I found my friend, who was seated right in the middle of the sanctuary where everyone could watch me walk in late, and I settled down next to him and began holding my breath so my skirt wouldn't pop open. I followed along in the prayer book and waited for the proceedings to be fun, because this was supposed to be the fun synagogue. But it wasn't. Everyone certainly looked happy and relaxed, some even wearing jeans in contrast to my drag it out of the back of the closet for when relatives come visit outfit, but I still had no idea what was going on. And it went on for a long, long time. The woman next to us, who wore a brightly-colored tallit and little embroidered cap that reached her ears and looked like what Jackie Kennedy might have owned had she moved to an ashram, was bending, bowing and humming in a style I now recognized as the mark of au courant Manhattan liberal Judaism. The sanctuary was beautiful, but I was so busy sucking in my gut and making sure I stood up and sat down at the right times that I barely noticed. I paid no attention to what the rabbi said. I was too busy counting the minutes until I could leave.
I was sad, afterwards, for reasons I couldn't define. I also wondered why I was even thinking of such arcane and ridiculous matters as what to carry on Shabbat, which I had last pondered when I was 12 and sat behind the guy with no thumbs at Junior Congregation.
Something about this synagogue was nice, although I was still ambivalent about the whole thing. The people at services seemed friendly, and not in a scary way like at the other place.