Sunday, July 4, 2010

The past lives of Maisie Beth

When Maisie was in Kindergarten, her very Waldorf teacher (like you could look up "Waldorf Kindergarten Teacher" in the dictionary and this woman's picture would be there) told me that she thought that she and Maisie must have known each other in a previous life. She said that she reacted unusually strongly to Maisie and that Maisie could get under her skin in ways no other child she'd taught could. She also said she thought that Maisie must have been royalty in a previous life because she had a funny habit of proclaiming things as though there were servants or peasants waiting to do her bidding.

Um, okay. I adored this teacher, so I just nodded and smiled. Sure. Maybe there is some merit to the past life theory. Who am I to say someone else is crazy? I'm sure not very many people consider me too sane. So, okay. Interesting idea to shelve in the back of my head.

Fast forward to now. We were invited to a dear friend's daughter's Bat Mitzvah. I had never been to a synagogue, never been to a Bat Mitzvah and adore the tenacious not so little girl who had busted her backside learning the Torah and Hebrew for her chance to come of age. We had to go. We drove the 6 hours to the city where the event was to take place, got everyone ready and I gave the standard mother lecture about what to expect and how to behave. Julia was for sure going to go to the service (2 hours in length) because her bff is the younger sister of the girl we had come to see. Maisie wanted to come too and insisted she was capable of sitting quietly for 2 hours. Fine. I felt I could provide enough entertainment in the form of books and paper and a pen to help her make it through.

However. We found seats in the synagogue, inadvertently sitting in the wrong section - someone give this oblivious me a map next time! - but the woman we sat next to was lovely and chatted with Maisie for a moment before the service started. The service began and we pulled out the Jewish prayer and song books, which read right to left and are in Hebrew and English. There were lots of songs, but only the words, not the music, was in the book and nearly every song included a lot of repeating certain lines and skipping around. I was lost and settled for just smiling and enjoying the sound of everyone around me singing. Oddly, there was an extra voice I was not expecting. Maisie. She happily sang most of the songs. She knew the tunes and a fair amount of the words. Hebrew words. Huh? At one point she noticed me looking at her (and not singing) and asked me in her not so quiet voice "Am I supposed to be singing?". I whispered that I didn't know the words as well as she did but that she was to carry on. She did. Beautifully. It was one of the more bizarre experiences of my life.

Well. I suppose it is possible that Maisie just is musically gifted enough to be able to wing it when she is in a situation like a Bat Mitzvah in an unfamiliar language. But how did she know the words? And the mystery of when and where songs repeated? I have no idea. None. Some things defy logical explanations. The best I can figure, is that some time between being royalty and being Maisie, this girl was Jewish. And though she has developed an intense love of pork products, she has kept the part of her that knows and understands Hebrew and old songs. It's definitely in the realm of weird, but it seems possible. What other explanation is there?

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