learning. She revises initial judgments, has realized that not everyone at high school is phony or fake. She's met several people whom she recognizes as being kindred spirits, people who might not dress or act like her but who have the same respect for religion and for Judaism, and these people, too, are her friends.

She plays the piano divinely. This is to be expected, a soul that is so attuned to fire, passion and all that is felt ought to be able to connect with music. Her playing is not only technically proficient; it is alive. She lives through the music; she makes it speak. When I came home from Stern, one of the first things I heard when I stepped through the door was the sound of her music as she played at the baby grand in the living room. I had forgotten how beautiful it sounds. At her school, she earned great acclaim at the talent show when she performed in front of the entire student body.

She loves animals. Dustfinger has a deep affinity for horses, whom she finds utterly beautiful. She also loves dogs and wishes we had a pet. For a time, she thought she might be a veterinarian when she grew up. Dustfinger is able to connect with creatures on a truly amazing level; she loves them in the way you might love a human. She understands what it is like for someone to lose a pet; she grieves just as another might grieve for someone who lived and spoke and breathed. Dustfinger is one with the world and all that is in it; she loves and loves indiscriminately.

She puts up with me. We yell, we shout, we argue, then we make up and we're friends again. Not only does she tolerate me, but she defends me. She won't let anyone hurt me, as evidenced here.
    Dustfinger said...
    Just who do you think you are, Anonymous 2:27?!?!How DARE you insult my sister that way! How DARE you insult her at all! You know NOTHING about her. Maybe you know what she went through, but that's not all of it. I can't believe you wrote what you did. I hope everything you said backfires- onto yourself.
I can imagine what she'd look like saying that to someone. She'd be magnificent. Flaming and beautiful, her hair caught by a wind, her fists caught as though she'd like to hurt someone, her tone high with anger and indignation on my behalf. I couldn't believe it when I read it. Here is Dustfinger, the one who I've fought and insulted and whom half the time I must frustrate to no end (due to my messy room and so on) and she is fighting for me and what is more, does not mind demonstrating her love for me on a public forum.

Dustfinger is leaving this Sunday for Israel. She is going on a program where she will be touring and experiencing Israel over the summer (also different from me, who had the chance to attend Michlelet and chose to go to Summer at YU. That was, incidentally, the best decision I could have made.)

She is going to love it. Dustfinger was made for grit and dirt, for the outdoors, for hiking and the summer sun and Israel and friendships.

I am going to miss her.

But the real reason I am writing this now is because I will miss her birthday on July 22nd and I just wanted to wish her the happiest birthday in the world. A birthday in Israel will be fabulous, I know.

So Happy Early Birthday, Dustfinger!

You'll make an amazing fifteen-year-old.

You will make it through all your trials, I know. I have complete faith in you.

"The honey did burn your mouth like red-hot coals, but the pain passed away- and if you bore it long enough, then afterward you could speak to fire, even with a mere human tongue."

You are Dustfinger, after all. You will bear it and you will become who you were meant to be, the fire-speaker, the one whose words have meaning.

I love you to pieces, even when we fight (you know that.)

Have the most amazing time in Israel.
You deserve it.

12 comments:

anonymous mom said...

I was like you and absolutely love being around YU people. Love text, am inspired by learning this way, wish i knew about this kind of learning and lifestyle 20 years ago. And funny, now I meet up with people who grew up with it and are sending their kids to yeshivish schools where they get none of that, where--I feel--they are getting a shallow version of Orthodoxy that may or may not be enough for them. And I started asking why. Guess what? Just as your sister, they saw hypocrisy growing up, they saw disregard for Halacha, they saw people who slipped out of true Halachic Orthodoxy. And I explained to them that my biggest fear for my kids--aside from illness--was that they slip out of Orthodoxy and wind up a Black Hat hypocrite who dresses the garb, but cheats, who isn't inspired. So. We're both right. And with great love for our kids, our kids will all hopefully be fine. Interesting.

Ezzie said...

(bows) A wonderful, joyful Happy Birthday, O Dustfinger. May you gain even more in your next year than you have in your last... and may all your wishes be granted l'tovah.

Plus, you get extra points just for putting up with Chana. :P

Enjoy Israel!! If you want or need places to stay just about anywhere, you can e-mail me.

Anonymous said...

Lovely!

Dustfinger,have a safe trip and enjoy yourself! Happy Birthday!

Scraps said...

Wow...your sister sounds like an incredible person. My little sister is also, though we're closer in age than you and Dustfinger. We're very close, my sister and I, and more similar in personality than you and your sister, but we have our differences as well. But b'chol zot, we love each other, and we're always there for each other. There truly is no friend like a sister. :)

Dustfinger said...

*speechless*

Chana said...

Hehe.

Now you understand why I locked you out of my room last night?

:-)

Dustfinger said...

OMG that's why?!?
And that's why you wanted the books?!? OMG!!! I thought you were really going to re-read them!

Aww, I'm so lucky to have a sis like you!

:-)

Chana said...

Maybe I will reread them anyway.

Can I have that in writing (your being so lucky to have me as a sister)? I feel like there would be times I would benefit from evidence of your having stated that. Particularly in the middle of a fight; I'll play my trump card and then you won't have anything to say, now will you?

And if I recall correctly, you were the one who came upstairs to ask me what I wanted from Israel, so perhaps this ought to work the other way around, oughtn't it? As in, I get to be the lucky one. I'm the one who actually profits here, you see...

Holy Hyrax said...

Chana,

Can you write a post on me next?

Dustfinger said...

Ezzie-
I heard a lot about you.....from........can you guess?!? LOL! Thanks!!! :D

Anonymous 9:19 am-
Thanks so much!

Ezzie said...

Don't believe any of it! It's all lies!

Dustfinger said...

LOL Ezzie!!!!