It was pure joy this morning to learn that Dov still reaches for my hand as we walk to the bus stop on this, his last day of school. I thought things might have changed. He lost his first tooth. He’s reading in two languages. He is hilariously popular. I thought perhaps, over the year, our morning ritual might have moved on. I was happy it hadn’t.
At some point, in the middle of the year, we left the world of hand holding and bus stop waiting and I began driving him to school. His school is right next door to the bakery and, on most days, I start my morning there anyway. It just seemed easier to toss him in the car and go.
This last day of school is always an emotional one for me. Even as someone who has spent over 20 years in the world of education, I rejoice at vacation. I love vacation. I count down to vacation. It is the healthiest air for me and my small people. I plan it down to the smallest detail — what books will they read, what will we learn, which movies, which fun, which adventures, which friends.
This morning my backyard furniture came in anticipation of a summer full of reading books and hosting cozy dinner parties. The landscaper came to turn my backyard beautiful. I met with tutors for next year to set out our plan. I met with the vice principal of the boys’ school 1o minutes after school let out for the summer to set out the boys learning plan for next year. And by noon I was ready to breathe summer. My three littles joined me in Jerusalem meeting my sister and some of hers’ for celebratory lunch and then we continued on to the movies where there was popcorn (!) and soda (!) and everything that shouted vacation. Because it is vacation and they earned it and they are children.
But in the back of my head (who are we kidding? in the absolute forefront of my thoughts) is the other child Hallel Yaffa Ariel who is gone. One minute here. Next minute gone. I can’t talk terror and I can’t talk politics. But I can talk children. And I can talk about what it means to put your kids to sleep at night, to tuck them in and then to head off to work. I can talk about what it means to leave a child sleeping in a house as the summer day unfolds.
Dov falls asleep in our room most nights. We watch Phineas and Ferb or PJ Masks, sometimes we talk and then he snuggles in and falls asleep. And I know that someday he’ll outgrow this too but tonight it seems like perfection to start the day holding his hand and end the day with his snuggles.
Hashem Yakom Damah.
I’m not sure when my kids started having opinions. But whenever that was, I didn’t deal with it well.
I noticed it, clearly, at Disney World over Pesach. We had taken the kids there five years ago and I had made lists to my heart delight. I had a list for which groceries to buy, which meals to prepare, which rides to go on and everyone sort of complied. They just listened. It was all good. (My Type A personality was very very happy.)
This year, we rejoiced at our good fortune to hit Disney with no stroller, no diaper bag, no juggling bottles, feeding and nap times. We were with big kids. Nothing could stop us! Nothing except…our children, who suddenly had independent thought. Why go on Peter Pan if they could go on Speedway? Maybe Winnie the Pooh (which Dov still adorably calls Windy the Pooh) wasn’t all the rage anymore? We lasted until Dumbo when the kids revolted. I gave it a good fight but couldn’t hold on. Yoni and I both had the app that showed up the waiting times at each ride and suddenly everyone wanted the bigger, the scarier the more intense rides.
As if I needed one more lesson to underscore the point, Yael and I ducked into the Bibbity Bobbity Boo salon to watch all these adorable little girls get glamorized. As we were checking it out one of the princess hairstylists asked Yael, “Are you here with a little princess?” Yael, in her always awesomeness, answered, “I am the little princess.” Needless to say we got kicked out.
And that was it. As I try to integrate this new feeling into the reality of our family dynamic, Yom HaZikaron creeps up on us. Each year, we’re in our house, with our kids in the middle of putting them to sleep as the siren goes off. This year the four older kids (!) are going to be at a special tekes at the Alon HaBoded outside our yishuv. There they will sing together, listen to a speech or two and experience the siren together, without us, without our guidance and our words. And while I know that that’s how it should be, I can’t help feeling that this is one more step closer to them growing up, moving on, choosing not to ride the Dumbo Ears.
So tonight, in an hour, I’ll hug Dov, who is young enough to ride the Windy the Pooh ride happily with me, and hope that my kids are doing just fine, having their own experience.
Sometimes, we have to secretly buy challot from the makolet. We sell until there is nothing left to sell. More likely is that we have the runts of the challah litter — the slightly misshapen but otherwise quite tasty challot. That’s the bakery life, I think.
But I always put challot on the side for chayalim. With four sons who keep getting older and older (and taller and taller), I think a lot about the chayalim who are on duty just minutes before Shabbat. I think about their parents and wives and children who won’t have them home on Shabbat. So I tuck some challot on the side.
And then as close to Shabbat as possible, when I imagine chayalim are feeling the furthest from home, I put one kid in the car and go deliver those challot. Channan actually walked into an army field-briefing with bags of challot. It must be some commentary on our lives and times that he was completely unintimidated by a group of very elite forces and their officers.
My dad came with me once and I watched the emotion of a grandfather and an oleh as he spoke to each chayal.
Today, Yoni was with me as I drove to the tzomet. Yoni needs to get out of the car, to walk over to each chayal while I usually just roll down a window. He talks for a minute and moves on. I sit back and watch as my kids grow up and become their own selves. It’s not always an easy journey (super not easy some days), but I am grateful to spot the moments of kindness and joy.
I got into a cab to go to the Kotel today. Not really the Kotel, I haven’t been feeling that for awhile. But I do go to the sealed up entrance to the Kodesh Kedoshim when I feel like there are some things I want to say. And there are some things I wanted to say. You pay to go to the “tunnel tours” unless you tell them you are going to pray and then they step aside and let you walk through the cavernous areas filled with untold history. And there are tour groups and bar mitzvahs and wanderers but I go to the small part of an underground hallway and sit down and say some words.
To get there today I jumped into a cab. Nothing kills my holiness vibe than hunting for parking. The cab had a passenger in it or so I thought but, in truth, the front seat came as a package deal, a dynamic duo, the equivalent of Borscht Belt Entertainers of the 1950s.
And they kvetch about their children and how one continues to spoil his son at age 35. They talk about politics and throw out the words Obama and Kenya enough times to make Trump proud. To prove they aren’t racist in the slightest they list all the races they know (or so it seems) in ways that would make liberal arts colleges shrivel up and whimper. But they know that Kotel and are happy to give me a laundry list of things to add to my prayers.
And then the music comes on and it must be their favorite song ever because those 70 year old men can sure belt it out. And then the Kotel comes into view and they are disapproving of the lack of upkeep of the Dome of the Rock — in our day, they tell me, it used to shine.
And then off I go. I pay them before we arrive because stopping by the Kotel is too crazy so they don’t want to make a full stop, they slow down and I leap out. It all seems bizarrely reasonable in this Twilight Zone cab.
I loved the Muppets growing up (possibly because it was one of the three shows we were allowed to watch) but I have a newfound appreciation for Statler and Waldorf who exist in a parallel universe — one where only they find themselves truly entertaining. But for today I was happy to go along for the ride.
I haven’t written in awhile. This blog stuff is hard. But I want to talk about my two different realities today.
This Saturday night Alon Shevut is hosting a meeting to talk about security in Gush Etzion. I am working very behind the scenes which makes me happy because the scenes… they are so painful and ugly. Politics are nuanced and complicated and come with years and years of baggage so planning this meeting has us unintentionally stepping on lots of toes. And getting yelled at a lot. I really just want people to not be physically hurt. I’m pretty sure it’s okay to want that. But it has been weighing heavily on me — the cost of trying to help when people are angry (or in denial?) at the world around them.
But then also Channan spends the day at David’s bakery being filmed for a segment on Israeli TV. And the actor is lovely. And the director is kind. And you watch as the day unfolds as Channan gets more and more comfortable and confident with them. I’m not sure if this part will make the show (and happily I wasn’t there to see it because I would have teared up quite a bit), but at some point Channan sat down and was interviewed by the production team on what it is like to wear hearing aids. He took them off, explained them and talked candidly. The team, who have done many segments of this show, were so impressed with him. As I am. Always.
So for all the Channans out there and their siblings and friends and vibrant lives, I know why I’m working on this meeting which is the equivalent of banging my head into the wall repeatedly. It is for every child that there is and the hope that they will grow into their wonderfulness.
For a number of summers, we worked at Moshava. We worked pretty hard and rarely saw the pool, but on days that I was feeling ambitious, I would take a kid or two at the end of the day. The lifeguards at the pool rivaled any front-line defense team. There, stationed around the pool, stood some very tanned lifeguards with great summer highlights through their hair — probably because they spent eight hours a day outdoors. The lifeguards surrounded the pool with one standing every few feet outlining the perimeter of the pool. And then they just waited and watched.
That is the best analogy I can give to my Tzomet, Tzomet Gush Etzion. There are literally soldiers every few feet, standing, staring, waiting. Give them a towel and a lifeguard whistle and it’s pretty much the same thing. But the crazy (crazy) thing is that people still keep getting stabbed. With soldiers (and soldiers and soldiers) every few feet, it is still not enough.
These days there some elite soldiers at the tzomet. How do we know they’re elite? They come with face masks — these black “maybe I could be knocking off a 7-11 right now” — masks. Dov thinks he’s being guarded by “good guy robbers.”
I am fascinated by the role trauma plays in the lives of small children. Because Dov is my last (and also super adorable) kid, I walk him to the bus each and every day and wait with him at the bus stop. Something I never had the time to do before (also, if I’m being honest, Yoni is the only other kid who took the bus and he would never want me to cramp his style). Often, I’m the only parent there and I love it. I chat with each kid. I know their test schedule, if they’ve done their homework and what they’re packing for lunch. The other day I was talking to my adorable little neighbor about the weather. And she told me that even though it is already cold out, she doesn’t have new boots yet.
It turns out the day she was supposed to be getting boots was a Thursday and instead of getting boots, she tells me earnestly, her mom had to go over to the neighbor’s house because the neighbor’s husband got shot. So no boots. And that’s the way she tells this story, she understands the story. Instead of boots, her neighbor died.
We got cookies from a neighboring Yishuv the Friday after Yaakov was killed. And I was touched by the gesture. It seemed nice. And then I was angry all Shabbat at those cookies. I don’t want to be the one getting a cookie. I want a bit of a different reality — where we get boots when we’re supposed to get boots and make our own cookies.
Here is what it looks like when a community has its heart broken:
It looks like a hundred kids standing together, singing songs and waving flags. And slowly slowly, it grows and grows until it’s not only those kids singing songs, but it is their friends who join them and their parents who stand behind them and their little siblings who don’t really understand what’s happening.
And then we walk. We walk out of our small seemingly safe yishuv and turn left as we all do every day. And then we pass a memorial, hastily, lovingly achingly made and we keep walking.
This Shabbat was quiet. There were whispered stories of cars that made a right instead of a left in that moment. Of a girl in the back seat of Yakov’s car. Of cars that were shot at and cars that were spared.
And we keep walking and there is singing and dancing and hugging and crying. And kids wave their flags and speakers stand up to offer the brokenhearted some solace and strength. And one Rav, one neighbor gets up and he tells us to love every minute of life, because it is precious.
In that moment, surrounded by my broken community, surrounded by kids and parents and grandparents, I do love life.
The Don family lives five doors down from us. Sarah Don reminded me on Shabbat that the first time she met David and me we were a newly engaged couple in Toronto and they were there on shlichut. They were at our kiddush and thought, what a young cute couple. That feels like thousands of years ago. Look where we are now.
Eitan’s hair grows like a Chia Pet. I’ve thought of asking his barber for a punch card with the tenth haircut free. We’re frequent customers. Today he got a buzz cut. He was deliriously happy. But as we were leaving I noticed he had a nick on the top of his head, like the shaver burrowed in just a bit too much. When I pointed it out, the barber blamed Eitan’s head. He was right. Eitan had stitches at the top of his head when he was four. And all along this little scar has been there hidden away.
In my Top 40 house, we’ve been hearing a lot of Stitches by Shawn Mendez lately. It is a bizarre little song rhyming “stitches” with “kisses” but it’s got a good beat and feels appropriately teenage angst-y so it’s a win around here. I one up their Stitches with Train’s song Bruises and we’re really a pretty beat up bunch.
I feel like scars have been exposed. Yesterday I jumped into a cab in Yerushalayim because it was too wary-ing to wonder if the next person I passed by was going to stab me. And then it’s equally weary-ing to berate myself for the fear. The cab was quiet. In a news-obsessed country at a time of war, the radios are on everywhere all the time. But not my cab driver. He had had enough. By 10 am, he had turned his radio off. He told me he believes in fate. Fate was there, he told me, 20 years ago when he was near a bomb that detonated in the city. He was close enough to have his clothes ripped off his body but not a scratch on him. No scars.
Some scars are hidden and you find them after years. Some you never find. But they are most certainly there.
This afternoon, three lovely soldiers showed up at my house. My settler house. They came to interview me. They were quite lovely. From three different cities in the States, these boys all moved here and are starting off their lives by serving in the army. Today they wanted to talk to a settler. And there I was. Settling.
I don’t come by it naturally, being a settler. There is an awkwardness that I have about it. There is an apologetic part of me when the conversation turns to my life choices. I am, in my heart, a very liberal Canadian (as all Canadians seem to be) so this seems counterintuitive, doing something that makes people angry, hurt, uncomfortable. But here I am sitting in my quite lovely home with some quite lovely soldiers talking it through.
Today was literally a day of sticks and stones. Stabbings and attempted stabbings in Kiryat Gat, Jerusalem and Petach Tikvah (and maybe Maaleh Adumim in the past few minutes). Some sort of attempted lynching (do we even use that word?) on the Tekoa road. All in all it seems like the perfect day to throw in the towel. Just the littlest bit of research has told me that Maine has the lowest crime rate in all of America. And it has lighthouses. It’s looking pretty good to me now. Also not lost on me? The irony of Maine’s tagline: The Way Life Should Be. Hilarious.
In America, there’s a lot of talk about helicopter parenting. Parents who cannot separate and hover, taking control over the minutiae of their child’s life making sure they are on top of every detail. I’m looking to coin a new phrase. I’m no helicopter parent but I did call my son’s school principal to make sure that the right security measures are in place in their seemingly super unsafe school. How do you say — can you make sure my kid doesn’t get attacked while under your guidance? It’s all just the littlest bit bizarre.
I told those three soldiers a story this afternoon: During the second intifada as I was driving home from work one day my car got stoned. And I was sort of expecting it to happen, we all were in those days. But what I was most interested in was my reaction. I wondered would I suddenly feel rage, fury, anger? Would I feel unsafe? Betrayed? Aggressive? And here’s the truth, I just felt sad. As we all swerved around the rocks and kept driving, I just feel deeply and truly sad. It is definitely that sadness that sits with me tonight. (and fear, a nice healthy dose of fear.)
I think in my life before business (BB or BBB before bread business) I understood what was going on around me. I hung out with people I liked, I had a skill set that I had worked on for a bunch of years to do really well. I sort of had it together. And then the bread began.
Things we have lost to the dough? One night David’s dough exploded all over the router and knocked out wifi at the bakery. In the age of automated everything, shockingly there was no number to press for my wifi has stopped working because it is covered in sourdough on the Bezek menu. Mercifully, Bezek was happy to replace the router. Another night David’s smart phone fell into the dough while it was being mixed and it fell victim to the dreaded diving mixing arm shattering everywhere (not so smart now, eh phone?). David’s alarm goes off at terrible hours. Mean vicious late at night early in the morning hours. And he gamely gets up to mix his dough, talk to his dough, shape his dough, bake his dough. He’s happy and exhausted and happy.
I sort of need a learning curve for this whole business deal. It turns out some people are mean. It’s bread, why would anyone be mean around a carbohydrate? I have been yelled at (about bread). People will do many strange things to save small amounts of money (again, it’s bread). But then there are a million lovely people that I have met who make this whole business thing feel sort of cool and fun. I talk in broken Hebrew using vocabulary words that they don’t teach in Ulpan that refer to flours and breads and sourdoughs and bread slicers. I get chizzuk from my fruit and veggie guy who tells me how to deal with customer service. I get hugged by so many lovely people. I get great emails after workshops extolling the virtues of a bread baker like David.
I have learned which breads slice easily in the bread slicer (whole wheat and country French) and which ones you need to offer up a quick and silent prayer to Demeter the Goddess of Bread, Wheat and Bountiful Harvest as you run it through the slicer (spelt… it kills me every time).
I know where to go to buy industrial ovens. I’ve met the flour guy and his wife and daughter. I know the guy we buy bags from (do I love him? no.). i know who to call in a bread emergency. I meet lots of small kids and give them magnets. I meet cute young couples who are newlyweds and spend time pondering over the perfect bread for their Shabbat table. I talk it out with people who are yeast sensitive, gluten-intolerant and wheat averse. Who knew that there were so many approaches to bread?
On Fridays, when I am in and out of the bakery, I dream up new spreads and dips for David’s bread. I have stopped cooking meals (sorry, Fischers!) and have focused on olive tapenade, pestos, roasted eggplant dips to just put out with bread.
It’s a weird world. It’s yummy.