The dream is over, yes it was
like a dream to meet all my
old home folks, Perhaps in the
pursuit of action yesterdays
dream will be forgotten before
the day is over,
Spent the Eve. at the
Zaer Zion and Youth
of Palestine Clubs.
Those of us who are inclined to feel can understand why Papa needed to grab his diary at 4:AM to write about the Sniatyner ball. The ease and sense of belonging he knew among his landsman must have been a rare commodity for Papa, who longed so keenly for his family back home, for a family of his own, for something other than the loneliness of his little apartment. Even the happiness he felt during the ball had a bittersweet edge because he knew it would be short-lived; perhaps that's why his previous day's account is so wistful.
By 4:00 AM, though, as the approaching day brought with it the usual "pursuit of action," Papa knew his good feeling would end, knew even his sweet melancholy wouldn't persist against the bustle and struggle of the Lower East Side. "Yes, it was like a dream" he writes, and like all practiced dreamers he did what he could to keep it going a few moments longer, denying the dawn, scratching into his journal whatever he remembered of his dissipating comfort.
Comfort, of course, was what Papa provided so readily for others. I think even his Zionist activism stemmed from his pursuit of others' comfort, a need to build a place where Jews like him could finally feel they belonged. For his whole life he had lived in ghettos by the grace of fickle governments, settled for fleeting moments of security among friendly clubs and organizations and reunions. For Papa, Zionism stemmed from a real, visceral desire to make sure his descendants wouldn't need to sit awake at four in the morning, wondering if they'd ever feel safe again.
Wait: as I picture Papa in bed, wishing away the dawn, I remember why I think I'm so familiar with his bittersweet feeling.
When I was a kid I used to experience something I thought of as "the summer feeling," a sudden rush of warmth, unpredictable and intense -- but I know it always washed over me when I was especially comfortable with my surroundings or the people I was with. This feeling, though, was equal parts joy and melancholoy, because I knew it would not last. Even as I felt it I mourned its inevitable passing. I thought it happened to everyone once in a while; I think it happened to Papa after the Snyatin Ball.
But why did I invent the "summer feeling?" Why would I pine for it?
This picture was taken in the summer of 1971. Papa died two months later. I can't be wrong about this, can I?