Finding myself in the Middle East

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ben and Jerry's and G-d

It was late.

I was cold.

The aparment was a mess.

Dinner was not ready.

The kids were in bed, but still up and making ten last requests a second.

Oh, who am I kidding?

I was riding on a wave of pregnancy hormones when Outdoorsman asked me something terribly provoking, like, do you want me to help with dinner?

Flames shot out of my blood-dripping eyes and talons grew from my fingernails. Fur sprouted. Jaws elongated. I growled with my new long, dripping tongue, "You think that I'm a horrible housewife, and also ugly and fat, and if you hate me so much, why did you marry me anyway?!"

He said something like no no, you are wonderful and beautiful and perfect, darling,and I am so sorry for thinking that you might like some help, and backed away slowly, as one should do when faced with a rabid animal.

So I burst into tears and said something like, It's late, I'm cold, the apartment is a mess, the kids are in bed but still up and making ten last minute requests a second.

He said yes dear, of course dear, would you like some ice-cream dear? And bought Ben and Jerry's Cookies 'n Cream, which costs around a shekel a spoon-full.

I have been thinking lately about women's mitzvos versus men's. (and I am allowed to change the topic at random because I am PREGNANT. Also, it will all tie together so brilliantly in the end, it will take your breath away. Or else.) How we do not have any of the positive commandments mandated. How I always learned that we don't need all that, we are somehow purer, above it.

I never felt purer, or above it. I was never really satisfied with what seemed to be the pat answers to my indignant questions. ("thank G-d that I was not made a woman?" Dude! Cold. Why can't be both just be "happy that G-d made us who we are?")

So I decided to work backwards, to understand.

What is the goal, the same goal that all of us have, even if we have to take different roads to get there? I asked myself in saner, cooler, post-feminist days.

Of course, it is to have a relationship with Hashem.

How can we go about doing that?

By really understanding whatever it is our human minds can grasp about Who Hashem is.

What can we know about Him? We can repeat His Attributes, but they are only parables. We can't know what He is like. We can only really know that He is in control of the world, and we are not.


So it's not about being purer, maybe. Maybe it's about simply being one step closer to that Truth.

It's really so unsettling, what happens to us women, I thought as my spoon hit the bottom of the Cookies 'n Cream container. And not only when pregnant. We are ruled by our cycles. The hormone flow is something that men can never really understand. It's like being possessed. It's like not being in control of who we are.

It's like--like not being in control.

It's like--women, intrinsically knowing that Someone else is in control.

Edited to add: Incidentally, after buying the ice-cream, Outdoorsman rigged an old music box to a cabinet in the kitchen. Now, whenever I open the cabinet door, it plays music. This has nothing to do with this post, except to add that my husband knows how to tame a beast.

Monday, January 18, 2010

As Wet As They Let This Wet Pet Get

It's raining.

It's raining felines and canines. Or, as Princess put it, it's raining "like Hashem put on these huge boots and is stomping around in the sky! And also He gave some boots to Zeidy and Sabba, because they're in shamayim with Him, and they're all stomping around!" Then she let out a laugh of pure delight at the visual she created for herself.

So, it's definitely raining. Which I am glad for! We need rain! But also, Coco-pop is sick, and when I bundled her up to take Princess to gan, I tasted all different flavors of guilty. We set off on the 15 minute walk, Coco-pop in the stroller, wrapped like a tortilla, Princess walking proudly in her flower raincoat directly behind the stroller, and me, behind her, regretting my decision not to buy boots (waste of money! And honestly, where can I keep 'em? said I when opportunity knocked.) and pushing the stroller while balancing an umbrella over all three of us.

We got there, more or less soaking wet.

Then, the villain of the story strolls in. Or rather, rolls in. As in, in a car.

Let me set the scene for y'all.

Us three, soaking wet, my hand burning from holding the umbrella in position while pushing the stroller at the same time.

Her, in shaitel and makeup and white coat with fur collar and cuffs, emerging dry from her car to open the door for her equally dry child.

Our girls run in together,giggling as they splash all the puddles on the way to the front door of the gan.

Meanwhile, she returns to her car, and rolls down the window. A ride home? My heart leaps up as if I had beheld a rainbow in the sky. I walk towards her, smiling, but vague, just in case it's a false alarm.

It is.

"What do you think of this weather?" she asks.

Um. "Wet?" I ventured.

"I think it's so refreshing!" she smiles.





And all I could think of all the way home was that we could not afford fruit last year, and every time I buy some, I feel grateful that I can. Doesn't she remember what it was like when she didn't have a car? My shoes were waterlogged, and so was my spirit.

I got home, put Coco-pop into warm clothing, gave her some milk and put her in for a nap. Then I attacked the house. I was up to sweeping when I realized that I knew what it was like to not afford fruit. But did I know what it was like to not be able to pay rent? No. Thank G-d we had that every month from what we earned. Did I think about people who couldn't scrape it together and had to beg their landlord to give them another day, another week to get it all?

Not really.

Lady In White probably always had a car. She probably thought that the rain looked refreshing outside of her window, shared that with me, and then went on her way without another thought. Because not having a car--oh, she probably needs a ride!--was not a rounded out thought in her head.

So I forgave her. But for me--well, I think that we can do better than that.

I read today on about a couple who never forgot where they came from when they became really wealthy, and were constantly giving back.

We can and should overcome our blocks in our minds and souls, and feel for those who have less.

So don't worry, y'all. When Outdorsman and I become filthy stinkin' rich, I will totally not forget all the little people.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I Was Totally Asking For It

In the 50s, or maybe the 40's? TV was not endless programs that you could watch all hours of the night. 3 o'clock in the bleary morning home shopping network was not heard of. I guess no one had insomnia in those days.

ANYWAY, these 50's or 40's TV people would reach the end of the day of regularly scheduled programming and sweet stories about boys and their dogs, and it would end. Tada. The end. See you all tomorrow.

That, in a nutshell, is what happens to my brain after the kids' normally scheduled bedtime. Tada. The end. See you all tomorrow. I will now watch white snow on a black screen ( it really black snow on a white screen? Hmmm...maybe I'll watch it for a few more hours and get back to you on that.) until tomorrow morning.

Cam you see where I am going with this? Yes. Last night. They were up until 11:30.

I use my last ounces of sweet patience on pajama time and book time and milk time and shema time. Maybe a last minute water call and blanket tucking in. Then, they must go to sleep. At once. Because it's hard to talk to children with your brain tuned in to white/black snow.



"Do you know how to say couch in hebrew?"


"Nooooo, sapah. (with an indistiguish-able difference. American-Israeli kids!)"


"Right I know so much Hebrew?"


"Can you sing me another song?"




"Does that mean no?"

Meanwhile Coco-pop was rattling around in her crib like a ghost in chains, singing a song of her own creation. It went like this:

"Iiiiiiiiima, wanna come out, Iiiiiiiima, wanna to come out, Iiiiiiima, wanna to come out!"

The chorus was pretty much the same.

When they finally fell asleep, I slumped, dejected, to my own bed. I felt like any Good Mommy Points that I had scored were gone, finished, done with, used up. I felt like I had to talk to someone about it. I turned to my husband. His eyes were closed, but he was still awake. Probably.

"You know, I hate that my brain turns off. I wish that I had more patience with them. I need to work on this. They do not have to turn off like clockwork every night in order for me to be happy. They could ask me questions and I should give them normal, human-like responses!"


"I remember waking up with a nightmare when I was little and walking back and forth in the hallway, trying to creak someone awake. I wished with all my little heart that my mother would wake up and hold me. I need to always be there for them, even when it's 2 in the morning."


"Maybe I should take classes. Or just tell myself that life is not perfect and does not fall into predesignated slots. You know?"


"I should make a list. I should hang it up. I should--"




"....I guess that means that you're not going to sing me a song."


And that, my friends, is what we call karma.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mornings with Coco-pop

Me: Who's my baby? Who's my little baby?

Coco-pop: Not a baby! A little girl!

Me: (heart breaking into five pieces)


I love love having her home with me. I stare at her. I really do. When she is sitting on my lap, I look at her little profile and I get caught, in my mess and halfway through my list of Things To Do and do nothing but gaze at her little upturned nose and the way that her lashes rest on her rounded pink cheek and the auburn curls that lightly frame her face and I turn her chin gently so that she faces me. I ask her if she wants me to eat her little face up. She declines. I eat her face up anyway. She squeals and giggles and then says, do it again, Ima. And the whole time I am filled with wonder, filled with awe, filled with a need to touch her, to rub my cheek against her cheek, to play with her rounded fingers, her nails with the chipped red nail polish and half-moons of dirt from playing in the sandbox.

The knowledge that my blood pumps through her veins, that she is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, all that floods through me as she sits on my lap, demanding another story. I tell her another story, making it last, curling up with her for as long as she'll stay still.

It's hard to describe, in this impure world, this physical manifestation of mother's love. I hesitate to post this, not wanting to be misunderstood.

It's hard to put into words, to put into into black and white the color of my love for my baby.

Sorry, Coco-pop. I meant, of course, my love for my little girl.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Drown In The Now

When I was little, the window in my bedroom overlooked a main four-laned street that further down merged into a highway. I would sit on my bed and look down at the toy-sized cars whizzing back and forth at all times of the night (I had major insomnia all my life, totally cured by the birth of my oldest. Ya always want what ya can't have, I guess!) and I would try to come up with different, intricately detailed stories for each car, explaining why they were on the road at 2 o'clock in the morning.

The little blue car with the broken tail light was obviously speeding away from the cops who tried to issue him a ticket. He turned onto a major street in the hopes of losing them. He can't afford a ticket, you see, because he just lost his job, and his three children are dressed in rags and never get any treats at all.

The green one with the suitcase on the roof-rack is probably coming back from a weekend in Florida (I didn't know much about any states in between New York, New Jersey, and Florida) and he and his wife keep taking turns at the wheel on the long trip home, while in the cookie-crumb-covered and sticky-with-spilled-apple-juice
back seat, their two children sleep.

I saw each car, each person, as a little floating bubble of unique life, a tiny world on its own rotation, that can get very close to another little world but never actually merge. (Especially those of you who think it's okay to pick your noses in the rear-view mirror. We DO see you from the window, guys. YOU know who I'm talking to!)

As I got a little older, I realized that there are actually points of intersection, and that most of them really boil down to how you feel about this person walking down the street, and how this person walking down the street makes you feel about yourself.

Little thought bubbles at the points of intersection:

"Oh no, I think that I owe her money. Do I owe her money? Oh, darn, and I think it was from a long time ago, too."

"She is always so patient with her kids. I wish that I could do that. She makes it look so easy."

"Ooooh...remember when I said that stupid thing and it was in front of her and then I got so embarrased and I never explained...I wish that I could explain now, but it was 10 years ago. Oh, why can't I just get over it already!"

"She is totally skinnier than me. But maybe I'm prettier?"

"She is totally prettier than me. But maybe I am skinnier?"

Like our nerve endings are rubbed raw with the contact, the intimacy of interaction. Our minds are jumbled with thoughts and feelings and memories until it's not clear if you feel a certain way about the person that you are chatting with or if you feel that way about yourself...

I took the kids to the park yesterday afternoon. Hogging the merry-go-round was one of the girls who has been teasing Princess in gan. I braced myself. Princess loved the merry-go-round. How was this going to work out?

"Hi, M!" Princess called out. "Stop the merry-go-round, I want to get on!"

"Okay," M agreed.

And to my amazement, 5 minutes later, the girl were spinning around with their arms around each other, singing "Bar Yochai" at the very top of their lungs.

Because now it's the afternoon. Who cares about what happened this morning, in gan? Right now we are two good friends on the same merry-go-round, singing this really great song.

Someone wise once said that when you walk into a party and you're all self-conscious about your choice in outfit, just remember than no one is looking at you. Just like you, they are all busy looking at themselves in the mirror.

So live. Laugh. Love. Forget what happened 10 years ago. (Except for that chick whom you owe money to. You should probably pay her back.) Twirl around together, because the past was already. The future doesn't matter yet.

Live in the present, their 4 year-old voices were singing.

Live for the now.


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