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The Aliyah Chronicles: Saying Good-Bye

May 8, 2009 | by Miriam (Tara) Eliwatt

You can't transport to Israel all the piles of stuff that have defined your life for so long. What stays and what goes?

"Arriba! Garbage!" Our two Spanish helpers wobbled as they carried an 18-gallon Rubbermaid container stuffed with books down two flights of stairs in the New Jersey heat wave.

"Gracias! Gracias!" It was the only word we knew, but it came in handy. They smiled politely, wiping the droplets of sweat dripping down their faces.

It had to be done. The sorting. The choosing. The keepers. The losers. We have a 10-suitcase allotment for the Aliyah flight to Israel and a section of a 40-foot shipping container to transport the rest of our belongings. When you move from say, Manhattan to Queens, you can afford to transport your junk. But at $5.55/cubic foot, my 5th grade sticker collection and my husband's public speaking notebook from freshman year of college would not make it into the keeper pile.

"But this represents my history!" My husband stared at me, clutching his autographed car-racing helmet.


"We have no room for sentimentality right now. Is this an object you want to pass down to your son?"


"We have no room for sentimentality right now," I shook my head. "You don't really need this. Where will you put it in Israel? Is this an object you want to pass down to your son?" He loosened his grip.

He carefully placed the helmet on the arm of the couch and stepped away officially disowning it. "Put it on Ebay along with your candy dish."

I grabbed my glass candy dish out of the box. "Wait a minute. My professor gave this to me in graduate school. My name is engraved on it. Nobody on Ebay would want it."

"Sweetheart," my husband smiled, crossing his arms calmly, "put it in the garbage. It's been in a box for ten years."

"So what? Who knew it had been in a box until now? I thought it was lost!" This candy dish represented a time period in my life. It reminded me of Soho and the noisy jazz club below that apartment where I stayed for a week while I was looking for a room. And when I was little, my grandmother used to leave out hard candy in a colorful dish on her coffee table. It reminded me suddenly of my grandmother who was in a nursing home. This candy dish was loaded with meaning.

"I'll have to think about it," I muttered, turning my face away from his.

And so it went. Wants vs. needs.

We have no room or money for the Wants in Israel. The room sizes are smaller. There will be no large cellars, sprawling backyards with huge sheds or walk-in closets to hold our junk. Beds, dishes, clothing -- those were our needs. We had to dig ourselves out of the extraneous piles that had defined our life for so long.

Our "Aliyah Sale" brought us to the next level of this exercise. As the goods were placed on the front lawn, the neighborhood children began to wander closer and closer, eyeing the trucks and dolls, jiggling the quarters in their pockets, held back only by our children standing guard over their toys (that they hadn't seen in three years).

But neither the looming clouds in the distance nor the children upsetting the order of our sale items, caused the air to thicken. It was the finality of it all.

"Look, honey." My husband held up a green container. "Peek inside and guess what this is." I opened the container with some trepidation. Who knows what kind of thing a guy gets sentimental over and saves to show his wife. It could've been a cat's tail for all I knew. Fortunately, what I found was a lump of dry dirt.

"Is this Israel, honey?" I glowed, feeling proud of his long time connection to the holy land.

"No. This, my dear, is Flemington." Ah yes, the last remnants of Flemington Fair Speedway's dirt racing track. It made sense. There was no Israel connection back then.

The dirt was discarded, along with a box of racing magazines, and racecar technology books. With his arm at his side, his fingers pointed up and down, waving in a gesture of good-bye to an era of his life defined by a different passion. In a dark corner of the house, he may have even shed a tear or two.

It was sad. But not that sad.

Not as sad as the fact that my six boxes of college and graduate school books sat lonely on the grass with little fanfare, soon finding their way to the recycling pile after a flash thunderstorm rained on everything, causing the pages of my books to stick together and the ink to bleed...

I flipped through the soggy pages, reading some of my notes in the margins. I once sought the meaning of life in these drama and music books. And now, I was bored.

Certainly, the demise of my poor books was sad.

But not that sad. What a revelation.

And so the day went on: rain, sun, dusk, thunder, mosquitoes, until a good portion of our stuff had found new homes and we were left standing on the porch watching the children chase the fireflies.

"Everything is free! Come one, come all!" My husband proclaimed, his voice bellowing across our dead end street, his arms raised high in the air.

The neighborhood children quickly emptied the containers while our children jumped around claiming a few toys for themselves, a few items of their own yesteryear to cling to.

My husband and I exchanged a smile -- on to the next step as we prepare our move to Eretz Yisrael. Our shipment of "keepers" departs on a boat to Israel in a week.

We will live for a month without the clutter and without the piles, as we transition from our American childhoods into our Israeli adolescence.

P.S.: The candy dish was stuffed into the racing helmet, which was squeezed into a toy box that will meet us in Israel.

I guess Good-byes don't always have to be so final...




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