Finding myself in the Middle East

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


His teeth were big and white, with spaces in between each one. His hair and beard were trimmed short. His skin was dark and his eyes had smile-lines that extended from behind the sunglasses.

Arab, I thought.

I loaded up the carriage and kids anyway and told him where we needed to go. My husband waved goodbye. "Call me the second you get there," he said.

The driver looked at me in the mirror. "Call him, he is a little afraid maybe of me."

I laughed a little, but clutched the phone.

"What is your name?" He asked Princess.

"Princess," she whispered.

"A beautiful name!" He said. He smiled. It was a very nice smile. "What a lucky girl to have such a beautiful name."

He waved at a police officer and shouted out a greeting in Arabic. The police officer answered in monotone Hebrew. "You see," he said. "He is a Bedouin. They pretend not to speak Arabic." He smiled again.

I shifted the baby, who had fallen asleep, to my other side and nudged Coco-pop, who was falling asleep.

He turned back to Princess. "Do you love Chanuka?" He said.

She nodded.

He smiled.

"Do you have a holiday like that, with lights in the winter?" I asked.

"No," he said. "But we light a fire when it is cold."

"These kind of lights are for the cold you feel inside. In your soul. You know, because of the winter and the dark. The lights make you feel like everything is going to be okay. That in the heart of winter, of sadness, it's already halfway over."

He looked thoughtful. "We light lights on Ramadan. Shaped like a moon, you know, like a banana. It is very pretty."

"It sounds pretty."

"But expensive."


A few minutes of silence. I adjusted Coco-pop's head, which had flopped forward, and put the phone into my pocket.

"Do you dress like that?" He pointed.

I looked, but saw nothing. "Like what?"

"There was a woman, wearing clothes from top to bottom, but so tight it was like she was wearing nothing. It is not right. It is not for a woman's honor, to dress like that."

"I agree. It is not tzniut."

"What is tzniut?" He asked.

"Like...well, like what you said. A woman's honor."

"Ah. Yes."

We arrived. He took the stroller out and gave me change. He smiled at Princess. "Chamuda," he said. He chucked a sleepy Coco-pop under her chin.

I took the stroller from him. "Toda," I said.

"Call your husband!" He said. "He shouldn't worry."

"Toda," I said again.Do you hate me? I didn't say. How can you hate me?

I didn't say it. And then he was gone.

Friday, December 23, 2011

It Could Always Be Worse

Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a kingdom by the sea, except there was no sea because this was really in a tiny shtetl with no sea at all but that's just how these stories start, just ignore the sea part, there was a man who lived in a tiny little house. It was crowded with his family members, so crowded that he felt like he couldn't breathe.

So he goes to the Rabbi and recounts his troubles with much sighing of the sighs and crechtzing of the crechtzs. Farm animals! Says the Rabbi. Many many much of them.Bring them into your house and let them frolic!

Long story short, when he let the animals go, the house felt much bigger. And he was so happy, he felt like he really was living in a kingdom by the sea. The end.

I live in 87 square meters. It is crowded with my progeny and husband who has many much hobbies and also tools for his legitimate jobs. Also, the bird.

My two little sisters (and their two suprise friends! Surprise!) Will be here for two and a half weeks.

They are cute and I'm so glad that they are here!

I cleared off some shelves for them to put their stuff on. The shelves used to be filled with Princess' and Coco-pop's clothes. I put their clothes on the bookshelves and the books on the toy shelves and the toys in the fridge and the food--well, everyone ate it. So now I have to go make more food.If I can just squish past all the people in here to get to the stove.


I feel like it is a much less barnyard-y solution to my problem. Come the middle of January, and my house will be so big, I will be fishing at my kingdom's sea.

Monday, December 19, 2011


I put the baby in for the night (well, one can always hope) and then served the girls dinner. I then ran to the computer to squeeze in a few minutes of writing.

"Ima sit with us," said Princess.

"How do you ask for something?" The question rises automatically. I didn't even hear what she said. 'Slither' is a better word than 'slide,' I thought. I changed the word. Then I changed it back. Hmmm.

"Ima, can you please sit with us?"

"Much better," I said. Slither. Slide. I stare at the sentence.

", can you now?"

"Now what?" I look up at them, sitting by the table. They are both holding their forks. It is a dinner that they both like. Did they want something else? "Do you want ketchup with that?"

"No!" Princess said. "SIT with us."

"How do you ask?" says I.

Really? said Princess' eyebrows.

Did I already say that? "I'm coming!" I said. I came. I sat down. I wiggled a bit. "Eat your dinner, girls," I said. Slither...?

"Ima, can you feed me?" said Coco-pop.

"Three bites, and then you eat the rest yourself, okay?" Slide.

"Also me," said Princess.

I nod. They're both good words. I think I can use both if I--oh, perfect! "One second, okay?" I bolt over to the computer and quickly type in the sentence. "The smile slithered off of his face like raw egg sliding down the wall."


I hurried over and sat. I faced my girls and fed them each three bites and thought about the sentence. Was it too fun? Was it kind of gross? Was it gross but also funny? Does the grossness cancel out the funny? I wanted to run back to the computer and look at it, in black and white. Coco-pop wiggled her nose at me. I wiggled mine back. We both laughed. I fed her one more bite and pinched her nose lightly. Then I pinched Princess'. She made an I am too big for this face but her dimple peeked out.

"Ima, you know that today when I was walking to school I fell on my knee and I cried because I had blood and then I walked to school like this--" she slid off of her chair and demonstrated a hobble--"and then I got there and showed it to my morah and she said she gave me a band-aid."

Princess cries when she hurts her finger and there is not a mark. She asks for band-aids anyway, saying, "Any MINUTE now it's going to bleed, I know it!" I could not picture her walking to school with torn tights and a bloody knee.

"You were walking with M?"

"No, because she walked ahead."

"You were walking by yourself?"


I blinked at her, this big girl of mine. "And you just walked to school?"

"Yes because then I would be late if I just stayed and cried and cried!"

Big girl. Great big girl, walking to school by herself ignoring her fears and pain because she would be late.

Blink and you miss it. There they are, eating dinner, and here I am, at the table with them. The story is not yet done, the laundry not yet folded, but we are sitting in the middle of all of that, a moment in time that I can see and be a part of as long as I keep my eyes open.

(She threw a fit five minutes later about a cuticle, my big little girl. But you have to watch all of the minutes for the kind of moments that make you realize why.)

Wishing You were Somehow Here Again

I have been busy lately. Productive busy. The kind of busy that when you fall asleep, sometimes you're still dressed. Good busy. But very busy.

I went to Coco-pop's Chanuka Mesiba today. She glowed, singing the songs. My camera only shows glimpses of her; the Very Animated girl to her left enthusiastically blocked her with every shake of her candle pom-pom and her menorah cymbal, but they were very sweet glimpses.

I am not a huge fan of the productions they do in this country. They are flashy and fancy and the music they play for the girls to sing along with has a singer that completely drown them out. As I have mentioned before, I think it is a very group-think oriented exersise and goes against my American grain. I try very hard to see the positive in it, but here was positive; Coco-pop's smile and the little line betwen her eyebrows as she concentrated on remembering all of the words to the songs.

I sit in the little tiny chair, filming my girl (and her animated bench-mate) for five minutes before the battery runs out on the camera. Oops. The rest of the time I sit and watch. She is so cute. Then the mesaba winds to a close. Not! The mesaba launches into another song. It is long, the animated girl is blocking Coco-pop again, and I sit on the tiny chair holding a dead camera doing nothing for the first time in a while. And I'm thinking, Abba, Abba, I miss you so much Abba. I am suddenly aware that tears are rolling down my cheeks. Mortified, I wipe my face. They keep coming.

I think of Coco-pop, how sensitive she is to my moods and how excited she was about this day. I do not want to ruin it for her. But I can't stop myself.

Someone leans over and asks me a question. I smile and answer and do my best to get into a conversation with her in my sin-against-humanity awful Hebrew. I distract myself seaching for a word and the tears stop.

I keep busy. So busy. Because underneath the busy all I am thinking is,Abba, Abba, I miss you so much Abba.

Coco-pop wants to know what Sabba is doing in shamayim.

He is walking and talking up there. He is basking in the light of the shechina, I tell her, I tell myself. He is free. He is at peace.

I know that.

I'm not sad for him.

I'm sad for me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's All Good

Remember when I indicated that it can be hard to find something to be grateful for when life gangs up on you?

I am ashamed. I am ashamed in the face of my father.

My sister, M, had a final to study for. So naturally, she cleaned her room and baked a cake, made a slide show that she had promised a friend she would make but had been pushing off, and polished her shoes. Then she poured herself a big cup of coffee and decided to go through all of the old files on the family computer. It seemed timely.

She found a folder labeled "My Thoughts." It had last been updated in 2002. She opened it.

And this is some of what she found.

I want to thank HaShem for all the good that he has given me.


I want to thank HaShem for giving me this house, next door to a shul and a yeshiva, a with a ramp.

A rich man is one who is happy with his lot.

Looking for the Chesed in the “Ra”…if I wouldn’t be in my wheelchair, I wouldn’t learn my Mishnayos.

I keep saying to myself that “Mitzvah Gedolah Lehios B’simcha Tamid” (to rejoice always is very meritorious).

Everything is for the best.

I want to quote Christopher Reeves, “I am not my body, I am not my body.”

I’d like to thank HaShem for (my wife) and for my 10 healthy kids.

In 2002 my father was nearly blind. He was able to sit for a few hours a day in his wheelchair. He was able to support on hand with the other and type painfully and slowly with one finger.

And this is what he did with that one, nearly numb finger. He thought and typed out ways in which he could be grateful to Hashem for the illness that was robbing him of everything.

After 2002, my father could no longer sit in the wheel chair or move even one finger. But a friend of his just told us that once a week my father, bedridden and hooked up to feeding tubes and colostomy bags, would tell him what he was grateful for that week. He could barely talk, but he would breathe out words filled with happiness at his lot in life.

He had all the words even though he could not talk.

I, who can talk, am speechless.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I, Ima

Turtle can walk now.

Horray for Turtle!

Turtle can now climb onto the couch.

He can open the toddler-proof containers. He broke the child-locks on my cabinets. He adores cleaning the toilet with the toilet brush and his head. He goes on his tippy-toes to empty the silverware onto the floor and he broke all of my favorite mugs.

He smiles and snuggles and then pulls all of the wires out of their sockets. He broke my cellphone and got stuck under the bunkbed. He tries to climb up the ladder to the top bunk. He climbs into the bathtub and turns on the water.

I have never sent a child to gan until they were three years old. I have always worked around this, around having them home. I have catered from home, babysat, directed plays with an infant on my lap, tutored with the baby between my knees, Typed stories with one finger while feeding a toddler with the other hand.

Outdoorsman watched Turtle for two hours on Shabbas while I napped. I slept so soundly, I did not hear the noise that a toddler makes when he pulls the sandwhich maker out of the cabinet and pulls the milk pitcher off the counter.

I woke up and stumbled into the living room. "Thanks so much. That was great," I said to my beloved helpmeet.

My beloved helpmeet met my eyes. "Send him to gan," he uttered.

"There is no gan on shabbas," I laughed. Silly husbands.

"No, really. How do you do this every day? No wonder you're all frazzled lately."

I bristled. I am not all frazzled lately. "I am not all frazzled lately," I countered. I am totally all frazzled lately.

"Seriously, D. You should send him out. A few times a week. He'll love it, you know he will."

And you know what the problem is? He will. He will love it. He loves other babies. He is just so bored at home with me, and I can't take him out because he keeps getting colds and it's freezing out now, so I try to play with him but he needs more than that. He needs friends.

It's another expense, though. It's a lot of money. I was happy calculating how much money I was saving by having him home and counting it as money that I was earning by not spending it. If that makes sense. I do the same for my lack of cleaning help, and low-cost dinners. I'm proud of being a low maintanance wife. But how can I know which corners I'm not supposed to cut?

Well, let's look at this logically.

He would love it. And he would.

We'd find the money. Outdoorsman said it's feasable.

What else is left, that I'm still fighting this?

Me. I'm left.

I keep my kids home until they're three.




It makes me cry to think that no matter how altruistic I think I'm being, everything boils down to this.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Elokai Nishama

I am just getting over a stomach bug that left me with this feeling of never wanting to put anything unantural in my body again.

It was just a bug, I think, it wasn't actually something I ate, but I feel oddly cleansed, and anything processed makes my stomach lurch.

It's funny. I think we actually always know what our body wants. That line that goes 'inside every fat girl is a skinny girl screaming to get out, but I can usually shut her up with some cookies' has some truth it it. It's not about being skinny though; it's about not treating our bodies like garbage cans. Eating right, I think, can be simple if we would just learn to listen to what our bodies are saying.

I remember my birthing class teacher saying something to this effect, her beaded necklaces jangling against each other as she leaned forward to emphasise the point. "Listen to your bodies, girls."

It was hot. We were sweaty. We were pregnant.

And because I am really 14 years old, I said, "My body says...iiiiice cream."

She laughed. In a very polite way, I think.

Point is (and I did have a point, believe it our not)that when you throw awesome tasting junk at a person like the 20th and 21st centuries have done to us (devil dogs. I cannot be alone in this.)the real signals grow weak. Like a flashlight with a dying battery in a dark forest.

But we can scrape it all away and feel the truth, because that's just how awesome we are.

I had a teacher many a moon ago who was going on and on about how awful my generation is. On and on, and we were sitting there, taking it, taking notes!

I stood up. I should not have. I was not her favorite. "We rock," I said. "We have so much garbage to deal with and we are still frum, still keeping the faith! That means we are awesome! We have to fight through so much sheker to hear the truth, and we still hear it."

The class clapped.

I might have gone on from there to blame her generation for raising us poorly because once my mouth is in motion, it takes a lever the size that can move a planet to stop it from doing that. But moving past that.

We can move past it.

Because we start off so pure.

Coco-pop said to me as we were walking to gan, "In M's house, they played not Jewish music."

This didn't sound right to me. I strained my morning brain to remember. M's house. We were there yesterday. They were playing something, like one of those annoying Jewish boys bands. "It was Jewish, Coco-pop," I said.

She shook her head. "It was NOT."

And I don't know what defines "Jewish" music (I just know that I only like a very narrow section of it) but to Coco-pop's innocent ears, that wasn't it. And I would have to agree.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't just play D'vekus 'round here. Outdoorsman and I have pretty interesting and varied tastes in music. I think we listen to good music. I think that good music is important.

But we start off pure, and we can feel when things are off.

I asked Rebbetzin Heller once what she thought about a specific tznius book the color and size of Barney the Purple Dinosaur. She said, "Why do you need 800 pages to tell you to cover your knees and elbows?"

It's buried under an avalanche of pages of Cosmo and Vogue. And maybe even under rules and measuring tapes brought out by well-meaning teachers. But I think that underneath, a light glows. We just have to dig deep down. We know what real tnuius is, each of us, inside.

We know what truth is. Hashem planted it in us from when we were young and pure.

And every morning that pure soul is returned to each of us.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Time in Your Flight

Once there were four families who lived in one neighborhood. They were all good friends. They went to each other's houses for Shabbas meals, the kids had playdates together, the fathers would have boys night and smoke some cigars and the mothers would get together for coffee.

All was peachy and dandy and other words from the 50's indicating contentment.

In the back of one of the mother's minds there was a shoe. And she was waiting for it to drop.

(Because it always does, she thought.)


One of the families decide to move away.


One of the families is talking about how they, too, do not belong here, maybe not in this country.


One of the families is talking about something--terrible. So terrible.

You know how in novels there is the steady character, the static one, the straight man, who serves as our eyes in a changing world? That is the fourth couple, the last man standing. That would be us, the mutual friends to the rest of the families.

I am totally borrowing trouble.

(which I shouldn't because sometimes shoes hover in the air.)

(no they don't. Shoes don't hang in the air; that's ridiculous.)

(and anyway, you can't depend too much on friends. Because they're not family. Or their shoes. Because they're shoes.)

(I am having an arguement with myself in parenthesis.)

(I'll stop now.)

No one has moved yet. No one has signed any papers yet. No one has left the country yet. But I feel like the woman in the poem who dreams of turning back time, and of her her mother rocking to sleep again.

I just want things to stay the way they are.

Remember when we actually wanted to grow up?

Somebody hold me.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

With the Moon on their Wing

"Ima, sing a new song that we never ever never heard before," said Princess.

"Ever never," added Coco-pop.

I scoured my mind. My head is full of countless musicals, and my kids have never seen a movie or show. They think that I make them up. Ima is Magic.I don't discourage this.

"Raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens," I started."Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things."

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad!

They loved it. They made me sing it over and over with all the stanzas until they knew all the words, too. I thought it was time for A Lesson For Life.

"You can sing this song when you're feeling sad! Or you can just close your eyes and think of all the things that you love, all the things that make you feel happy and safe. All the things that you are grateful for."

Princess had a dentist appointment the next day. I thought it was hashgacha pratis.

The next day in the dentist chair, her eyes were bugging out of her head and full of unshed tears. I held her hand gently and started singing, "Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudles, doorbells--"

She shot up, pushed the dentist's hands out of her mouth. The tears spilled down her cheeks. "Don't sing that!" she yelled. "Don't sing that song!"

Every friday night when I light the candles I thank Hashem for my family and children and husband and friends, and then I think of something new to be thankful for. I think of something every week, but in order to be sincere I need to be calm and comfortable. When it was a hard week, a hard day, or even, honesty forces me to admit, a hard last five minutes (think: the baby pulled the tablecloth off and he hasn't quite mastered the technique of leaving the dishes on when he does that) that put me into a bad mood, it's hard to find something new to feel grateful for.

We made a thanksgiving dinner on friday night and invited a bunch of friends. Jut for fun, really; we are stricter about Thanksgiving in Israel that we ever were in America. I looked around the table and thought about what a hard year it's been so far. And also what a wonderful year, and when things were hard, how my friends pitched in and helped. I felt an unexpected wave of happiness right there over my turkey and green beans. This is It. Knowing that there is bad and there is good and usually both at the same time. And knowing that there are people who love you who will help you through the bad and eat turkey with you through the good.

It wasn't until the next day that I realized I'd forgotten to serve the cranberry sauce.

"The cranberry sauce!" I wailed to Outdoorsman. "How could I have forgotten to serve that?! It's one of my favorite things with turkey!"

Coco-pop's ears perked up at the phrase My Favorite Things. "You love it like you love girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes?"

Princess said, "And snowflakes that stay on my nose and eylashes?"

"Hey," I said, because I am petty, "when you were at the dentist--"

But they were already twirling around the living room. "silver-white winters that melt into spring, these are a few of my favorite things!"

So much just in this room. And it's not old, to thank Hashem every week--every day, every moment--for my tempestuous dancing butterflies--because every second, they are renewed. Every second, they are made over fresh again for me.

I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don't feel so bad.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Don't Worry 'bout a Thing

When I freelance,after I send an article or story in, I sit on the computer. I leave my e-mail open, and will it to show new mail. I peek at it all day long and then pretend that I did no such thing. When I make the baby' bottle at 2:45 in the morning I tiptoe, bleary-eyed and without my glasses to the computer to see if the editor wrote back. I sit on that story or article with a gun to its head. "Accept my story! Or this article gets it!"

I cannot leave good enough alone. Living with a variable is hard.

So multiply that a multiple amount of time, this inability to live with an unknown. Say your landlord--completely hypothetically of course!--tells you one day that he's selling, the next day maybe not, the third day selling and also but maybe not selling...yeah, I have no hair left in my scalp.

I have often thought of how wonderful it was that kids' skin and bones heal so quickly. How quickly they bounce back from a fall! But also, this afternoon, Coco-pop was playing with a friend in her room. This involved piling every toy we own onto her bed and making a three foot high Ima-Will-Cry-When-She-Sees-This. ANYWAY, they were busy turning my hair grey (I guess I do have a few strands left just for that purpose) and I escaped to the bathroom to resist the urge to straighten as they sit there playing. Because yes, I am that crazy. Also, I had to go to the bathroom. Turtle had been smearing eating a peanut butter cracker sandwhich, but in my momentary absence galloped at full crawl into Coco-pop's room.

"Ima!" She shrieked.

"Yeah?" I called from the bathroom.

"He's ruining everything!"

I sighed. "Coco-pop, I'm in the bathroom."

"But Ima!"

I waited a beat. I hate this, I always have to rush out of the bath--

"Okay!" I heard Coco-pop's sweet little voice. "So it's his birthday and so the tower is a cake and he can eat the whole thing!"

The variable, effortlessly incorporated into her reality.

I have so much to learn from my 4 year-old.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Turtle for a Day

(1) We can start with the footsie pajamas that I keep him in all day because the floor is so cold. Footsie pajamas. They are soft and warm. With footsies.

(2) He wakes up in the morning and is greeted as if he has been gone for years. He curls up on my lap and drinks warm milk. In footsie pajamas.

(3) The whole world is new. It's crazy exciting. Look! Blocks!So exciting--check these things out!

(4) Especially the new walking trick. Everytime, everyone flips out. Everytime! King of this town, baby!

(5) When he's tired, he sleeps. Oooooh. Sleeeeep. I could use me some of that.

(6) The world loves you just for being. You can drool, you can pull your sister's hair, you can steal the food right out of your mother's hand, and everyone turns dreamy puppy-dog eyes on you and lets you wipe random Turtle-gook all over their shoulders. And you get carried. Everywhere.

Oh, Turtle. I love you, my baby. And I would love to be you. Just for one day.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Excuses, excuses

Oh, this was impossible. It's three hours to shabbas. "Coco-pop, you need to move over. I can't reach the cabinet."

"But I'm making challa! Can I have sprinkles?"

"Challa doesn't--yes, here. Sprinkles. Just move over!"

"I'm gonna take it to my room." She takes her dough, her sprinkles, her cookie shapers, and her cup of flour and gets out of my hair.

It's just because my kitchen is so tiny, wherever they stand they are blocking something. It's a tiny kitchen, that's all. It's a coffin shaped, coffin sized, teeny little old crumbly kitchen, I think to myself as my relief mixes with guilt.

Today I woke up sad. It's my grandmother's unveiling today and of course I'm missing it. My editor didn't get back to me about a story, and it's always hard to start a new one when I don't know the fate of the last one. I miss my father like missing is a physical thing, and the kids room was an unbelievable wreck--and it's so hard for me to clean when we might be moving. It's silly, but it's something that's hard for me. Like I'm cleaning something that is already not mine.

Oh,and did I mention that the kids have all been waking up up a quarter to six in G-d's holy and freezing morning?

Yeah? Bears repeating, anyway.

And the dryer broke this morning, too.

Point is, I had a cupful, roomful, a coffin sized, coffin shaped kitchen roomful of excuses for why my daughters were sent to school today by a bleary-eyed mommy with no patience.

Did I do my best with the tools that I had at that point in time? Maybe.

But part of me knows that there will always be something. A small kitchen should not keep me from making challa with my daughter. A sad morning should not stop me from taking a deep breath, counting to ten and doing it right.

There will always be a way to excuse myself and take a backseat intead of grabbing the wheel.

Life is happening right now. And I need to be here to live it because it's short. Too short to waste on excuses.

I got an early start on lunch this morning. I poured the pasta into the collander in the sink, and a cloud of steam rose up and steamed my glasses. It all vanished; the sink, the pasta,my hands, the counter, my kitchen. Gone in one second, my tiny kitchen, my world.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Let The Music Heal Your Soul

I am sitting here instead of getting a move on--it's Friday, and the challa is not made yet--because at 8:10 in the morning, I am on my second coffee break. I was always a big coffee drinker, and even the word coffee can make me grow misty-eyed and start spouting bad poetry, but this is ridiculous.

Last night, deep into chicken soup and carrot muffin making, I thought, I'm tired. I need a pick-me-up. And I poured myself a cup of coffee (coffee...can't you hear it? It's pure poetry.) that must have brought my total for the day to around 6 cups. Not to mention the endless teas. And it hit me that what I'd normally be doing is cranking up the music.

I have not listened to music since my father died, and I am only now realizing its place in my life. I used music all the time. I used it like band-aids, when the kids were cranky. I'll turn on something with beat, and we would dance and soon everyone would be laughing. It was a cure-all.

I'd turn it up when I was low energy and still had a lot to do. Fast music, loud music, something I could sing to while dancing around my kitchen with my wooden spoon mike.

I'd listen to classical music by the kids' bedtime. It works like a charm. They calm down, snuggle. I would also listen to soft music when writing or doing something else creative. It stirred up all that creativity. It's wonderful.

We used to dance, my father and I and all of my siblings, to the most teeth-rattlingly loud music every motzai shabbas. We would dance for what felt like hours.

I've been replacing music with coffee, and it's a poor replacement.

Music. I sing all day(until my long-suffering kids crawl under the couch to get away from it) but it's not the same as music. Except sometimes. Like when my father died.

We sang to him for days, as he lay dying. We sang to him as his heart stopped, we sang as his soul left his body. We sang as he was finally free, as we lost him forever.

My mother told me that someone who works in the ward next to where my father died said they are still talking about us, about the family that sang to their father. She said that all the nurses and aids and even doctors would find excuses to wander into his room and stay for a while, listening to the music we made, the songs that we did not write but came from our hearts and souls. We did not notice them. We were singing.

It's hard, not listening to music. I remember an all-star single that I used to listen to in high school called "Let the music heal your soul." I guess I'm not supposed to let it heal yet. Even music that makes you cry is healing, and I guess all of the raw pain that I feel about my father is how I am supposed to feel. I am not allowed to soothe it yet.

It is so interesting, this year, learning to embrace feelings that we usually do anything to get away from. I feel like crying, and I drop everything and let the tears flow. I ride the wave. This is life, I guess, getting used to death.

But for now, I got me my little music. Coffee. Cofffeeeee. Caffiene and song all in one.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Baby, you make me Crazy

Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a house filled with knee-high crazy people.

My sister is doing internship right now in Belview. I spoke to her the other day. "D, you would not believe the people that are here."

"Why, because they're crazy?" I asked as I grabbed a pair of scissors out of Turtle's hands before he inserted the pointy end in his ear.

"No, because they seem so normal. You talk to them, and they are all regular, good, and then suddenly they are all like, yesterday I spoke to George Washington."

"That's crazy," I said. "Princess, stop hitting your sister! WE DO NOT--"

"But she does't want to play with me!"

"She doesn't have to play--"

"Yes, she does, because I'm the queen!"

"M, can you hold on for a minute?" I said. I kissed a howling Coco-pop, informed Princess that she was not going to be queen ever ever again if she hit her sister again, pulled Turtle out of the toilet, and picked up the phone. "You were saying?"

"That it's frightening how quickly they go from regular, normal, then suddenly out comes the crazy."

Yeah, I hear that.

Knee-high crazy people in my house. The answer to "come for dinner girls!" Can sometimes be responded to with "coming Ima!" and then "I'm starving!" And then, you know, them eating it, or alternatively, with "soon!" and then with, "I hate that," and then with them not eating it and waking up at two in the morning crying for dinner.

We have princesses and kallahs, we have queens and an obsession for the two of them dressing their little brother up as a girl and calling him Sarah.

Little tiny lunatics.

And the baby. Are they born with absolutely no sense of self-preservation at all? First they smile and worm their way into your hearts. Then starts the fun. The toilet is for diving into, the door is to slam fingers on, the steps are for hurling yourself down face-first. And the garbage. Turtle will not eat tuna, but the can? Delectable. The sharper the top the better.

No, you cannot punch your sister. No, you do not need a warning. No sweetie, Hashem will not cut a hole is the sky, so you do not have to worry about neshamos raining down. Yes, sweet girl, I love you up to the sky and back. But no, we cannot fly there even if we flap our arms very very fast. No, not even if we flap them that fast. No, the table does not look better with blue painted spots all over it. GET THE WIPES! Why are you crying? I should be--- made it for me?

Crazy babies.

I sometimes feel like Big Nurse, except my little inmates are so cute, we think their behavior is normal. I am here to tell you that it is not. Because that level of cute is not normal.

It's crazy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Temper, Temper

I turned my back for a minute, I swear. But that's what they all say, right?

"Shel me ha'yeled hazeh?"

I ignored the voice in the hallway. My yeled was right--


I found myself in the hallway, hand over my heart. I live on a fourth floor, and by the steps there is a space--

--you know what, I can't even think about it.

"He's mine! Sheli!" I shouted to my neighbor, and that's when I realized that he was on the roof.

"Who left the door open! Who did it!" I shouted at my daughters drive-by style as I ran to claim Turtle. I shot a relieved smile at my neighbor. He did not return the smile.

"Zeh mamash sackana!" He scowled. It's very dangerous!

Are you kidding me? I felt the smile freeze on my lips. "Ken, ani yodaea." Yes, I know. Do you not see me freaking out? Did you think I left the door open on purpose? He is so fast. I took my eyes off of him for a second.

"Don't leave the door open!" He continued.

And I'm sorry to say that it was not self-control or good manners that kept me from saying what exploded in my head at that moment. It was simply my eye-wateringly awful Hebrew.

Because this man leaves his children waiting at their door sometimes for close to an hour after they come home from school. He is still in Yeshiva, and I pass by these kids hunched on the steps and I sometimes invite them up and sometimes tsk tsk. (And usually also in this mixture is a great deal of annoyed, because they block the steps and I have to wait for them to move and Turtle weighs roughly a gazillion pounds.)

And once when he went out he locked the kids into the house (!!!) and forgot one of them, a three year-old boy (!!!!!!) who wandered around the hallway (I sent Princess out to get him but he didn't want to come) until the locked kids inside found a key and let him in.

So back to me on the roof and all these words locked behind a wall of broken-teethed Hebrew. I let out a strangled "Todah," and went home.

I was still spewing internal venom as I sat down to help Princess wih her never-ending homework. And there was so much that I could be self-righteous about, but three cups of tea later, I realized some unpleasant things about myself.

I consider myself a non-judgemental person. But apparently, this only holds true when there is nothing to judge.

When there is, I do, and nothing except for a bad command of the language kept me from verbalizing my judgements.

And how about my temper? Am I so unsure of my parenting that one parent, whose methods I heartily dissaprove of, can ruin my afternoon with my children? Apparently, I am. Apparently, it can. Apparently, it does.

It is sobering. I'm a little ashamed. And maybe glad for the first time that I still have not gotten around to taking an Ulpan.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Holy Carboard Boxes, Batman!

Okay, so two men walked into a bar. You'd think one of them would have seen it.


Why did the woman cross the road? Who cares? Why is she out of the kitchen?


I'm moving again.


No, really.

Yeah, not so much funny.

We just moved. And we just moved before that.

This will be our fifth apartment just in this neighbohood. Maybe we are really gypies or something, and it's our fate to wander. Maybe I should get those awesome hoop earings and full colorful skirts. I already have scarves. And tamborines! I can play and sing for money!

Or just get boxes. To pack my stuff in. Again.

There's a lesson here, I know. About the transience of life and how this world is not real. I should write it up and tie it all in beautifully. But I am too grumpy because I have to MOVE, you see.

Blaugh. Argh. And other expressions of disgust usually only found in comic books.

What did the landlord say to the tennant? I'm selling the apartment and you have to leave!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

To Have Loved and Lost

You know when you're venting to a friend and she goes, "yeah, yeah, that's horrible. It's like what happened to me that other day," and suddenly you're no longer talking about you but it became about her?

So yeah, apparently I'm that friend. These days, it's all about me.

A huge talmid chacham and tzadik died suddenly, and the frum world is in shock. R' Nosson Tzi Finkel changed the face of the Mir and meant so much to so many people. He was a regular kid from Chicago who made decisions in his life that led him to become the Rosh Yeshiva of the largest yeshiva in the world. Illness did not stop him from becoming the man he was.

But when I see people write things on facebook like "We've lost a father," I get bitter. I think, no you didn't. You don't even know what that is. This is confirmed five minutes later when the same person comments on someone's status about shoes using the word OMG.

I know that it hits too close to home and I'm so sensitive now; I made a scene at the dry cleaners when the owner, trying to be a good business man and pretend that he knows me said to me, "Oh, I think your father's in town, right?"--and I promptly burst into tears, much to his horror.

When people--friends!--casually say things like "Oh I heard a great song--but I guess you can't hear it now, right?" Or, at the levaya of R' Nosson Tzvi Finkel, "Yeah, your father also suffered a lot, right?" --I cry, I cry, I'm crying right now.

I know it's raw and it still hurts so much. But I wish that I didn't always make it about me. I wish my skin was thicker, my heart quicker to judge for the positive, my mind able to excuse them. They just don't know. Thank G-d they don't know.

Thank G-d they don't know.

May we know no more pain.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hope and Change

Sometimes you realize that you had it all on backwards. Sometimes that realization puts you into spasms of humiliation, and other times it just all clicks into place. You get the "aha!" kind of feeling.

Guilt. It's a longstanding Jewish tradition. We are overachievers. We expect perfection from ourselves. I would not have a perfect mothering morning, say, and waving them off I would feel a why? I would feel her morning could have been so different if I would have only... I would feel, guilty, guilty, guilty. Who told you that you should have kids, anyway?

I always know that its counterproductive kind of thinking because my drive would be gone and I would soothe my self-wounded ego in ways that had nothing to do with what I should be doing that morning, ie, things that were productive and would build up my fragile ego again. I would wallow. I would feed the negative thoughts and then think, see? I'm not cut out for this.

I heard a speaker last night. She is not a "real" speaker, but she is a real person. She spoke about simcha, happiness, and she said that one thing that she can share about herself with regards to this topic is the fact that she never beats herself up over mistakes.

"Say what," says I.

"Like, I would say to myself, 'I did the best that I could at the moment with the tools that I had.' And move on!"

I smelled a rat. "But," I said, "Sometimes you KNOW that you did NOT do the best that you could. Sometimes you're lets say cleaning the counter and your daughter walks in and has a meltdown about something and you know you should put down the shmata and go to her, touch her, not do what you do which is continue to clean and say to her without eye-contact, 'oh hon what's wrong?'"

"You didn't have the tools at the moment to listen to that internal nagging voice. You didn't--"

"I DID. I could have PUT DOWN THE CLOTH. You simpy open your hand, and--"

"In retrosepct, yes. Right then, for whatever reason, no."

"But I could have. I knew that I should."

"So now you have a tool that you didn't have last time. You know better. You will do better."

And that was when I knew that I used guilt instead of change. If I felt bad about it, it meant that i wasn't really that bad, right? I mean, a bad mother wouldn't FEEL bad for yelling. I do, so I'm not bad.

But it was all backwards, and I guess I really knew that. Guilt is so draining. It's like spinning your wheels in mud. If I could just let it go, let it ride, then I could actually get somewhere.

My friend told me that she yelled at her daughter in the morning to get up get up GET UP, and felt horrible as she waved her off. When her daughter got home from school she apologized and then said cheerfully, "But the good news is that I yelled so much this morning that I took care of all the yelling for a year!"

There's this acting game that we play in which you pretend to be two different characters. A third person says "Change!" and the character has to switch that last sentence to something completely different.

To change, without the guilt. To allow yourself the space to acquire the tools that you need so that you react the way you want to in the moment.

It's like realizing I've been tying my shoes wrong for years and the real way is easier but my fingers keep tying them the old way, the comfortable way. I need to focus and make the new into the comfortable. "Change!"

Monday, October 31, 2011

Every Day

I clean and cook and
and you, baby boy at my side
destroy faster than I can put together.
It's hard, sometimes, to wash dishes and them put them on the table
and put them back in the sink
you walk, my daughters, in sticky shoes across the floor
still damp from sponga and turn up your noses
at my attempts at dinner.

And I think, I can't.
And I think, it's too much.

And also it's cold and also we're broke and also and also and also


You think that will make it all better?
I love you too, baby boy
Little girl
Big girl

But there never was a but, you know.

The second you smiled

and asked me what clouds smell like

and arms flying, told me that story about Rav Shach

you, you three
you sticky picky three

take my protests

and breath


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Today and Today and Today.

(Still have not quite fixed the comment problems--if I have not commented back to you on a comment or on your own blog, that is why! Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Will have it fixed soon, hopefully.)

Everyone has their own personal goals and their own way of getting there. Mine is heavily wrapped up with my parenting and my writing and has to do with my tendancy to dream of the future and dwell in the past at the expense of the present. It is beautiful, the way that I can see so clearly how both pursuits of mine can help me to overcome that basic character trait of mine. My life was tailor made for me to improve.

It's something that I struggle with on a minute by minute basis. Then I recently read such a sobering, chilling, terrifying article that put it all into percpective in such a beautiful and horrible way. What if the future was out of bounds, and the present was all that you had?

How would you parent--or live--if there will be no tomorrow?

Tay Sachs Turns Mom Into Parent We All Should Be
Posted by Julie Ryan Evans

For all the parenting challenges we face in our hectic day-to-day lives, few, if any, compare to those that Emily Rapp, a self-professed Dragon Mom, encounters every day. Her son Ronan, now 18 months old, was born with Tay-Sachs, a rare genetic disorder that is ultimately fatal. From the time he was born, she knew he would likely die before his third birthday in a slow and painful process. But despite her heartbreaking situation, she parents like we all should.

In a beautiful and heart-wrenching column in The New York Times yesterday, she explained how knowing that she only has such a short time to raise her son has turned her into this different breed of parent. It's a breed made up of those with terminally ill children that no one would choose to join, but from whom we can all learn.

We are dragon parents: fierce and loyal and loving as hell. Our experiences have taught us how to parent for the here and now, for the sake of parenting, for the humanity implicit in the act itself, though this runs counter to traditional wisdom and advice.

Unlike Tiger Mom and all the hordes of us out there planning for and trying to prepare our children for successful futures and big accomplishments through every move they make, dragon moms just love and live in the minute. She says no longer do worries about things like future SAT scores or development milestones take up time and energy. "Ronan has given us a terrible freedom from expectations, a magical world where there are no goals, no prizes to win, no outcomes to monitor, discuss, compare."

How freeing would that be?

And really none of us has any guarantee that our children will be here tomorrow. Any day we could lose them to a horrifying accident or get a terminal diagnosis. We can't dwell on the what ifs and live in fear of such things, but we need to remember them more often when it comes to how far and fast we push our kids. Maybe that means letting them eat a little bit more candy and maybe it means not pressuring them to do so well in school. Maybe it just means putting it all into perspective and reminding ourselves more often that none of it really matters when it comes down to it -- that loving them and soaking up the best of every minute we have with them is what it's all about. As Rapp says in her final paragraph:

I can see my reflection in his greenish-gold eyes. I am a reflection of him and not the other way around, and this is, I believe, as it should be ... Parenting, I’ve come to understand, is about loving my child today. Now. In fact, for any parent, anywhere, that’s all there is.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Man and Superman

(a letter that I am thinking about sending to my mother and siblings)

Dear Everyone,

This morning, the day after Abba's sloshim, I didn't feel so great. But I'm getting over the flu, so that makes sense. Then I got annoyed when the baby woke up too early, but that also makes sense because once he's up, cute as he is and as much as I love playing with him, my morning is gone and I will have to write at night, which is not as easy for me. Also cleaning becomes a matching of wits and speeds. Sweeping, for example, involves me starring in the running-sweep, and him in the crawling-after at my heels...thing. (Whatevers, not so good with the made-up titles.) I sweep the pile at a furious pace, an inch away from his chubby little grasping fingers. Good for cardio, probably.

Then I got annoyed at Outdoorsman for something silly. Then, I started folding little underwear into a neat pile. Then I stopped and started crying because I didn't want to fold little underwear into a neat pile. It was the kind of crying that is real and loud and ugly. The kind that makes you need to blow your nose, not just wipe it daintily, and makes your face all blotchy.

I was holding the little tiny pairs of My Little Pony underwear and crying because I missed my Abba so much. I was crying because all I have now are stories, and stories are so nice but they end and I didn't want him to end, I wanted to write him letters again and be worried about him and jump when the phone rang.

Then while I'm wanting, I want him the way my overused rerun little memories remember him--big and strong and quirky.

It was this last word that made me realize what was really bothering me. My Abba, like every other human being on this planet, had his own unique quirks and likes and dislikes. In the stories, he just sounds like a tzaddik.

Don't missunderstand! I KNOW he was a tzaddik. I witnessed it, and so did many of you and so many of our dear friends. And it's important that his memory inspire us just as he did when he was still with us.

But I don't LOVE tzaddikim. I don't MISS tzaddikim. I miss people, quirky unique people.

When I think of Bubby, I know she lived for her family. But what makes me smile is when I think of how she ran to put on her shaitel before we took a picture. I know Sabba changed his world for the better, and I think often about his contributions to the klal. But I feel a pang in my heart when I remember his complete lack of tune when he would sing (using the word lightly) aishes chayil on friday night. Zeidy, who would sit with the women in his bulgalow colony and do needlepoint makes me misty-eyed, even though I also call to mind a man who became frum again years after the war destroyed his faith.

So. I am thinking about this book we want to write about Abba. And I am hoping that with all of the amazing stories that are sure to flow and SHOULD flow--we can also include some of THAT. Something human, something precious. Something unique. Something quirky. I don't really remember much, but I would love to borrow and cherrish the memories of those of you that do.

with you in pain and in joy,
your sister

Thursday, October 20, 2011


After the meal today, which was usually quick since I am under the weather and was longing to get under my covers and stay there, Princess announced, "Ima and Abba, I want to tell you something."

I shot a quick glance at my husband. "This can't be good," I cracked.

Princess waited for quiet, eyebrows raised. "I am going to watch Turtle and Coco-pop, and you are going to nap."

Oh no no no, I was about to say. I had spent two hours this morning cleaning the house of the general messiness that had settled like a fog during the kids weeks long break from school. Sinus pressure or no, I had had enough, and set grimly to the task. I knew what the house would look like even if Princess managed to watch the other two. Which she wouldn't. Princess didn't watch Turtle very well. She manhandled him. She needed him to conform to exactly the game that she had created, and usually within two minutes of their contact together, Turtle was crying and Princess was sent to her room.

Plus, I needed the nap. I was sick. There was no question that Outdoorsman was going to be the one to stay up while I rested. So I gained nothing.

Except he needed to rest too. And there was Princess, her proud visage already crumbling as she read the lines on my face, all poised for a no.

"Isn't that a wonderful offer!" I gushed instead. Outdoorsman turned to me, lips parted, but I has suddenly realized how badly my little girl ached to show us, on her own terms, how big she could be. "We are going to bed," I said, suiting words with actions, "and keep the door closed, and Outdoorsman can you make the baby a bottle, and look what a very big girl I have!"

Through the 45 minutes that Princess rose to the challenge, I could not sleep. I couldn't get my feet warm, and in my dazed state, it took me that long to realize that I should probably put on a pair of socks. Instead,I lay there as little interactions filtered through the closed door.

Turtle cried, and I tensed, but did not get up. she can handle this, I told myself firmly. And if she can't, two minutes of crying won't hurt him. He's a big boy now. I heard Princess shushing, and his crying slowed, then stopped.

I must have drifted off because the next thing I heard was Coco-pop knocking on the bathroom door. "I need the bathroom so badly!" She called. There was a flushing sound, and the door opened. "Wait! Don't go in yet!" Princess' voice.

"But I need--"

"You need to say amen to my bracha first."

There was some mumbling, and then Coco-pop said, "Amen." That one word held a mixture of gravity and delight.

A while later Turtle started crying in earnest and I got out of bed. Princess sat on the floor with him as he thrashed wildly. She looked up at me, away from the crying baby, her face a sun.

I held out my arms, and she ran into them. "He cried and I stopped him. And I played with Coco-pop and it was for a really long time, right? Did you sleep Ima? Did you sleep?"

I was tired and achy. Her face glowed with accomplishment.

"Yes, sweet big big girl. I slept."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

My Inheritance

(it has come to my attention that some of you are having problems commenting on this blog. That makes sense, because I am having trouble commenting on YOUR blogs. Not sure what the problem is, and as anything technology related makes me curl up in the fetal position, this is not a good situation. I will do my best though! Any tips--if the comments come through--are welcome!)

The kids were in, no small thanks to Outdoorsman. I was thoroughly done. Stick a fork in me done. Sitting at the table drinking tea in the middle of a toy and small random bits of paper strewn house done. Done done. On cue, Turtle wakes up and screams on top of his pretty impressive lungs. I run to his room and find him face down in a pool of medicine-and-milk colored vomit. I lift him up, and he is coated, from his freshly laundered pajamas to his freshly washed face. I yell for Outdoorsman and then carry him, dripping and screaming, to the bathroom to wash him off. "It's okay, poor little boy," I croon. "It's okay." His eyes are half closed under the stream of warm water, and I have reason to hope that he will go back to sleep quickly. He has a cold, and while he's always been quick to throw up, add some flegm to the equation and this was becoming a nightly ritual.

"Ima!" came a voice from the girls' room.

If I ignore it, it will probably go away.

"Iiiiima!" The voice insisted.

My tea cooled on the dining room table and I strived really hard to do the same to my temper. "Yes, Princess." I said in even tones. "What is it?"

"Ima, can I help you with Turtle?"

All I could think was, I am so glad that I kept my temper. I am so glad. "No, sweetie. No, sweet girl. But thank you!"

Princess began to wheedle. "Please? Please can I help you? I want to do a mitzvah."

But he was all clean, and so were his sheets. Getting Princess back to bed after she gets up is an arduous task. And I knew that i might not accomplish it without getting annoyed. "Love, thank you. I know you want to do a mitzvah. But right now, the mitzvah I need from you is to listen to Ima and stay in bed."

She began to cry. "I want to help you with Turtle. THAT'S the mitzvah I want to do."

And I thought to myself as I tucked Princess back in, I know, Love. I really do. It's what's pulling at your heart. But it's not what I need from you now.

And I know that everything makes me think about my father now, but this really made me think about my father now. Because he and my mother were Givers. They had an open door policy. I have so many stories, like the time my father found a woman and her child lost and alone in a new city. He brought them home with him and they lived with us for six months until my mother helped her get set up in an apartment. Baaleh Teshuva, foster siblings, so many people called them Ima and Abba.

My house growing up has four doors, one on each side, like Ahvraham's tent. That's all that was in my father's heart; he wanted to use what he had to help others.

And then he got sick. And at first he was so angry. My mother once said to me in a broken kind of way, "I tell Hashem, don't you know what we want to do in Your Name? I want to take kids in. I want to help lost souls. I want to feed and hold and help all of Your children. Why are you taking away our ability to do that?"

And then my father realized, long before the rest of us were granted the accentance, that he wanted to do so many mitzvahs--but they were not the ones that were wanted of him. He wanted to sacrifice for Hashem--and Hashem demanded a very different sort of sacrifice.

And my father gave Hashem what was asked of him. My father gave Hashem his smile, even when his body was painfully and slowly making him a prisoner, even as his body shut down and, 22 days ago, killed him.

Friday, October 7, 2011

To You

To my darling Coco-pop on your fourth birthday,

Your party was almost a month late. Can you forgive me? I was afraid, these past couple of weeks, to plan your birthday party. I was afraid that we would plan it and then I would be called to Sabba's levaya, leaving you alone with the cake and the balloons and dreams.

You had a lot of dreams for your party, and I did my best. When it was over, you turned to me and said, "That was a FUN party!" I'm so glad, Love! It made it all worth it, planning and hosting a party for fifteen children when it's hard for me to even plan breakfast, in these draggy kind of days after Sabba died.

You refused to believe that you had turned four until you had the party. You woke up that morning, your dreamer's face glowing. You said, "I'm four, now." You seemed to understand the gravity of growing up. You always did have a lot of emotional intelligence. You felt Sabba's illness keenly, and once told me gravely that "it's not fair," that he can't walk.

The moment of gravity passed when your face broke into a sunny smile. "When will I be four and a half?" you asked.

You are a sunny girl, a sweet girl, a girl with genuine chein. You have a unique way of looking at the world, my sunshine, and we sometimes call you Curly Brain.

Happy Birthday, my sweet inexplicably red-headed girly.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Turtle and Jerusalem

The nurse fixed me with a warm yet steely gaze. Concerned yet hard. Gentle yet firm.


She fixed me with something soft and cliche yet something hard and cliche, and of course I knew exactly what she was going to say when she did all that, so I fixed my own face with a look like, I am ready to hear what you have to say, For The Good of the Child.

"He is very big, you know. You need to stop feeding him rice cereal in his bottle."

I kept all the warmth and stuff on. "I don't feel him rice cereal in a bottle."

Some of the looks slid off. "But you still give him materna."

"No, mostly water and a couple of bottles of milk."

"Lots of sugar, then. You need to stop--"

"I don't give him sugar. Well, I do give him fruit--"

"Fruit!" she pounced. "No more fruit."

"No more fruit?"

"Well, not so much fruit."


She looked a little lost. "He is very big, you know."

"I know."

It's one of those days that I feel like I can do this! I can figure out this game, I can live here!

Also, this conversation with my sister-in-law:

"I'm coming home."

"Like, to live? In America?"

"I'm thinking about it. Kids are good, life is good, even with lots of little things, but you know? I just feel like life is too short, you know, to live so far away from people that I love."

"We are the ones who live far from you."

"Yeah, because I moved away."

"But you are living at home. Because you're living where we all should be living."

"Yeah, but--"

"You are living the real life. We should all be living with you."

"But you're not."

"That doesn't mean you should be moving away from your home. We should all be moving into ours."

"Mashiach, I guess."


"I miss you."

"I miss you, too."

"You ruined my rant."


"I was just getting warmed up."


Tuesday, October 4, 2011


My father died.

When I am cleaning the oven or writing a story or laying out clothing for my girls, I think, my father died.

My father died. That ice-cold piece of information melts into my brain for a while,dampening whatever satisfaction I was getting from my little mundane chores.

I have this strange urge to tell people on the street while they are discussing succos plans or clothing sales or dinner. I am making fresh herbed bread and zucchini soup and my father died. I want to rip my shirt again. I want to wear it over my heart; my father died.

During the shloshim, I can't watch or do anything entertaining. Just follow the news, which I hate (all everyone does it seems, if you follow the newsites, is get murdered or get charged for something they didn't do, or murder and get acquitted for something they did do. Or get drowned. Or win some sports thing with a goal/unit/basket.) And as much as I used to think it's just fifteen minutes here or there, taking a break with a funny youtube clip or five I find myself with so much more time, it's embarrasing.

And more time to think, too. I take my coffee break with a sefer now or nothing at all. My mind is unoccupied, and what it thinks most of all is, my father died.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Just ride it. Like a wave, they say.

I think it's also like a contraction. When the sadness comes, I need to breathe through it. It comes out of nowhere, this pain and loss I feel for a man that I have not even been able to communicate with properly in years.

He was a tzaddik, I tell people. And my siblings even got a little silly by the shiva, laughing and teasing and I join in to raised eyebrows from those who came to comfort us. Because part of us is relieved. He was suffering so much for so long. And because part of us had lost him a very long time ago.

Until the contraction comes, and the strengh of it shocks me, rocks me. This grief, it's strange. I feel less, I feel diminished in its wake. And I need to affirm to myself that he is not really gone, because of all the lives he has touched.

What can I say about a man who died too young?

That he was gentle. That he was kind. That I remember him as big and strong; that I loved him and that he loved me.

We had so many people who called him Abba by his levaya that one could get confused over who exactly were his biological children and who was a child to him, anyway.

He was a man who lived the last twenty years of his life in constant pain, constantly readjusting to new harsh realities, and the first thing that people call to mind when they think of him is his beautiful smile.

At the end, all he cared about was his family, friends, and the torah. At the end, he was lying in his hospital bed. He could do nothing; not blink, not even breathe on his own. And I kept thinking that this was was the most complete and perfect man I had ever known.

It's a wave, this grief. It's a contraction. I'm riding it, thinking of the most perfect man I have ever had the privelege to know and love.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


The rain fell in sheets out the window next to his bed.

"It's so..." my mother began, searching for the word "appropriate."

"Corny?" I supplied. "I know. I already told G-d."

We all laughed until tears came. It was so corny, the rain, on the day my father died.

My brother said viduy and my sister and I sang his favorite passuk--mitzvah gedolah l'hiot b'simcha--it's a big mitzvah to always be happy--as the line that was his heart went flat. His face did not change as he died. Nothing changed. It had just been his heart--as always--that had been keeping him alive.

And it is his heart that we will remember.

And the fact that cliche as it is, as he died, the angels cried.

Friday, September 23, 2011


We sing a lot to him. The nurses don't mind; not in this ward. We sing the old songs, the ones we grew up with. The ones we remember dancing to with him after Havdala every motzeh Shabbas. I say tehilim and daven slowly, carefully, because there is no rush. I have no where to go other than this room.

This time that I have with him is an unexpected treasure, one last gift from him. So I tell him everything. I tell him about my hopes for the future. I tell him about my plans for now. I tell him about my pitfalls,how my selfishness gets in the way of me being who I want to be and how I want to be more like him and my mother.

People come and go, speaking in hushed whispers. My family is loud and we laugh a lot. Some visitors do not know what to make of this, the laughing vigil, and honestly, I don't know what to make of it. It has been one of the strangest weeks of my life. His eyes look lifeless, but his soul is here, right? We are sad, but remember when...? ends in ringing laughter.

He is here. He is not here. I want him to live forever. I want him to go, it's just too much pain in a lifetime of pain. The vaccant eyes,so dry from being open for days at a time, the mouth a hole where his smile used to be, and the feeling that he hears every word I am saying...

I call my daughters, ask them about their day. They sound so mature on the phone. They ask for presents. I promise presents. I am 6,00 miles away from them promising gifts and love and then hanging up on my children while I am walking the streets of New York arm in arm with my sisters waiting for my father to die.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


The day did not pass in a blur. It passed slowly, slowly, a microscosm of his illness of the past 24 years. I got the phone call, crumpled. But then the flight was not until one in the morning, and it was only three in the afternoon. I sat down, had a cup of water. It squirmed it my belly for a while. Then I packed, cleaned up from lunch, cleaned up from not lunch, did laundry, did more laundry, did more laundry than was neccessary, rearranged the toys, sponga-ed the apartment, sponga-ed the hallway outside the aprtment, sponga-ed the steps in the building, took out the garbage.

Time passed slowly, slowly, and I had tea and a few crackers. The baby squirmed and wiggled and cried the whole flight, and I had this wierd resentment of him, of Outdoorsman, of everyone on the flight who was not my mother. Which was everyone. We landed and we inched along in the painfully slow traffic.

My mother called.

"He's still here, D." she said.


"He's waiting for you."

But he was not waiting for me. Or at least, he was not only waiting for me. Because I hugged him and kissed him and cried and told him I was here and I love him. His mouth gaped, bloodied and sore. His eyes were opened, glazed and unseeing. Or maybe seeing everything.

But still, he waited. Still, he is waiting. For everyone to be there? For no one to be there?

He shouldn't be here, the doctor says. No one can live with failed kidneys and their lungs filling with blood. He is brain dead, he said. He had two cardiac arrests and is bleeding out from everywhere. He is not really breathing, the machine is.

Don't unplug him, came the startling answer from the rav. Do everything you can to keep him alive.

Is he alive? I know his neshama is here, hovering over his bed. Hovering over us all. I keep feeling like he is going to turn to me while I am whispering in his ear and say, boo!

But he won't. So we wait. And wait. While I write slow Frank O'Hara poetry in my head and keep taking showers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Things are Seldom what They Seem

I was sitting in the back corner of the room, attempting to decorate the little bag that was sitting in front of me for my daughter with puff paints that were either clogged or explosive, while at the same time trying to hear what the Morah was saying.

I failed at both tasks. The little bag looked like it had been done by paint balloon tossing chimpanzees, and I did not understand a word that the Morah was saying.

Well, a word. Or two. Just enough to frustrate the uncomfortable shaitel right off my head. Now I will talk about the schedule, she said, smiling. And then she switched towhat i can only assume was a kind of hebrew that is only spoken in mystical mountain-top caves. I divided my attention between her and the bag, willing myself to comprehend what she was saying. I could not make out a single word. Was my mind on screen saver? Did I have a little mini nervous breakdown and my word comprehension is now compromised forever? That would totally stink. I sunk into a depression and added a black flower on the bag. It is very important, she added twenty minutes later, and I jerked my head up from the ruins of the little bag, relieved that she had decided to switch back to conventional hebrew. It is very important to--Then she lapsed back into gibberish.

I sat there in my six year-old daughter's tiny little chair and listened to a woman speak in a completely foreign language. My hebrew is pretty stinky, but this was a nightmare. I had no idea if she said anything important. I have no idea if she sat there for three hours and made fun of all my blood relatives and called me fat and imcompetent.

This is ridiculous, I though furiously as I stabbed a puff paint in the general direction of the little bag. First grade is hard enough. How I am I going to do this? How can I have a daughter in a classroom and have no idea how to communicate with the teacher? For that matter, how can I do this is in this foreign country that thinks it's okay to put forty girls in one classroom and forces me to dress in a way that makes me feel like I'm choking?

I glared at all of the cute pictures decorating the walls and shot daggers of death at the paint slobbered bag on the desk. I couldn't do this. Why did I think that i could do this? I couldn't.

I would pack, I thought, and get tickets. We could live near my parents and I would finish school. My kids would speak English and I could communicate with their teachers. I wouldn't feel like a moron with my neighbors and I would be able to express myself if someone cut me in line instead of what i do here, namely, open my mouth and it keep it that way, like a dying fish.

I began to sweat, and I scratched angrily at my shaitel. I hate shaitels. There is no reason I should have to wear one.

When it was finally all over, I walked on shaky legs out the door, glad to put some distance between me and the work of art I left on the desk. An American Israeli friend of mine had a car, and offered me a ride. I accepted. She smiled at me. "Can you kind of summarize," I blurted to her on the way to her parking spot, "what the morah said? I didn't really--"

She rolled her eyes. "Oh gosh, the morah talks a mile a minute. I hope she slows down for the girls. I'm a fluent Hebrew speaker, and I didn't understand a word that she said."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


My life is as full as their tiny bedroom
But I only feel the pain of my toe hitting the crib (again)
I bite back a scream, and one sits up, blinking--
"Ima, I had a good dream," she says.

But I only feel the pain of my toe hitting the crib (again)
And bitterness seeps in like a draft
"Ima, I had a good dream," she says.
I am warm, warm enough now.

And bitterness seeps in like a draft
The window is old, but we bought curtains.
I am warm, warm enough now,
My fingers thawed, my heart tentative.

We are mirrors, I know.
I bite back a scream and one sits up, blinking--
And I catch my breath.
My life is as full as their tiny bedroom.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Beautiful Angel

I am so sorry about all the sad posts. I was going to write a really cute one about all the things that Coco-pop has been coming up with lately, but then my father goes and almost dies, so that killed that mood.

He didn't have a pulse for a half hour, and after they got it back, my mother signed, for the first time, a DNR. Do not revive. So next time may be the last time.

Whenever I get down on life and people and the clay feet that my heroes inevitably have, I think about my mother and her great, all encompassing love for life. There are all these super corny songs and poems about love being the answer, love making the world go 'round, love being the only cure, and you know what? It's true. Love is the only thing that makes this world bearable. Love makes everything better. Life is for love. Love can keep people alive. My father is a case in point. (which, when you think about it, makes no sense. He is in a case. And we are pointing at him? I'm not sure exactly what that expression means.)

And sometimes love means saying, enough. Sometimes love means knowing when to let go.

I'm so glad and grateful for the chance to have seen him this summer, even though half the time he didn't know that I was there. He is not of this world, even though his love and my mother's love combined keeps him here. I don't know how much longer a physical world can hold within it a beautiful angel.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Royal Blood

"You hate confrontation, right? You avoid it at all costs."

I do. I hate it. I avoid it at all costs. I nodded my head at the Rabbi. Yes, that's me.

"So you get frustrated when you butt heads with your daughter. You are too affected by it. You need to remain calm. You're the kind of person that is very affected by music," he said.

"Yeah, I guess--"

"So you should always have it playing in your house. It's calming for you and for her."

I nodded. Actually, Outdoorsman had said that we should always have classical music playing. It was a good idea. The Rabbi continued. "And sleep and eat properly. And make sure that you are completely calm when you pick her up from school. You have to always be in control, even though you want to give in to her to avoid confrontation."

I nodded. Beside me, Outdoorsman was silent. He hates this kind of hocus pocus thing. I could almost hear him thinking, "Rabbi, just give us advice on how to help Princess be happy. Leave out all the "you are the kind of person" nonsense. You don't know us. Just help our daughter."

I kept my eyes bright and animated, and nodded to the Rabbi again. "What exactly do I say in the moment when she is all out of control?"

He answered, and I nodded. Say more things, I was thinking. Say more things about me. Figure me out. Tell me the thing that will make me say, "OOOh. NOW I know what it is that I have to do to be the perfect wife and mother.

When I was little, I used to dream that I was a princess. Now, I know all little girls do, but maybe not for the same reason. I felt different from everyone, and I thought--maybe if I actually turn out to really be different--a princess!--it would explain everything. It would explain me.

I guess I still have a little bit of that waiting-for-the-princess-phone-call in me. I guess I spent my whole life waiting for the magic word--Open Sesame!--that would make it all come clear.

On the way home from the Rabbi's office,we laughed a little, because everything that the Rabbi had said--and it had all been good stuff, and we needed to know that we were doing everything we can for Princess--but everything was Love and Logic (which is a wonderful parenting model) and it was everything that I knew. Even the hocus-y pocus-y stuff. I know I don't like confrontation. I know my soul needs music. I know I need to eat well and sleep to function. He spoke magic words, and guess what? They were already in my vocabulary. I had already had that phone call.

I'm still waiting, and I guess I'll be waiting a long time, because there is no magic word. It's hard work. I have to stay calm and centered and be focused and on. I have to live in the here and now and continue the journey of loving where I am living. I have to eat well and sleep well, and turn on the music and dance with my daughter. And it's a dance that is two steps forward, one step back.

Hard work vs. ballgowns. Tough one.

I think I'd still rather be a princess, but maybe a close second is learning every day a little more how to mother a Princess.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

If Not Now, Then Soon

Yesterday I shocked myself into silence. Yesterday I found myself so at odds with myself that I sent everyone to bed early just so I can sort it out. And then didn't and went on the internet and lulled myself into a space of unthinking calm.

Yesterday I was so angry and embarrassed at my own daughter that I shrieked at her like a crazy person and yanked her to her room by her wrist, holding on to her so tightly I left a red ring on her skin.

The night ended with Coco-pop in the hospital (she's fine now,but that's another post)so it kind of slid out of my mind, and more importantly, out of Princess' mind. But it happened, and I sat down afterwards at my computer desk, thinking, I am the worst mother ever. I never should have had children. While in her room, Princess howled, "It is NOT kidei to be your CHILD! You are a silly SILLY Ima!"

I felt silly. I also felt overwhelmed and speechless. And other big words conoting my general incompetence and lack of available word power. She had hit me repeatedly in the park, in front of everyone, because I said that we were not having yogurt for dinner; we were having chicken. Red-faced, I spoke to her calmly and told her we do not hit our Ima, but she was overtired and out of control. I marched her home, calm on the outside but my heart was beating so hard I felt the blood in my face. As soon as we got inside my building, I lost it.

I regained it as soon as I got inside my apartment and could put the four thousand pound baby and the packages down and drink a cup of vodka and orange juice water. It was a moment, the loss of control, the wishing she was not there and I was anywhere else, the world turning red,but it's happened before. Not for real, but in my head. We are going to the park, and they are pouring water on my newly washed floor. The baby poops through his clothes. The girls fight for a half hour before going to sleep.

And each time this relatively minor thing happens, (on a scale of one to ten, one being an ice-cream cone and ten being the holocaust, I never rank more than a two. I need a different scale.) I think, I got things I want--no need--to do. I gotta write/clean/cook/have a cup of coffee. I want--no, need--to have a little time to think, and little time to myself. And THEY are keeping me from that.

I bumped into a friend of mine today in front of the supermarket. She was putting packages into the bottom of her double stroller while her kids spilled yogurt on the top. I was going home, in the opposite direction

"Princess," I called. "Let's GO. We have to get going."

This friend of mine is a calm soul with a beautiful wonderful smile. She is always looking at her children with this dreamy kind of look. "I love you," she always says to them, wonder in her eyes at their existance. "I love you," she said to them now as the yogurt dribbled into the bottom of the stroller, making sticky little smears all over the eggs, milk and apples.

"Princess," I said again. I watched the yogurt pooling in the carriage basket. I would have yanked the kids, out, scrubbed the whole thing, sighed a martyr's sigh and put them back in, promising no yogurt for a week. In a calm voice, with my heart pounding, thinking, we have to GO.

This friend looked at me. "Where are you going?"

"Home," I said, frowning at Princess who was fiddling with her bike. "I want to put them in early, because school starts tomorrow."

"Yeah, that's probably a good idea. But it's only five o'clock."

"I know, I just--you know, dinner, bath, clean-up--it takes time. So we gotta go. Princess!" She started walking towards me, and we sighed identical sighs.

"We should probably go, too," she said. She eyed her yogurt covered clan. She smiled; her eyes went dreamy. "You know what my mother says to me. She says,--pointing at her stroller full of sticky progeny-- this is your destination."

And it's corny but oh is she right. I'm anxious to get to the park, but why can't the fun time start now, on the way? I want them to sleep, but I don't even enjoy myself if I resort to lazer eyes to get them to behave. The dishes get done. So does the laundry. I even get my cup of amareto coffee.

She was so disrespectful, but instead of making me pause and think--what should I do, how do I respond to this in the here and now--it made me furious.

What is my rush? Why am I so upset? Why am I hurrying them up? Where am I going?

They are right here.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Great Equalizer

"Turtle is a blah-blah-blah blah!" Princess shouted, exasperated when Turtle ruined fifteen minutes worth of puzzle time with one sweep of his chunky busy arms. She didn't say blah-blah blah, but that is what I heard.

"What did you say?"

She said it again.

"Is that Hebrew?"


"What does it mean?"

"Like..." she screwed up her face, concentrating. "It means, like, he's oatmeal. Like, soggy oatmeal. You know."

I didn't know. I didn't know what she was talking about. I told her so.

She rolled her eyes a bit. "It's like...oh, I don't know how to say it in English, Ima!"

And maybe I was tired and maybe I was thinking a little bit too much about my father and maybe I was feeling fat but when she said that, I left the room to cry a bit and maybe to eat a little bit of chocolate.

I always thought that when my kids finally learned Hebrew I would find it adorable. Outdoorsman on the other hand didn't like how the language sounded phonetically and dreaded the day they entered the Israeli school system.

In real life, Outdoorsman gets a kick out of our biligual kids, and I feel a knot in my stomach whenever I hear them speak in Hebrew.

Because of what it means.

It means that her brain, understanding a different way of expressing itself, will be wired a little differently.

It means that the first thing that jumps into her mind won't mirror mine, won't have us looking at each other with shared amusement, shared understanding, but with our own impressions of what really happened.

It means that my daughter will be in a situation such as the baby ruining her puzzle and she will think about something--an expression, most likely--in Hebrew, and it won't translate. I won't understand what she is getting at. Her being a native Hebrew speaker will cause a rift between us and I will never, ever fully understand her.

And that makes me cry.

And eat chocolate.

And even as I beam proudly at her, with her big girl packback and her brand new uniform, my heart is squeezed with fear. "Don't go, my baby," I am thinking as I smooth her skirt and fix her headband. "Don't go. Don't go where I can't follow."

But if I am honest, I can remember when Princess went to her first year of gan, which was English, and when she came home with an idea in her head that I did not put there, that was put there by somebody else (I do believe the idea was along the highly intelligent lines of "I'm gonna make this dolly dead because she is a mushy-tushy-pishie!") I had to go to bed early with a headache.

I know it's the job of every mother to know when to let go. I know that my fears are just an extension of every mothers fears as she opens the golden cage.

And gives her baby the gift of flight.

And, okay. We're talking about oatmeal. Mushy oatmeal. Which is so weird and I will never understand that applying to Turtle.

I'll never quite understand it, but I can know what I have to do, anyway. And I can know that I have to be okay with it. I cannot be uncomfortable with it, because it is a part of her. And if I am uncorfortable with it, I will be uncomfortable with her, hence creating the very rift that I afraid of in the first place. A self fulfilling prophecy.

I turned back to Princess, an idea forming in my mind. "Do you mean mushy like mushy cause he's...uh..."

She looked at me. "Like what?"

I lost the idea. Ah. "I love you, Princess."

She smiled, a questioning crease fading between her eyes. "I love you, Ima."

And that will just have to be enough to bridge any gaps.



Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Natural Course

The first words that popped into my head when I saw my father for the first time in a year and a half is,

My father looks like a baby chick.

And the words popped into my head whole, like I wrote them, like I was writing them, like I was writing about it on the spot, like I was a reporter for National Geographic. (Page 45: After a 20 year study, at this point, the MS sufferer begins to resemble a baby chick.)

My eyes skimmed over his form, skinny to the point of horrifying emaciation. He had been thin for a while already, but there was nothing to him now at all. His white skin was stretched over his bones, his fingers shaped into claws, His face was frozen into a waxy mask, his eyes half closed. The only thing that stood out in sharp relief, beak-like, was his nose.

I took a shaky intake of breath and smiled, grazed his cold cheekbone with my hot lips. I felt my blood pumping in my ears, in my chest, making me hot all over, and I felt big, too big, with my working muscles and sinews and nerves and bones covered in a layer of fat under my skin.

My mother squeezed my hand when she saw my face. "Baby," she said to my father, "D is here. From Israel."

"Tell him I'm happy to see him."

"You tell him you're happy to see him."

"I'm happy to see you." The girls clung to my skirt. I shifted Turtle on my hips, opened my mouth again, and let it hang that way for a minute. Did he see me? His eyes did not flicker, his face did not thaw. I let the babble that had been building up in the back of my throat spill out. "I miss you. We miss you. We think about you all the time. This is Turtle. He's really big, right? Like for his age? Everyone say he is. Turtle! Say hello! See, he's smiling, he's happy to see you."

My father makes an effort; his teeth are clasped together and I realize he's trying to make me feel better. He's trying to smile back.

I smile too, and suddenly, tears are spilling down my cheeks.


The National Geographic reporter inside of me paused. Like a baby chick,she whispered. Because of the nose like a beak and his skinny cold body and his open mouth. Like he's waiting for feathers to grow.


"I know," my mother said.


"I know."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Oh, what a world

The sun is smiling. When I am inside with the blinds closed and the ceiling fans on and an ice pack on my head, that is. When I am outside, the sun is still smiling, in a I'm-coming-to-get-you scary movie kind of way. Everything sticks to everything. The insides of my knees stick together when I walk. My shirt sticks to my back. My scarf sticks to my head. And the kids stick to me.

I don't know what it is about the heat that makes me want to kill someone just with my eyes. When I have a day in which I did not mentally murder, I feel good about myself. And that's when I realize that in the winter, when it is raining and cold and damp, I have no drive, no motivation. So when I get up and write or play patiently with the girls or do the dishes, I feel like a high-powered business woman. Look at me go, I'm the energiser bunny. And THAT'S when I realize that I have no idea how much free will I really have, or how much I am simply driven by whims of my nature and changes in the general nature of the world around me.

Maybe today I slept well last night and ate well the day before and that's why I am a fountain of patience and folded all of the laundry.

Maybe someone told me that I look pretty, and that's why I told my husband what an amazing person he is.

Maybe Princess ate all her chicken, and that's why I am patient when she tantrums 15 minutes later.

Sometimes, it's even conscious. My father is doing so poorly, and the magazine rejected my story, I remind myself as I slump in my chair and decide to veg out with a book instead of something contructive, like re-writing the story or writing my father a letter.

Are we all just chain reactions to what is going on in our lives? I recently saw a book called Age 6: Loving and Defiant. And it went on to describe Princess to a T.

Is there a book out there called D: Age 30: Wherever the Winds will Take Her? (Or maybe D: Vampire Slayer. Oooh, pick that one.)

On the other hand, today I was in such a bad mood walking the girls to gan. It wa hot. The sun was laughing. I lost my lenses so I can't wear sunglasses and the world was shimmering through my teary eyes. Princess decided that she doesn't want to go to gan, and I heard her through my throbbing sinuses. I took a deep quavering breath, and said nothing, just kept walking past her gan to Coco-pop's gan.

In the end she decided to go after we went to Coco-pop's gan, and I'm not sure how calm I would have been had she decided to come home with me since I had so much planned for this morning not the least of which involved enjoying a bit of silence, but the point is, I was calm for that moment.

The point is, I think, not that I overcame the heat and didn't shoot bullets of fire from my eyes.

The point is, yes, maybe we are all chain reactions. But just like we are in the middle of one,we can also start one, can't we?

Because then as she turned to go to gan, she smiled and blew me a kiss. "I love you Ima," she said. Then skipped into gan.

It is over 100 degrees today, but I think that even had it been cold and rainy, my heart would have melted anyway.

Monday, July 4, 2011


Once a month, I write a letter to my father. I tell him the latest news, as pertaining to my little family. I write about the weather, I write about how the kids are getting so big, I write about how much I miss him.

And I do.

But I'm going in now to the states for a visit, and I'm scared. I'm scared of what I will find. I am scared of what is left.

Everytime I go back for a visit, he is diminished, less, in body. He is so skinny now, his fine-boned face skeletal, his arms and legs like threads. But this time, I have been warned, he is diminished also, and significantly, in mind.

I don't know how to continue this post, how to lead it to its positive ending. The last paragraph should read something like--and he's so special, and so wonderful, and still has a beautiful smile. But I'm crying as I write, and I can still picture him as he was just last year, and he was so much better then!--and he made me cry then, too.

Am I just supposed to appreciate each moment? Is there a way that I can say that that doesn't sound trite, a way that I can say that and really feel it? Enjoy this visit. Maybe next visit he won't even know who you are. Enjoy this visit. Maybe next time...maybe there won't be a next time.

Maybe his wonderful smile should be enough for me. I want his wonderful smile to be enough for me. I will kiss his bony cheek and hold his hand with the slender, tapering fingers that I did not inherit, look into his green eyes which I did, and tell him that I love him. And when he smiles back at me, it will be enough.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

One Afternoon in Jerusalem

We were all walking back from the dentist, and it had gone better than I thought it would. No one had actually tantrumed, and aside for the moment when I thought that Coco-pop was going to bite the dentist' finger, all the little girls in my life had kept their cool.

It was a little bit of a walk, getting back home, but it was downhill, which is a rare pleasure in Jerusalem (I thought the line was about Jerusalem being SURROUNDED by hills, not built on them, but then, I have killer muscular EVERYTHING now, so that's good)and there was a breeze in the air. The girls held on to either side of the stroller, which contained a sleeping Turtle. We passed by a small food stand, and the salty/sweet smell of popcorn wafted in on the next breeze. On impulse, I bought a 3-shekel bag of fresh popcorn, and the popcorn man filled the bag with a large metal scooper and handed the bulging result to Princess.

And we walked, the girls munching handfuls of popcorn, licking their salty lips with the tips of their tongues.

"Ow!" The procession stopped abruptly. I looked down. Coco-pop's eyes were filling with tears. She held a hand out to me to inspect. "I bit my finger!"

I bent down, took the finger, and kissed it. There was a half-moon of dirt behind the nail, and her skin tasted like popcorn. She smiled up at me a little sheepishly. "Maybe I thought it was popcorn. But really, it was my finger."

Princess hooted with laughter, her dimple flashing. I followed suit, kissed the finger again, and so did Coco-pop, delighted at her new-found ability to make everyone laugh. And suddenly, out of the clear blue Jerusalem sky, a wave of happiness hit me. I staggered beneath the weight of it, beneath the weight of the treasures that I had been entrusted with.

Who will they be when they grow up? Flashed in my mind as my laughing girls worked their way through the rest of the bag and we walked slowly home. The rest of my mind frowned at the stray thought. It's enough, the rest of my mind said. It's enough just to walk down the street and eat popcorn, and maybe have a chance to kiss a dirty little finger and make the sun shine again in the brilliant blue Jerusalem sky.

It's enough for now to hold their hands. It's enough that they don't know yet about letting go.


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