Last week I traveled to be with old friends for a 25th reunion of our Rosh Hodesh group. We originally came together in the aftermath of a tragedy, slowly found ways of being together, our sharing evolved, and we became a group – no, more than a group, we became a family. This family, this circle of women and our monthly meetings constituted a cherished touchstone in the ongoing rhythm of my life. (We realized of course that though we called ourselves a Rosh Hodesh group our gatherings rarely coincided with the thinnest sliver of moon – simply put, we were a Jewish women’s group and so wanted a category, Rosh Hodesh, to confirm that.)
Over the years some of us had moved away, left the group, new women joined. Former members, continuous members, newer members gathered last week and as I prepared to see these old friends once again I found myself reminiscing, seeking to make meaning. Some particulars, some highlights –
I remember laughter, the conversation of women both smart and wise. I remember talking about the homes we grew up in, the parents who raised us, talking about our bodies, Jewish holidays, Biblical texts… I remember one evening together in sukkah, welcoming our foremothers into the circle – Merle, daughter of Lillian, daughter of Bertha, daughter of Julia. It was cold in the sukkah, I felt awake, alive... I remember a Talmud study session for Tisha B’av, the story of Kamsza and Bar Kamsza – how the petty, baseless hatred between Jews led to the destruction of the Temple… Some evenings writing together...
One gift of the group was coming to know women who were already dear friends in an ever deeper way and seeing them regularly, too rare a treat in our busy lives... And coming to know women I hadn’t known before. And then the send-off the group gave me when Eddie and I moved away to start a new life, how bolstered I felt by the care and love of the group.
I grew up a girl with brothers so I have no firsthand experience of the intrigues and intricacies sisters share and suffer. But from observation of that relationship I’d say it often includes an element of competition, in some cases quite intense and pervasive. For me, our Rosh Hodesh group had less the feel of siblings with their rivalries and more the tender feel of mothers mothering. Though we had our interpersonal challenges from time to time, I believe what most characterized the group was the loving mothering energy we each brought to it. It felt like we took turns being Mama, that was the gift we gave one another with exquisite generosity, the understanding that we all need to be nurtured and we all have the deep capacity to nurture, that we carry that need and that capacity within us and the well is always there to draw from. The gentle touch, the hug, the sacred tears we shared offered love abundant enough to encircle us all.