Sunday, April 22, 2012

S is for Simka

My sister and I having a very important discussion on
the streets of Berkeley. (I'm the short one.) Note
the lampshade's elegant mustache.
Although the 26 entries of the A to Z blog challenge here at the Museum of Joy are all dedicated to inspirations for the Museum, this one might be the single most important. See, it was my amazing, brilliant, and lovely sister Simka who came up with the idea in the first place. Incidentally (or maybe not), Simka's name comes from the Hebrew word for joy, simcha, pronounced sim-hah with an extra-throaty h. (My parents were afraid of condemning her a life of being mispronounced in such senstive locales as elementary school classrooms and dentist offices, hence the alternate spelling. I figure they learned from their mistake with me. If I had a dollar for every time someone mangled my name, why, I'd be halfway to buying a few square feet of land on the Northern California coast by now!) (It's Jericha like the city of Jericho, if you were wondering.) Where was I? (Sometimes I get lost in my own parentheticals.) Oh yeah. Simka, my awesome sister. Simka is an inch taller than me for every year I am older than her (I'm 5'2" and she's 5'8") and the most empathetic person I know. In addition to a really extraordinary and sensitive emotional intelligence, she's also sharp, witty, booksmart like whoa, and loves math and cool nerdy things. I am praising her here in part because she's my sister and I love her, but also because, well, if I have a calling in life now it's all her fault.

How did it happen? I'm glad you asked! See, Simka and I have always used the word joy in a very particular and special way between us. Although we both feel strongly that our sense of it is the direct result of being the children of our particular parents, it's important to us in a way that it isn't to them. She and I have had an ongoing conversation about it for longer than I can remember. We use the word joy as a name for the feeling of zest, gladness, exhilaration, expansion, exultance, and glory that hits you anytime something comes along to tell you that life is actually really spectacular in all its extraordinary and utterly mundane profundity. It's the magical mechanism that makes us both tick, the richness at the core of things that we can always come back to. We're good at reminding each other about it when things seem a little bleak. And at some point, when I was in college - my third year, maybe? my fourth year? - I went home to visit my folks, and me and Simka went into the city to run around, and on the Muni we got talking about how fun it would be to do a Project together.

Something creative, obviously, but what? It had to be a Big Project, something awesome and special and important, something wild and cool and weird that only we could do. We talked back and forth, batted some ideas around. We just weren't sure what to make it about. Finally Simka sat up straight and said, "Well, Jericha, look. What's the most important thing?"

Joy, we agreed, definitely joy.

"Okay," she said, "A Museum of Joy."

I remember having this strange little heart stutter, this click. It wasn't a lightbulb moment, or a revelation. It was like a tiny shift of tracks, and suddenly absolutely everything in my future was perfectly, beautifully, wonderfully clear.

"Of course," I probably said, "that's it!"

I don't actually remember any words. Just this staggering feeling. You know the click of everything coming into focus on a camera. You know how satisfying that is? Imagine it with your life. No, really. It was actually like that. It was so exactly right. For months afterwards it sat quietly in the back of my head, humming to itself. Sometimes I would even forget about it, and worry about what I was going to do with my life, and then I would remember: a Museum of Joy. And immediately I would feel a kind of marvelous peace. It was nothing like wanting to be an architect (age 9-12), or a filmmaker (12-19), a jockey (6-8) , or even a paleontologist (2-5). Those were things I wanted to be. The Museum is completely different: as soon as Simka said the words, I could see into my future. It was already there.

But to be entirely honest, I don't think I could ever have come up with it myself. I think if Simka and I hadn't been riding the train together that day, my life might have been completely different. It was her idea, not mine. And this, dear readers, is only one of the reasons I feel astoundingly, inordinately, astonishingly lucky to have her for a sister. May you all be so blessed.


  1. I find it interesting that 2 of the 4 things you wanted to be are also things I wanted to do. being a writer was never something I wanted to do, because I always knew that I would write. If that makes sense. I would -be- something, and I would also write. Of course, then, it took me a while to really get down to the writing.

    I'm glad you have such a great sister :)

    1. Ha! Great minds think alike.

      And I am -also -glad I have such a great sister. Thanks for the kind sentiment :)


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