Five years ago this month, I suffered a loss. Right before going in to teach Public Speaking at a San Fernando Valley High School, I looked down to notice one of the side stones of my great-grandmother Miriam’s (may she rest in peace) engagement ring, which I inherited at the time of my marriage to E, was missing. I felt a sickness in the pit of my stomach I had never felt before, and immediately said The Shema. I knew I had to handle the loss correctly, or it could be the beginning of a terrible cycle. As soon as I could, I gave tzedekah (charity) in hope of stopping the cycle of loss with that stone. I took the ring off, put it in its box, put it in the back of my jewelry box, and there it sits, lopsided. I can’t bear to look at it.
While at the time the loss of that stone seemed significant and something I mourned, it was really a precursor to a series of other losses, some significant, some not. However, when I look at the most recent losses (and thank G-d they have been small in the cosmic things of things!), my furniture due to water damage, and the impending dissection of my breasts due to the threat of cancer, I’m more upset about the furniture. Here’s why:
1. The furniture has been collected for years. Some were my forbearers–my grandmother’s night stand. My mother’s glass pitcher (ok, not furniture, but destroyed in the flood), photos of people long past or long forgotten. Memories of happy occasions lived in my furniture. Shabbat dinners on our dining room sets. Lighting the candles on my ‘kodesh table’. Baby clothes carefully stored in a changing table. My breasts also hold remembrances–you could even say my mammaries hold memories–but of times recently not so happy. G was not a happy nurser. I produced nothing more than a tablespoon’s worth of thin yellow glob after an hour’s pumping, so I can’t imagine what he got from ‘comfort nursing’ for four months before he totally rejected my breast. Right there–that rejection of my breasts by my son– it was then that my breasts ceased to hold power over me. Give me back my furtniture–yeah, I’ve been reimbursed by the insurance company, blah blah, but really–give me back my furniture, and I’ll give YOU a pair of rejected cancer-fied boobies. I’m getting the better deal!
2. The furniture was made with techniques no longer used. Most of it was ‘antique,’ OK, yard sale or thrift shop bought, but old and made in the US by craftsmen. No one makes furniture like that anymore, not without charging something I can’t afford! Now, boobies, thank G-d, CAN be made new again! The techniques used when my furniture was being made would NOT have been appropriate or desirable for breast reconstruction, so there is that. But I mourn the furniture. Who does hand inlay on dressers any more?
3. The furniture was COOL! I collected it for years and years, and a lot of my chachkas and mementos were also unsalvageable. It is heartbreaking to find a program from your 8th grade band recital floating on a garage floor. My boobs, on the other hand, are not so cool any more. They are saggy. I see why G rejected them at four months, I get it. Sag. It is going to take me a long time to recollect cool furniture and chachkas–and that came from moving 45 times in my life. I think E will kill me if we keep up on that rate!
4. The furniture was sturdy. Like they say, they just don’t make ’em like the used to! That furniture, especially my grandma’s nightstand, has been through a lot! Just to get to me in California, it took horse-drawn wagons, a trip through the Arizona desert, transfer of ownership for a short time, it was an ordeal. Unlike the furniture, my breasts have never been sturdy. All my life they’ve been lumpy and ridden with fibrocystic breast disease. If my breasts were furniture, they would not be made by Stickley. They were made in China by the lowest bidder, who tried to fill them with gel-filled marbles because it was cheaper, never mind the final outcome.
5. The furniture never tried to kill me. Never kept me up nights worrying. I never had to do monthly checks on my furniture and suffer over every lump I found. I never, ever had to stick a side table into a mammogram machine and have it squished down till it resembled a quilt. Never had to have a chest of drawers biopsied–I can’t say the same for my chest.
So there you have it, five reasons why the loss of my furniture is more devastating to me than the loss of my breasts. May my surgery August 2, 2011, be the end of my series of losses and the beginning of a life going from strength to strength, and perhaps even an inspiration to other Cancer Street Fighters who got hit by the Guys in the White Van. If more loss is to come, of course I will deal with it, but it would be nice to feel on top of the eight ball for a little while instead of under it for so long. But in short, I’m ready for almost anything–but please, don’t touch my furniture!