Finding myself in the Middle East

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Turtle and Peace in the Middle East

Outdoorsman is a big man. Not a fat man; a big man. The football coach in high school cried real (manly, I am sure) tears when Outdoorsman stayed loyal to his chosen sport of La Cross and refused to join the football team. He benches his body weight with his legs. He likes fishing and beer, usually at the same time. His face glows when he works with his hands. He is Man. Frequently, he roars.

Turtle is, limb for limb, feature for feature, his mini-me. Except for my eyes, which seem to be superimposed on his chubby-wubby face with Photoshop, he is all Outdoorsman. He was the first infant that I have ever seen with broad shoulders. 

And, like most manly men, he is secretly a softy. 

I'm talking about Turtle, of course! Outdoorsman is ALL man. No soft sides at all! (He's also reading over my shoulder as I write.) 

So, Turtle.  He is a sensitive little boy who runs after other children in the park with his arms outstretched--not to hit, but to hug. They run from him anyway, and sometimes he has to hold them down to administer the hug, but it is with love, you see. 

He is also sensitive to whatever bug is going around, poor baby. This year he has had mono, ear infections, strep, numerous little 24-hour stomach bugs and...I think that's it. He also had a hairline fracture, but that's not a bug, that is a five year-old boy jumping straight onto his leg. OLD ENOUGH to know better. (I have totally let go, of course.) 

Then, for shavuos, instead of learning torah and being mekabel naaseh v'nishmah and eating cheesecake and lazagna, we ended up in the hospital because my poor little sensitive boy with the broad shoulders and the girly eyes turns out to be allergic to mosquito bites. 

We also ate cheesecake. But not happily. Not happily at all. 

He got bitten too close to his eye, and needed to get intravenous antibiotics. Outdoorsman and I took turns with him in the hospital for two days. We chased him up and down the hallways and stopped him on numerous occasions from pulling out other children's IVs. 

There are so many emotions that were brought up from all of the tiny little worlds that happened over our forty-eight hour hospital stay; 

--The chiloni nurse's reaction to our telling her that we want to move to neighborhood X even though it is not so chareidi because it's okay with us not to live only around people who are exactly like us; "I never heard anyone say that before," she said. And smiled. 

--My wonderful, wonderful friend who stepped in and watched the girlies and said, "Don't say thank you, it's the only natural thing to do!"

--the couple who brings food to the hospital every shabbas and yom tov--challa and little containers of gefilte fish, baggies of croutons to go with chicken soup, plates piled high with liver and potato kugel--I don't come from that world, but my heart was warmed by such a heimeshe feast even as it gave me indigestion. They've been doing it every week for a very long time. Then the woman  asked; can you take over for us? We laughed, and she said, no seriously. And we are thinking about it.

--All the sick children! My G-d, all the sick children! I could cry a river over all of the sick children.

--Outdoorsman lining up awesome chavrusos for himself for shavuos night; and then, not being able to learn at all. What does it all mean? He finds meaning; he always does. 

But this post will be about Turtle's attempt at making peace in the Middle East, so I will end with that.

I mentioned Turtle's tenancy to hugging, right? 

So there was a thin little boy there, and his mother hovered over him. Turtle ran after the little boy with his arms outstretched and hugged him over and over again while I shot apologetic glances at his mother, who wore a pretty scarf. She tied it differently from mine. She was an Arab. 

"He's not contagious," I said quickly. "It's from a mosquito bite."

She gestured that it was okay, and we watched the two toddlers play. I made sure that Turtle would not knock her slight-looking boy over.

"Aich kar'im lo?" I asked.

"Abdulla," she answered. 

She looked tired, and I said "I hope he feels better."

"He won't," she said. "He has hemophilia."

"I'm sorry," I said. Tears sprang to my eyes, as they always do, and I usually look away, blink them away, but instead, spontaneously, I let her see, that there were tears in my eyes for her. I saw her own eyes widen in surprise. 

Turtle played with Abdulla and I noticed all of the Arabs watching him, watching and smiling at my big boy-boy. "Chamud," said a man with a severe mustache, his arm around a pale girl around ten. Another Arab man brushed Turtle's hair away from his face and was rewarded with a scowl. Laughing, he put the lock of hair back and winked at him. Turtle laughed back.

Outdoorsman hates that they use our hospitals. He says it's like a curse from the torah, that we cure our enemies. I refuse to see them as anything other than people, but even I will admit that I am afraid of them, when it is dark and I'm alone in the house and there is a strange noise coming from the bathroom. (It's the pipes, it's the pipes, go to sleep!)

But here, in the pediatric ward...we all love our children, don't we? 

Don't we?

There was another Arab woman there. She smiled at Turtle  and at me. She did not know any Hebrew and she kept trying to talk to me in slow, clear, Arabic--don't we do that too, to foreigners, as if that will help them understand?-- but I did not know what she was saying. Whenever we bumped into each other in the hallway, we smiled brightly and apologetically at each other and shrugged our shoulders. 


Mystery Woman said...

So...I'm totally gonna miss the point of this post...but I'm worrying about the mosquito bites! How are you going to keep mosquitos away from him all summer??

JerusalemStoned said...

You're sweet. :) Well, he's had other bites that get all swollen but then go down. This was bad because it got his eye infected.

Princess Lea said...

Lavender spray! Keeps mosquitoes away like nothing else I've ever tried - including bug spray.

tzipporah said...

I understand your words. Once you become a mother it's hard not to see children as just children, and people as just people. You become aware of a world you didn't notice before--the world where people are humans and not much else. It's hard to hate something you are.

tzipporah said...

also, any chance it could be a spider bite? I have one son who is allergic to the bites but they usually heal on their own. Once he got bite near the eye thought and his entire side of his face swelled up something awful...

JerusalemStoned said...

Princess--Thanks! I bought this spray that the pharmacist recommended, and it has lavender in it. Good tip!

Tziporah--I've always been like that, even before kids. It was embarrassing in high school, crying when I passed a beggar. And the doctor seems to think it was a mosquito bite, but we live in the middle east, and I have screamed over many a creepy-crawly in my apartment, so it could have easily been a spider!


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