Gifts From My Readers

Blog, On Writing, What I'm Thinking

The holidays approach, and friends and family begin to gather. In the rush to survive, achieve, and accomplish, we often neglect the weight and stability of community, but at this time of year, it begins to assert itself. We begin to feel the pull of the past and what it represents, of family history, of religious and cultural traditions.

I am more aware of this phenomenon in 2016 than in previous years, because, thanks to my readers, I’ve been reconnected to my own family and traditions in a way I couldn’t have imagined. That surprises me.  I’ve always felt connected to where and what I came from. It is, in fact, what initially prompted my interest in researching and writing On the Sickle’s Edge. I completed the book with a deepened awareness of my family history, where we came from and what my forebears lived through to get to where we are today. That process gave me a powerful connection to the past. I thought my work was done. Then, other people began reading the book, and when they shared their responses with me, I realized that I had only skimmed the surface of my connectedness. It was, I began to see, a feedback loop.

My book tapped into a deep nostalgia for things lost or forsaken. It apparently awoke in my readers, memories of grandparents, stories of the old country, traditions practiced together—lighting lights, baking bread, praying, singing hymns or religious songs—that ended when the carriers of those traditions died.  In many of the people I’ve spoken to, the book ignited a desire to revive family traditions. It opened the possibility that the passing of one generation didn’t need to be the end of the story; the realization that nothing prevented the next generation from picking up and carrying the family heritage. And in some strange way, the book has inspired some people to do just that. To light the Sabbath lights. To bake Christmas cookies. To revive a family tradition, which ended with the death of a grandfather, of caroling at the local nursing home, and then settling in for an eggnog celebration with the residents.

These readers, thoughtful enough to share with me the impact my book had on them, have given me an unexpected gift. Writing the book gave me a deeper and more involved appreciation for my own family and cultural history, but I was appreciating it in isolation. Now, suddenly made aware that there are people inspired to action by my work, I find myself embraced by a diverse community of folks more committed than I was to reanimate the present by reconnecting it to its roots. That inspires me to do the same. For that wonderful Holiday Gift, I send you all my deepest thanks.

Photo: KotomiCreations/Flickr CC 2.0