Hurricane Miriam. Literally.

Posted by mwallach on September 28, 2012 in Crazy Follows Me Everywhere |

Dear That’s Life,

There is much preparation done for Yom Kippur, despite the fact that the holiday is food-free. Getting in the correct mind-set to face one’s Maker on the holiest day of the year is not something to take lightly. Entering the sanctuary, with people dressed in white and the fast having just started, the mood is set as the cantor begins the traditional tunes. And while I knew this awaited me that evening, my mind continued to drift to other matters, and one in particular.

Early Tuesday morning, I received a text message from a friend that piqued my interest and preoccupied my thoughts even though Yom Kippur was just hours away. “Just heard the news!” She wrote. “They’ve named a hurricane after you!” Lo and behold, she was right. I quickly googled the words “Hurricane Miriam,” and the article I found on the Huffington Post said that she, in fact, existed and was looming off the coast of Mexico. Meteorologists were keeping a close eye on it.

As to be expected, I had the opposite reaction to what normal people might have said when they heard that another storm was gathering strength in the Gulf region. I was excited. While I do not wish ill on anyone and I would not want anyone to suffer injury or loss, having a hurricane with my name is, unfortunately, incredibly exciting. Ever go to a place like an amusement park where names are imprinted on various standard souvenirs like mugs, or bracelets or key chains? I always look for my name amongst the others that are available but it is never there. These personalized items never say “Miriam,” and why should they? It is a tough name and it is not all that common. Sharing a name with a hurricane, however, is like having every mug, key chain, placemat and Disney bracelet on the planet having “Miriam” written on it in bold, block letters. It is validating. It means I have a real name.

Of course, as a person whose name is always butchered, however, I knew what would certainly come of Hurricane Miriam. In no time at all, she’d be called Hurricane Marion and Hurricane Maryann by those who could not pronounce her name properly. She’d hang her head in shame and frustration as weather forecasters called her every bastardization of Miriam, but not her actual name. She, too, would develop her own Starbucks name in order to avoid those awkward moments when the person taking her order asked her to spell her name or repeat it, just one more time. While at the beginning it might not bother her at all, by the third or fourth time, she would roll her eyes like the rest of us do and begin to envy girls with names like Rachel, Sarah or Michelle. It is inevitable. Before long, Hurricane Miriam will answer to anything that sounds like Miriam, simply because she has heard it all. Welcome to the club, I’d say.

Of course, the juxtaposition of being told that a hurricane with which you share a name is gathering speed and strength right before you stand before G-d to atone for your sins and plead for mercy is not something to be overlooked. In fact, I began to wonder if that was its own message from G-d. Was I really this destructive? Am I so transparently full of hot air? Believing there are no coincidences in life, I started to ask questions. Of all the days in the entire year for a dangerous storm to be named “Miriam,” why did it have to be the day before Yom Kippur?

I turned to my husband. “You’re not going to believe this,” I said, “but there is a hurricane named Hurricane Miriam!” “And then some,” he responded, without missing a beat. “Now you know how the rest of us feel.” Har, I thought to myself. I should have seen that one coming. What I had predicted, however, was that he was then going to come up with a slew of New York Post-esque headlines that someone could run, none of which could be share in this column. Suffice it to say, he did not let me down.

I spoke to a friend of mine who speaks publicly and specialized in lecturing about spirituality. I asked him what he thought about the announcement of Hurricane Miriam right before Yom Kippur. I told him I was trying not to read into it – he suggested I didn’t. We changed the subject.

Rest assured, I took the day seriously. I prayed for myself and loved ones with all of my heart. When the fast ended, I drank some water, ate some food and then checked on the status of the storm. It seemed that while I was praying, Hurricane Miriam was downgraded to a tropical storm. Apparently, she was not nearly as forceful, strong and potentially destructive as had been originally thought. She may not even make it to Mexico, but will most likely die off at sea. I am hoping this hurricane is not a metaphor.

While I am trying not to read too much into this, it is pretty hard not to. I am relieved that no harm will come from Hurricane Miriam and that she is turning out to be just a bunch of hot air. But before all of this ends and another lifetime goes by before the name is used again, would it be so wrong to have just one “I Survived Hurricane Miriam” t-shirt?

As Seen in The South Shore Standard Sept ’12

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