Finding myself in the Middle East

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stuff and Nonsense

When huricane Katrina hit, with all of its horrible destruction and devastation, the second thought that accured to me (the first one being, OMG! of course) was the weird and chilling idea that the people who were killed had been murdered by their own things.

That is to say, their own stuff flew in the air and killed them and in effect caused all of the horrors that they are still facing today.

Stuff. We have so much stuff. Furniture and pots and lipsticks and files. Food and mugs and books and linens. And as I'm packing (not very well at the moment, since I am actually BLOGGING and not packing at all, you see) I think the weirdest thing is--we are getting along fine right now. Okay, pasta for dinner is not ideal, and I never want to see another peanut-butter and jelly sandwich, but if we are okay--WHAT IN THE WORLD IS IN ALL OF THESE BOXES? I'm tempted to light the whole stack on fire and see if I even notice.

Except for the toys, I think, since Princess and Coco-pop are wandering around the apartment like two little lost kittens, looking for balls of yarn. (If kittens, ya know, in some kind of parallel-infinite-possibility universe threw tantrums and asked impossible questions, that comparison would be perfectly apt.)

When I was growing up, I had so little space to call my own that I became a tosser. If I didn't need it, into the garbage it went. I even (though I regret it now) burned (I was a kind of dramatic teenager) all 20 of my journals that I had accumulated over high school. My motto for cleaning, gleaned from the wisdom of my mother who raised 10 kids in a four bedroom house, is when it comes to tossing, "it only hurts for a second."

Outdoorsman, on the other hand, is nostalgic. He keeps things. (But Di, it's The Very First Discman that I ever bought!) It's very sweet, actually, but I think that he needs a Man Cave in the basement instead of random keter drawers filled with things that I have no idea what to do with. The problem with a Man Cave in the basement is that most apartments don't come with basements. Oh well. I think that there is some unwritten law, somewhere, that marriage is composed of two people--one who cannot sleep with the windows shut, and one who cannot sleep with the windows open. Ditto on the keeper/tosser thing, I think.

Except I think that in spirit, he is ready now, too, for a clean new start. Especially after packing 60 boxes in 4 days. Maybe I can sort of pay the mover to drop some strategically placed boxes...

NO. That would be totally wrong.


Edited to Add:

I found the rule! I found the rule! It is not unwritten after all, and is in fact written brilliantly by Ogden Nash. Here 'tis:


How wise I am to have instructed the butler to instruct the
first footman to instruct the second footman to instruct
the doorman to order my carriage;
I am about to volunteer a definition of marriage.
Just as I know that there are two Hagens, Walter and Copen,
I know that marriage is a legal and religious alliance entered
into by a man who can't sleep with the window shut and
a woman who can't sleep with the window open.
Moreover just as I am unsure of the difference between flora
and fauna and flotsam and jetsam
I am quite sure that marriage is the alliance of two people one
of whom never remembers birthdays and the other never
And he refuses to believe there is a leak in the water pipe or
the gas pipe and she is convinced she is about to asphyxiate
or drown,
And she says Quick get up and get my hairbrushes off the
window sill, it's raining in, and he replies Oh they're all
right, it's only raining straight down.
That is why marriage is so much more interesting than divorce,
Because it's the only known example of the happy meeting of
the immovable object and the irresistible force.
So I hope husbands and wives will continue to debate and
combat over everything debatable and combatable,
Because I believe a little incompatibility is the spice of life,
particularly if he has income and she is pattable.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Brave New World

When we first came to look at this apartment, we realized a couple of things about it. One, the rent was really cheep, which was the reason we were looking at the apartment in the first place. Two, it had two bedrooms, one more than what we had until then. And three, that we could make this place into a home with a bit (okay, a lot) of scrubbing and a bunch of love.

So, we did. Scrubbed it and loved in it and hung up a few paintings. It's in a good location, we have good neighbors, a comfy leather couch, and all was well. Until this year, when we realized that we were outgrowing it and needed a third bedroom. We found a new apartment, and even though it was in the middle of our contract, we figured it was a good time of year for moving, and we would have no problem finding someone to take our current apartment off our hands.

That's when we realized, for the first time, the fourth thing about our apartment.

It's gross.

No, really. The walls are peeling and the plumbing is external and the bathtub is gray. The sink backs up and the floors are uneven and the cabinets are crumbling from the inside out.

We know this now from the expressions on the prospective couple's faces when they walk in to view our home.

And honestly, I just don't get it.

Because when we came in 4 years ago, we saw a kitchen to bake and cook in and a dining room to eat in. We saw a place for our washer and dryer, a place for our couch, a place for our beds and a place for our shelves. No we are not blind, and we did notice that it was not renovated and was actually kind of old. But we also saw walls to contain our shabbas meals, walls to contain our spontaneous dancing in the living room, walls to contain our growing family and the laughing and loving and joy.

Where we saw a bathtub and room for a bottle of cherry bubble bath, they only see mold. Where I cooked for endless shabbas guests, they see peeling cabinets and faded countertops. Where Outdoorsman learned and roughhoused with the kids, they see ancient tiles.

It's been a week, and we have not found someone to take over our lease, though a dozen people have trouped through my door, searching.

Searching for what?

Either I need new glasses...or they do.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Back From The Land of Starbucks

Jetlag blurs days together. When did it become thursday? Never mind thursday; when did it become April? 2010? Ya gotta be kidding me. And whose kids are these, anyway? What do they want from me? Why are they up at 4:30 in the morning, and why do they keep calling me Ima?

Anyways. Past the blur. Beyond what I can't see. I have been to America, and sharing one computer with 25 people tends to have a damper on my mad blog-writing skilz. So, here I am, a bunch of weeks later, hoping that the internet will soon once again purr beneath my hands. (Or at least work. Old computer. Bli ayin hara, pitoo pitoo pitoo.)

So, a million things happening. What should I write about? My America trip? A family crisis that is being blamed on me? That we are moving to a new apartment in less than a week, and are just getting boxes today? That my kids are so jetlagged, they have been going to sleep for the night after the sun already lightened the sky?

Oh! I got it. Princess.

Ooooh. Where should I start?

Princess is, well, a princess. Or rather, a queen. She asked me yesterday, while drip-drying in her princess towel, "who is more powerful (!) a queen or a princess?"

"Well," says I, "A princess is the daughter, and a queen is the mother."

"I'm a queen, then," says she with a proud tilt of her royal chin, as she dripped royal bathwater all over the royal ripped leather couch, "and you can be the princess."

The girl is not easy. She is way too smart for her age, and has a real thirst for power as well. She is always the one who initiates the game with her friends, and the weirdest thing is, they follow her. They all do. No matter how independent they are, they all toe the line around Princess. She loves it. She is a good master, too. She compliments her subjects freely, and stratigicaly. She gives them the idea that they have free will even when they don't.

But this aspect of her personality makes it kind of hard for her to bow to my authority. Her techniques don't work on me, though she tries, and that is very frustrating for her. As I posted about earlier, we recently changed our way of dealing with our precocious oldest. (I also set up a lifeguard at the gene pool. Find me the ditzes, I told the lifeguard. Find me the lighthearted laughing ones. One Princess in the family is perfect. Don't be afraid to blow your wistle!)And it was working! She was happy and responsive and all was Coming Up Roses. But then came (drumroll, please?) The Shabbas With Shira.

Shira. My husband's best friend's daughter. Not the scary brightness of Princess, but her taste for power squared. And then multiplied. And then add to all that the fact that her parents give in to her.

She is catty. She is manipulative. She has her parents wrapped around her finger.

For Princess, it was love at first sight.

Since the shabbas that we spent together, almost a month ago, Princess has been trying everything that she saw over the weekend. Everything. And I'm so jetlagged and tired and it's so hard not to yell and scream sometimes when I see all of my hard work spilling down the drain. It was pretty obvious to me where all of the new agression and tantrums were coming from, but it was all clinched yesterday when she was playing with the downstairs neighbors. Princess decided that everyone in her game was to have made-up names.

"Let's have pretend names for this game. I will be (re-use drumroll) Shira."

She'll get over it, right? She'll pull through. It will all be okay. Because what you learn from the home is most important, and the outside world can remain that way s long as I keep trying and keep smiling and keep doing my best to instill positively and warmth and love. Right? Right?

Hold me.


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