By: Abby Holtzman
Abby is from West Newton, MA and graduated from Swarthmore College in PA in 2016 with a degree in psychology and English. This year Abby is working as an Associate Producer at Interfaith Voices, a public radio show about religion run by Loretto Sister Maureen Fiedler in Washington, DC.
I love stories, and I think one of the reasons for it is that storytelling doesn’t come naturally to me. I don’t think in narrative - I think in moments. A narrative is a necklace of moments, strung together in a particular way. But I’m still learning how to do that - that stringing, the gathering together of things that are different and finding a path through them so that they are still different but also contingent on each other.
Yesterday, my housemate and I took a walk. It was bright and cold and we looked at Christmas lights on row houses and stopped in at a fancy butchery for a snack. Finding ourselves out of our price range, we ordered the cheapest thing on the menu, the “meat cone,” which turned out to be a tiny sugar cone holding two slender pieces of salami and, as my housemate put it, a “sliver of liver.” We pulled each piece of meat apart with our fingers to share, laughing. Then we walked to a thrift store and tried on wigs.
A few weeks ago, I led community night for our house. The theme being spirituality, I turned off the lights and taught a niggun, a wordless Jewish melody in two parts - one ay-oh, and one lai-dai-dai. It started out awkward, just my voice in our small living room, but then there were other voices - keeping the bass notes steady, or daring to jump up to the silvery peaks of the song. Suddenly there was harmony and a kind of momentum that made us all lose track of time. I loved hearing a voice come in strong that hadn’t been there before, before it crested and disappeared. Trying to end the song felt like skidding your feet to slow a swing at the playground and when we all opened our eyes it felt strange to speak.
Another time, at dinner after one of those days, a discussion about dating turned into a proposition for me to present a young gourd we had picked up at Safeway as my partner to my extended family, which turned into a naming session for the gourd, which turned into an absurd imagining of how Trey would fare at a Steiker/Holtzman Thanksgiving, which turned into a sense of warmth over chili or pot pie or stir fry where before there had been only dread.
And that’s kind of what I’m getting at - community as narrative, this thing that wasn’t there before flowing between people and making a certain kind of sense, a story. And then of course there’s the fact that in community as in narrative, each element both leads to and follows from the others, so that who we are is a question bigger than ourselves and is in fact answered by how we love and serve each other.
Like voices coming together to sing something that is more than the sum of its parts, as me and my housemates become Junia House, we’re writing this story as we go.
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