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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

You Count

Yesterday my niece moved to New York City. A little more than a year ago she moved back home during her senior year at college. She was not alone in doing this. Thousands and thousands of young people found themselves back home a year ago. Her sister, a year ahead of her who worked in lived in NYC, also moved back to their childhood home. My brother and his wife, who had one child still living at home, went from having one to three almost adult children living at home.

During the time that my nieces were at home they were still very productive. One niece worked from home and one finished her university studies and started a graduate degree in education. Both nieces helped to care for their brother, who has some special needs. As life was rearranged, my brother and sister-in-law had a chance to live "undisturbed" but for Covid and its stresses for more than a year. The year was a year lost in some senses, but in other ways it was a year gained.

One niece returned to NYC a few months ago and the second niece made her way back to NYC just yesterday. As the day approached I thought more and more about how my niece's departure was a sign that the world is changing and slowly we are returning to norms that we have almost forgotten; that children move out of the home and live elsewhere and begin their independent lives after university and that we as adults, who have sheltered in place for a year are making ready to begin lives again.

This past year has brought a myriad of changes for all of us. Staying home, keeping the same routine, wearing masks, limiting social contact. Rivaling these changes have been the silver linings of this past year. Zoom meetings with old friends, Zoom book clubs, Zoom services, Zoom entertainment. The list can go on and on about how Zoom, Facetime and other on-line platforms have changed our lives.

Since last March our extended family have gathered on Zoom every Sunday night. After the death of my mom in January, 2020, we had wanted to plan a cruise together so we could work on keeping the family together in our new parentless status. Instead of our cruise, I like to joke, we got the weekly Zoom family meeting instead. Every Sunday night at 8:30 I can count on seeing the family. I can count on seeing my nephew from Florida, always the first to sign in and his discussions about the Patriots. I can count on one of my sons calling in from the kitchen while he cooks. I can count on seeing one brother who has not had a haircut in the past year and spending a little time each week noting which movie star he looks like now. I can count on another brother making jokes. I can count on seeing people calling while snuggling on their beds, while eating their dinners, while jogging, while playing on their phones. Some are already in pajamas and some come to family meeting looking their very best. Some talk a lot and some say very little. Family meeting is something that I have grown to count on each week.

Last Sunday night we began to count the Omer where we count each night between Passover and Shavuot. Counting the days adds a degree of meaning to days. Giving them a number identifies them. They are not only Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, they are no longer ordinary days; during the Omer they are days that began at a specific point and are leading to a destination. We are heading from slavery to receiving the law, we are approaching a harvest, we are heading through a period of semi-mourning to a time of happiness. Days begin to count more. Think of that, something as ordinary as a day is elevated and blessed! No days are left out during the counting period. They all matter. If one misses saying a blessing, (as I did the other night!), I feel bereft at not having given the day the honor it deserves in being counted.

As my niece left for NYC, symbolizing a change in the pandemic along with the promise of a hopeful spring, I look back on those family meetings and recognize how much each of the people on those screens count. Each of us is like one day of the Omer, but together we are heading toward our respective destinations. Each of the people in that virtual room count and make a difference. We made it that way, probably because of the pandemic. Is it possible to say that we count a little more to each other because of our meetings, because of this strange time of illness? I think so.

And so as my niece leaves one Zoom square on Sunday nights and heads toward another, I'll celebrate her. I'll celebrate our Zoom meetings, where we can continue to watch my brother's hair grow, talk Boston sports and compare dog stories. My husband and I will continue to count the Omer, to count the days and hopefully, through the act of counting, make each day count and hold special meaning through its blessing.

Tonight we count night six of the Omer. Our alarms are set each night so that we remember. We don't want to forget a day; we want to make each day count, just as each of the Zoom squares count and each of our family meetings count. We want to remember traditions and celebrate new traditions. It might not be a cruise, but the weekly family meeting is a time we will always remember. I count, you count, we all count.


For a blog post that I wrote last year about Counting the Omer.

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