Friday, October 23, 2015

Happy Birthday Donna

Today I opened Facebook and received a notification that said, "Today is Donna Stiebel's birthday." Tears sprang to my eyes and I looked at the phone angrily. Didn't Facebook know that it wasn't her birthday today? Didn't Facebook know that Donna passed 5 years ago?

And then I had a moment of inspiration. Standing outside on my porch waving goodbye to my children (the requisite 5-minute wave until their bus is completely out of sight), I realized that today is Donna's birthday. For Victor, Aliza, Moshe, Micha and Shayna; today is Donna's birthday. For all of us, today is Donna's birthday. Because today is the day we celebrate all that Donna was and is in our lives. Nothing can take away the meaning of her birthday; nothing can take away the time we had together.

As I raise my young daughters I find myself thinking back to my own childhood multiple times a day. Donna was a big part of that childhood as she and her family lived next door to us and I spent many hours in her house. I didn't turn to Donna for advice the way my older sisters did, because I was only ten years old when we moved away, but I can clearly (and embarrassingly) remember standing in her kitchen and asking her a quarter-of-a-million questions while she tried to make dinner in peace. Yeah, I was that kid.

But I don't ever remember being sent away and that's what makes Donna so special. I try to emulate that with my own friends' children, to treat them like they were my nieces and to help them feel welcome in my home.

When I close my eyes and transport myself back in time, I can imagine that I am standing in the Stiebel house listening to Donna's infectious laugh. I can hear her offering to pick up groceries for my mother since she is heading to Giant Eagle anyway. I can see her doing carpool with a smile on her face, and I can visualize her calling to Aliza from the kitchen, helping her with homework. (In retrospect, I may have overstayed my welcome some days :P)

And because I'm back there in my mind, I can also see Micha doing something (everything) that warranted yet another set of stitches. Micha, I think you may have been the original #hashtag.

It's been many years since I was ten years old but the memories of my childhood are stronger than the memories of why I am standing at the open fridge at any given time. And so today, on Donna's birthday, I am sending big hugs to everyone who misses her. And also a big high-five because we are of the lucky ones who got to know her.

Thinking of all of the Phillips Avenue crew today! (Can you imagine how simple it would have been to arrange Cops & Robbers if we had a WhatsApp group back then?)

Shabbat Shalom <3 Stay safe in Israel.