Saturday, November 29, 2008


Tomorrow and the day after tomorrow are my kids' birthdays (4 years and one day apart - no planning!). Actually, they are not children anymore, but young adults, which is pretty hard to get used to. And they are so different.
Dan, my firstborn, raised by the book, a frequent mistake commited by first time parents, had to cope alone with the world (he didn't have an older brother to follow). He has high hopes for himself and wants to better the world. He has a plan for the next 10 years, culminating in diplomacy and ambassadorship. Or anything that needs a suite and tie.
He volunteers a lot and his milieu is a heterogenuous bunch: an ashkenazi economist, a fat bright Russian guy suffering from a mental condition, an army shirker turned into a fashion store manager, a Yemenite post person, another Yemenite wannabe, an epileptic Persian, a gifted computer science student, a Moroccan news editor and some new ones I don't know. He has an expensive taste and likes fancy meals and places. He invited his friends to Moses (fancy hamburger chain resturant). He did not ask for any birthday present because his self-designed new furniture are enough.
A few days ago, I looked into my cookbooks and picked a nice, rich chocolate cake for the joint birthday, but knowing my 'customer', I asked for his approval. 'No, I'll pick another one', he said, 'something special, out of the ordinary, something with mango or exotic fruits'. Never mind his brother Tom probably prefers a chocolate or nut cake. He looked and looked and just got more confused until there was no time to buy ingredients and bake so I bought a ready made one. Chocolate mouse.
Tom came to the world directly into the role of the spoilt and pampered 'little one', brought up with more love and closeness and less theory from manuals. He had his brother's footsteps to follow or turn away from, a reference in any case. He complains we have less photos of him as a child.
He likes the outdoors and playing soccer with friends. His two best friends are a dark skinned soldier, son of a taxi driver and houswife running a messy household, and a penthouse dweller Persian student, son of an investement banker and a city hall clerk. He also has lots of groups of friends he belongs to: from his former schools, his extreme trips, and the current boarding school.
He doesn't volunteer, but is empathic to all creatures, especially animals and children. He likes plain things, home cooking and a homy athmosphere. I asked him what cake he'd like for his birthday. 'Nothing or dad's chocolate yiest cake'. He got a nice watch for his 18th birthday. He decided he desn't want a party, he'll invite his friends into our new empty apartment (when we get the key) to sit on the floor and order pizzas.
He is non-judgmental. He tends to forget things, to mix up places and tasks. He doesn't have a plan for the future.
They are both thankful in their own way for the help and advice we give them. I know they will try to please us even long after we'll be gone. And although I find people's attempt to control things after their death quite pathetic (by writing complicated conditioned wills, for example), I'd like my two children to keep in close touch throughout their lives, whatever happens. I know they will. Maybe.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Last week I got a fine. A painful one. I deserved it because I really did something forbidden followed by something stupid. I drove against traffic, if you really need to know. No, not on a busy multi-lane highway, just a small dirt road, but still. Why did I do that? I plead guilty with an explanation, even a confession.

I am orientation challenged - the politically correct term for a person who cannot find her way out of a paper bag. It is difficult for me to navigate, especially in the dark. Every time I have a feeling I have to turn left, I should actually turn right. Even ways to places I drove to several times before, confuse me. The smallest deviation from directions and I'm lost. Here, I did it, I'm out of the orientation closet. You can now laugh or applause.
I was invited to dinner in a nearby town, to a restaurant on a street I know, I've been there many times before. It's the first street to the left, piece of cake, no need for directions. When I'm about to turn left I notice there is no left turn there anymore, I keep driving straight. I decide to keep going until I can make a U turn, return to the same junction, and turn right. Why? Because it seems safer than making 3 lefts and get lost in the dark. Back at the same junction I discover there is no right either, it's a one-way street! I drive straight again, towards the exit from the town. Despaired, I get a flashback about having the same surprise a few months back and the way I solved it: by driving a few meters into a one-way dirt road, against traffic. Relieved, I do the same (forbidden), but this time I continue beyond the first few meters in the false hope of finding a parking spot (stupid). What I find instead is a police officer who requests my driver's license.
Is this problem of mine (and of many other men and women) a genetic deficiency? A particular type of dyslexia? A side effect of my cotton-wool upbringing? Can it be ameliorated by practice? I don't know.

The fine, however, is about half the price of a GPS.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


For some odd reason, movies I watch have to be light and fun, like romantic comedies, but theater plays have to convey a message, leave me with food for thought. Last week I broke this rule twice and watched "The Lives of Others" and "Edith Piaf" on satellite.
While I can recognize Edith Piaf's voice, I knew nothing about her tragic life until I saw this excellent movie I categorize as a learning experience. But "The Lives of Others" caused me nightmares and revealed memories repressed for the last twenty something years of my former life in a like regime.
While some 'bad things" I knew back then, some I understood later on when I grew older and wiser, and some I learned from "Red Horizons", this movie led me to new insights about evil regimes' impact on people's lives and personalities.
The scene featuring the cloth with the scent of the interrogee collected from the chair and closed in a jar for future hunt down by dogs haunts me to this day reminding me there is no limit to evil. Hundreds of thousands reported on their colleagues, neighbors and even spouses. Microphones were implanted all over and human rights trampled by the day, hour and minute.
Our parents still remebered life before communism and my generation outlived it, but the more generations born into and die during the regime, the greater the impact. People who grew up during communism are fearsome of authority (such as police), lack entreprenuership and I dare say that even their moral judgement is impaired to an extent. Things you experience in your daily life seem normal after a while, even though you feel and know they are not right.
Healing occurrs after a while spent in freedom, depending on the age one was set free. It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Missing Ceremony

Last wek we were invited to a Brith (Jewish ritual circumcision) 'party'. When you are invited to a Brith or wedding 'party', it means that the ceremony was performed before the event and all we have to do is just party.
When we entered the hall of the beachfront northern hotel, we congratulated the parents and grandparents of the newborn and proceeded to the reception area, full of appetizers from sushi to hummus. The salads, main and side dishes, as well as the dessert were already layed out on self-service tables in the main hall. Guests came, took their seats, chatted with friends, eat anynchronously and left. The venue, food and athmosphere were good, but something was missing.
We all complain about boring ceremonies, speeches and proceedings we'd rather skip, but I felt someone should have stood up and tell us why we were there and had more than usual food for this Friday lunch. The speech did not have to be religious, explaining the meaning of brith based on acient sources, but rather something light, enlightening and even entertaining.
Do we still need ceremonies in modern days or are they anachronistic activities performed by distant tribes?
Traditional or new age, ceremonies give us a sense of order, succession and belonging to traditions longer than our own lives.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Third Generation Friendship

The Helds are our best friends. The late Eva Held and my late mother in law were good friends since their childhood. Their friendship with its many turns is a story in itself. Second generation Andrei, Eva's third child, and my husband Peter are also best friends and third generation Held twin sisters Tali and Ronit and my children, Dan and Tom, are also good friends.

Hygene extremist Zoe (aka Dr. Held) loves to buy stuff, especially books (of which they have thousands) and CDs and loves to cook, bake and eat. Electrical engineer Andrei loves to sit comfortably, smoke his pipe and drink his espresso, next to a fishing rod, if possible. They both love to work around the house. They invest in their home, we spend on holidays.
I love the hardworking, honest Helds with all my heart. They can't forget we brought them home when arriving to Israel, hosted them for a couple of days in our tiny apartment and accompanied them to the absorption center in Karmiel, where they started their new Israeli life. Years later, we included them in our will as the custodians of our kids, should anything bad happen to us.

So here we are, invited at the Helds, who live in a spacious cottage in the North. No special occasion, just a simple get-together-talk-and-eat. Belle, the resident labrador, moves among us, friendly and hunting for attention. The time we spend together is always pleasant. We talk about Zoe's hard work at the Sick Fund, Andrei's new boss at the Electrical Company and about common friends and acquaintances. The food is always great as Zoe is an excellent cook (and so is Ronit). After lunch, Zoe and I take Belle for a walk and have a short girls' talk on the way, while the 'boys' discuss the latest fishing gear and plans.

A few days before the meeting, the Held parents were busy arranging their daughters in new places as the twins will soon start studying medicine in Jerusalem (Ronit) and business administration in Herzliya (Tali). I know them since they were born, but now for the first time, I look at them as young adults. Lighthearted Tali and serious Ronit are ready to start a new and exciting chapter in their lives, filled with dreams, difficulties, studies, fun, friendships, insights and disappointments. They still need us, parents, but much less than before. They want to prove to themselves they can be independent, even if not completely, for the time being. Will they return home after graduation? Doubtfully. The Held parents will have to adapt their routine and travel a lot more to visit the girls.

I leave full of thoughts about what all this means for me, wondering whether we are still relevant, whether the youngsters taking their first steps will better the world we will bearly understand.