But I planned a move to Columbus.
Oh sure, people told me it was the Bible belt, but it was on all the best-secretly-gay-cities lists. So how different could it be? And it's a swing state: think of it! Think how my vote would count! How the primary candidates will come running. How party nominees will want to know exactly what I'm looking for in a president. How they will try to win my vote, steal my vote, barricade the streets so I won’t be able to cast my vote. That's how important my vote will be.
Nobody even cared about my vote in Portland, Maine. It would be a charmed, new life.
And sure enough: the signs were in English. I could read my accordion-fold map just fine. We found an apartment, a school for our daughter. And when I listened very carefully to the woman on the phone I could eventually understand her enough to know where to meet the bus, and what time it would come. I walked my sons in circles around the neighborhood a few times and we found ourselves a couple of playgrounds. My breadwinner learned the local dialect fairly quickly (they say “tennis shoes” when they mean "sneakers"), got herself a job, and got me some bread. I needed no money for brides. No bus ran me down.
But then six months later, there I was standing outside the locked doors of an empty church with my family and two quiches, looking for the potluck dinner and Havdallah service we expected to await us. This was the day, this was the time, this was the church where our little Jewish congregation holds its gatherings. And here we were: alone in the middle of Buckeye Nation.
I had to ask myself, Why?
These kinds of misunderstandings happen, right? It's not such a big deal. Turns out they were gathering at a different place. Because it wasn’t just a Havdallah service. It was that big Israeli dancing event they've been getting ready for. The one they sent all the emails about. Hadn't we gotten the emails?
But see, I moved to Columbus. I didn't move to Nairobi, or Amsterdam, or Tehran. So I didn't plan for this. I didn't expect that every time I opened an email it would reveal something else I didn't know: some suburb I'd never heard of, some park I'd have to find directions to, some Representative whose name I didn't recognize whom I should call and ask not to vote for some bill I didn't totally understand. I didn't foresee that elections would come and there would be too much to learn, too many records to track down, too many closets to inspect, and there I would be in the booth, voting blind: check, check, check down the Democratic guide. I didn't realize I wouldn't know where to find the no-sugar-added apple sauce in the grocery, or where to go swimming, or which kinds of plastic I could recycle. And I forgot that while I was trying to figure it all out, my boys would tug at my legs asking for a snack, for a book, for a hug. And then it would be time to meet the school bus. And then it would be time to make supper. And then I would stop reading email entirely, because it may as well have been in Cantonese.
Thank God the bus drivers have been careful.