So a few weeks ago, I swanned off to Los Angeles to be surrounded on all sides by friends and family, and engulfed in English and cultural familiarity. And Vanilla Lattes from Coffee Bean. And sushi from a place near an actual ocean and not made by some guy named Shlomi from a kibbutz in the Negev Desert. And of course, Sephora. OK, and my good friend, Jose Cuervo. It was grand. It was glorious. It was everything I wanted in eight days and more.
And my kids? They survived. (And so did I.) Sure, there were moments of guilt, and flashes of uncertainty, but nothing so debilitating that a walk in Venice Beach with my dad, or dinner with my best friend, or an attempt to break into Taco Bell at 3:00 am while jonesing for a coronary wrapped in a tortilla couldn’t cure.
Yes, I missed them. But I had also missed Los Angeles.
In hindsight, I think the hardest part was the plane ride over because I was palpably aware of the difference between where I was and where they were during the entire flight: While flying over France, my children were coming home from preschool. While we soared over Iceland, my family was eating dinner. As we dipped over Greenland down toward Canada, they were going to sleep. And when I landed in LA at 11:00 PM Pacific Time ready to crash headfirst into sleep I knew that on the other side of the world and ten hours into the future my kids were starting their morning. Without me.
(You know, assuming that they had survived the night in the first place.)
But deep down, I knew they’d be ok – they have an incredible, loving, resourceful Aba, and with help from their Savta and Dod, they would be absolutely fine. (Which they were!)
Eight days passed way too fast – and before I was ready, I was a reluctant traveler back at LAX, dragging my suitcases laden with goodies from Coffee Bean, Sephora, Old Navy, and Barnes and Noble. And I stood there in line at the ticket counter, my eyes swollen with tears, slapped upside the head by the the paradox of leaving home and being homeward bound at the same time.
In short, it was a good trip. I’m glad I went. And I will go back again. Like, really soon. (Please.)
But oh the piper. He gots to get paid.
Even during the (occasional) moments when I missed my kids so powerfully that I felt a physical ache resonate from my very core, I knew that when I came back, I would have to hit the ground running: Because during the last days of summer – the hot days, the dog days, the days that bleed seamlessly into mosquito riddled nights, the kibbutz preschool is closed.
Talking to strangers on train rides to Tel Aviv? My leisurely morning cappuccino at the beit café on the kibbutz? Hours spent straddling my two lives on facebook? Over. Preschool. Is. Closed.
For a week. A whole week.
“But it’s only seven days,” my (childless) friends said to me when they saw the grin-and-bare-it terror stamped on my face.
“Oh, you’re soooo lucky,” my mama friends in LA told me. “Our preschool is closed for an entire month, and yours is only closed a week you spoiled little bitch .”
And I guess this begs the question: I went off to LA for eight days. And not to get all Captain Obvious on you, but eight days is one day more than seven. And the time spent away from my kids whizzed by in a blur. And now, back in Israel, back with the children I brought into the world, all I wanted to do was escape the eternity that would be the week following my return.
(Einstein called. He wants his theory of relativity back. )
So here’s where the guilt really sets in. I love my kids. Every fucking second of every fucking day. But I don’t always like being around them. And come on guys, lets be real: Anyone who wants to be around their kid 24/7–or around anyone in general for that matter—is either lying through their teeth or had a highly successful lobotomy.
And I’ll tell you, to go from too much free time and doing tequila bodyshots with fifty three of my closest friends after a day spent strolling along the 3rd Street Promenade, drinking lattes and eating sushi, to power struggles over whether or not I can have two minutes alone to pee without a toddler and/or a preschooler straddling my lap and trying to chew on my boob (while still body slammed with exhaustion from the 20 hour flight and maybe sort of slightly hung-over from the free Black Label they gave us on the plane) is kind of a mindfuck.
But it was what it was. I ate my cake, and I have it too.
Now, I hate the world “bonding” – it’s, like, so ‘90’s and waaaaay too touchy-feely for me… But, I’ll tell you, the intense week that followed my return, with all it’s ups and downs and readjustments grounded me more solidly than bumping down onto the tarmac of Ben Gurion. The week home with my children helped us regroup as a family, and even though it was rough at times—(the Piper is a greedy SOB, and of course M and Little Homie were sick and we were stuck in the house for much of it, and of course we don’t have airconditioning, and of course B had a serious backlog of work and so he wasn’t around for much of the week)—we survived.
No, strike that: We thrived. In teeny tiny increments of good and bad moments strung together, the week passed. Yeah, ok, we bonded.
And while I still fantasize about defying the space-time continuum and slipping back to LA for a quickie visit, I also understand that my real life here on the kibbutz with my kids is where I belong.