This happened long ago.
I was a child trapped in my childhood life, my cramped apartment, my family of refugees, my clueless existence, my low self image, my need for approval from anyone and everyone, the kindness of strangers, the hope for some change, the desire for something, deep and profound, rich and transcendent, something unnameable, trapped in the yearning.
I was a typical child in the '50s, quiet and sheltered, no words to express.
And one day a stranger came to visit from somewhere else. A distant cousin I never heard of. A grownup with a family. Her name was Tamara. I remember that. The most beautiful name I ever heard. She had an accent from Europe, another refugee. But she was different. She stood tall. She had something I now understand to be confidence. She was a Doctor. She was not a Nurse. I didn't understand. But I looked up at her. I saw her. She was beautiful in a way I've never seen. Her whole being shone like the sun. I didn't understand. I was awestruck. I never met anyone like her. She was a Doctor and she had a husband and children. She must be the smartest person in the world, I remember thinking. How is it even possible?
I watched her visit with my mother. I watched her mouth move as she talked. I watched her eyes bright as the stars in the sky. I was used to a kind of dullness like walking through a fog. But here was something else.
And then she turned to me. I blinked. She came down to my level and looked into my eyes. I could hardly stand it. I couldn't breathe. I didn't know what to do. She asked me questions no one had ever asked before in the history of the world, I thought. She asked me what I loved to do and what I wanted to be.
Not just the usual what do you want to be when you grow up —
She asked me who I was as if I were a person. And I didn't know what to say. Nothing came to my mind. My mind was running all over the place. I couldn't compute the question.
So I said nothing. And I felt shame.
I couldn't tell her my passions, my yearnings, my love of theater and movies and jumprope. I opened my mouth and nothing came out.
And then she said: don't worry, you'll know. Do something you love. You'll know what to do.
And she changed my life forever.
The seed was planted: to do what I love, to be a person. And the best seed of all: that it was ok. I was ok. Okay, okay.
No one until then spoke that language to me. This was a woman like no other, I thought.
Something opened up and I stepped into my life.
I never saw her again. I don't know what happened. But I saw something in her eyes. I saw something. I experienced a moment of intimacy and connection and I was forever changed.
Everything was possible.