This post was originally scheduled for 14 September 2013, as part of the long-discontinued Sweet Saturday Samples bloghop. I wanted to finally move all these old posts out of my drafts folder already!
Like last week’s post, this also obviously comes from an older version of the book formerly known as The Very First. It’s since undergone several more rounds of edits.
Important Note: Out of reverence for Yom Kippur, this post, like all my other Saturday postings, has been prescheduled.
This scene takes place a bit after the Yom Kippur piece I shared last year. Young Cinni and Sparky are taking a walk on the beach in the late afternoon, and have gotten to talking about Cinni’s feud with her older sister Stacy (Eustacia). Sparky is trying to explain what repentance and forgiveness mean, though Cinni and Stacy will continue not speaking to one another until June 1985, when their near-lifelong silence ends by accident.
“Real repentance happens between two people. God doesn’t perform forgiveness on your behalf if you haven’t talked to the other person and apologized. And you’re not supposed to think about how things might be different or better in another life. Our focus is on the here and now, on this life. But the gates of repentance are always open.”
“So you can ask God, or other people, for forgiveness at other times of the year?”
“Of course. And even though tonight is gonna be the main closing of the gates, they’re still gonna be officially open till Hoshanah Rabah, one of the holidays at the end of Sukkot. It’s like one last chance to get in any final, missed prayers or apologies.”
“Wow, you people have a lot of holidays I never knew about. I don’t think even Laura celebrates so damn many. She says the Catholic Church stopped celebrating all their fast and feast days a long time ago. At least, normal people stopped celebrating them. I’m sure religious fanatics still do it.”
Sparky cast her eyes up toward the sky, which was still rather blue and not yet turning into a watercolor of the setting Sun. “I can almost see the gates of heaven up there, even though I know God doesn’t really live up in the sky or even in this world. It’s hard to describe unless you’ve been there and heard it, but when the shofar is blown at the end of Rosh Hashanah services, the final, very long note, I can feel time and the world standing still, and the gates of heaven opening. And when the long note is blown again at the end of Yom Kippur, it’s like I can feel the gates shutting for another year. But God hears prayers at all times, even if this time of year is the most ideal time to ask for important stuff.”
“Next year at this time, I bet you’ll be a proper American girl and not so focused on old world stuff. I mean, you can still be religious, but I hope it won’t be the main thing about you. Laura lives in the real world while still doing her Catholic thing.”
Sparky looked down at her skirt, which covered her knees, and her sleeves, which covered her elbows. “I guess I still don’t look exactly American. Even if I’m not Orthodox, I still was taught I have to dress modestly. But when I’m at school or with you and your friends, I do feel kinda outta place. The only other girl we know who dresses like me is Nancy, but you said she ain’t really your official friend.”
“You’ve got a leg up on Nan, ‘cause at least you show way more skin and don’t think it’s a sin to even look at a boy. But your hair’s slowly starting to grow outta that awful haircut your mom forced on you, and the poodle curls are gone. I think you’re more scared than you oughta be of showing off extra bare skin. Once you start wearing more normal clothes, it’ll become like second nature, and you won’t be able to believe you useta shun them.”
“Can we talk more about this tomorrow? Even if I’m not old enough to fast or do other grownup stuff, I don’t feel right talking about stuff like clothes and hair on Yom Kippur.”
Cinni dug her sandaled foot into a patch of wet sand. “If you insist. I ain’t some twit like Al, who only likes to talk about stuff like that, even if I ain’t the opposite extreme like Nan or Adeline. Speaking of, I’ve long been itching to get my hands on botha them to try to make ‘em over. Perhaps they’ll be inspired once they see how I’ve successfully made you over. Even unpopular girls can’t be that immune to wanting to look normal as they get older. If they want boys to notice ‘em when we’re old enough, they’ve gotta start dressing the part and talking about normal stuff.”
Sparky looked up at the seagulls flying overhead as she and Cinni continued on down the beach. If only she could be as carefree as the seagulls, and not worrying about heavy things like repentance and how to become a real American girl before she was even bat mitzvah.