Yesterday I attended my sister's engagement party. "How did you do this?" you ask. It's a valid question. My family lives in Queens, NY, some 6,000 miles away from my dorm room in Jerusalem. Through the wonders of modern technology, I was able to "attend" the party in a few different ways. First, I was sent numerous pictures of all the various decorations and party treats via Whatsapp and iMessage. Then, I was "tagged" in photos by actual, physical attendees, so I was able to see who was there and what they wore. Last, my father graciously "Skyped" with me at different junctures (before the party, during and wrapping up), so I was able to interact with guests and get a feel for the vibe and the action. This is how I came to be a "floating head" being passed around my sister's engagement party. I can only imagine what it was like in my grandfather's time, how absurd the idea of participating in a party happening on another continent would seem. I can imagine him in his tenement house, shaving ice off a block and into a class of cola, seeing only who was in his line of vision. Here I am, 70 years later, a yelping presence in a tiny box on an iPhone screen yelling "Grandpa! I like your haircut!" Unreal.
While this was a major event for my family, for me it was even more huge. It was the "first family event I missed due to aliyah." The first in a seemingly endless stretch of engagement parties, bridal showers, wedding and bar mitzvahs to which I will have to respond "no", not because I'm busy, or because I'm not interested in going, but because there is this huge ocean in between myself and those I love most. While I definitely have a nice number of friends and family here in the Holy Land, I would guess that 95% of my social and familial worlds live in the US. That, my friends, is a lot of missed happy occasions. Last week I got a shower invitation for a girl whom I absolutely adore. She and I have been friends, and what's more single friends, for ages. Her simcha truly makes me ecstatic. And yet I will have to miss her special day (and undoubtedly a fabulous party) because I chose to "live the dream." It definitely stings.
This isn't to say that I regret my decision to be here, even for a second. I always knew that one of the toughest parts about living over here is that time "back home" would not freeze for me. No one would hold off getting engaged or having babies until my yearly trips back to the States. But knowing and experiencing are two very different things, I have learned. And so I will continue to be that floating head at parties, shouting "mazel tovs" and blowing kisses to the people at parties on the other side of the ocean. Until the day I can attend those parties as a hologram.