Jun 13 2014
This post is part of our Torah commentary series. This Shabbat we read Parashat Shlah. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.
As a kid, my parents affectionately referred to me as the “Queen of the What-Ifs.” I could what-if with the best of them. New experience? Bring on the what-ifs. What if I don’t make friends? What if I don’t like it there? What if I don’t pass that test, get accepted into that school, find my way?
My folks would jockey with me as much as possible, and often, they’d try and help me live with the uncertainty. Not an easy feat. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 25 2014
Growing up, my parents liked to take Sunday drives around the scenic parts of Connecticut: to watch changing leaves, visit aging relatives, drive over covered bridges. During one of these outings, I fell asleep in the car and when I woke up, I asked my parents if we were in Texas.
Their shock and horror likely prompted them to make the generous offer, some years later, to send me abroad my junior year of college: a last-ditch effort to provide me with some geographical context. I declined, citing a commitment to my position in student government. Obviously the Brandeis Student Senate would suffer mightily in my absence. I stuck with that story, even in my own mind, for a long time.
All that year, I received postcards from friends in Israel, London, Spain, Australia. They told tales of impromptu weekend trips to Florence, milking cows on a kibbutz in southern Israel, and late-night rendezvouses with strangers encountered in youth hostels. What could possibly make me choose “Robert’s Rules of Order” over these exotic adventures? Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 20 2013
I walk up and down the aisles of a local discount store, filling my cart to the brim. My kids are chattering happily about swimming suits, beach towels, matching flip-flops, and sand pails. I have an unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach.
“Mommy, what does the beach look like?” my 4-year-old son asks. We live less than a three hour drive away from the ocean, and even closer still is the bay, and yet he’s never been to either. “I know how to swim,” exclaims my daughter excitedly. “I’ve been practicing in the bath!” I smile uneasily. I know it’s time I really teach them to swim, to teach them all about water safety. I can’t keep avoiding it. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 15 2013
It’s a bit embarrassing. I didn’t even tell my friends. But now that it’s over, I confess: my new year’s resolution for 2013 was to take driving lessons.
Yes, I already had a driver’s license. I’ve had a license since I was 17 and living in the New York suburbs. But I left for college in Boston shortly before my 18th birthday, and ever since, I’ve lived within walking distance of Boston’s T or Washington’s Metro system. I never owned a car and never really needed one. I took the train or a bus nearly everywhere. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 19 2012
The fear can sometimes be so intense that it feels nearly unbearable.
True, being a parent brings with it unparalleled joy, fulfillment and, of course, exhaustion, but the knowledge that our primary responsibility in this world is to keep our children safe is almost too much to handle; it is both an incomparable responsibility and incomparably fear-inducing.
We need to keep our kids safe from choking while nibbling their first soggy Cheerio. We need to keep them safe in the bath, even when the water is no higher than their chubby thighs. In the car we strap them in. On the playground we call out “slow down!” We try to protect them from the wind on their chapped cheeks, from the rash on their tush, from the concrete as they learn to walk, and run, and bike. Read the rest of this entry →
Nov 20 2012
I remember a conversation I had with my grandmother not long before she died. She was in a hospital bed that had been set up in the dining room; she hadn’t been able to climb the stairs to the second floor of her house for years. I pulled a chair close, and asked her if she used to light candles on Friday night back when she was a little girl in Northern Italy.
The question had been chosen carefully, and with great intention. I knew that if I asked her if she was Jewish, if we were Jewish, she would vehemently deny it. But when I asked her about the candles, my grandmother smiled and told me about cleaning the house every Friday, about cooking all afternoon, and yes, she told me, of course they lit candles. Read the rest of this entry →
Nov 12 2012
Three weeks after Jared was born, he started spitting up. At first it was normal baby barf, but it became heavier and more frequent.
By his 4-week birthday, Scott and I were living out of the washing machine. We left it full of soap and water, dumping soiled onesies, footies, burp cloths, bibs, and our own vomit-soaked clothes into it throughout the day. We ran the washer at night and as we needed new clothes for ourselves or our son, we pulled them out of the dryer. At the height of the worst, Scott changed Jared’s clothes five times in one hour. The footies were soaked from head to toe and front to back. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 21 2012
“Mommy, who’s going to take care of me when you and Daddy die?”
This from the mouth of a child who is not yet 4 years old. My child. My first born, my daughter who has a tender, anxious soul and wisdom beyond her years. She made me a mother and challenges me every day to question my beliefs and face my fears.
She’s been curious about death lately. I’m not sure where she heard the word, but she seems to have grasped the concept. She understands that death means someone is gone and that they’re not coming back. She’s still struggling with the details; she recently asked “where we fall” when we die, or if we “pop.” I can handle those questions–even if I don’t have the right answers, I’m ok muddling through until I find something good enough that seems to work for her little brain. (We finally settled on “you just stop” as the answer to what happens, and that seemed to work for her.) Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 13 2012
Will Sarah's kids stop to smell the Jasmine?
About a year ago, I started highlighting my hair, wearing skinny jeans, and painting my nails black.
“What, you think you’re Ke$ha all of a sudden?” B. asked while he watched me zip up my high heel hooker boots–the ones with the gun metal grey studs on the sides.
I feigned indignation. But as visions of brushing my teeth with a bottle of jack flitted through my mind, I was secretly thrilled. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 9 2011
The 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks is this Sunday. Although Jews don’t usually acknowledge tenth anniversaries any differently from others, this one will be different, if for no other reason than the media is giving it a lot of press. Needless to say, it’s on my mind.
If I didn’t have children, I would probably spend some time this year remembering the attacks, mourning the many, many losses our country sustained on that terrible day, and feeling angry—mostly at those who would perpetrate such terror, but also at those who use this tragedy as an excuse for further acts of hatred and discrimination.
But I do have kids now, so my focus has shifted away from my own reactions. The girls are still young, so I’m not yet worried about how I will talk to them about what happened that day, and how our country has changed since then. But this anniversary has made me think about how terrorism (both the events of 9/11 and the resulting war on terror) has impacted me, both as a person and as a parent. It’s difficult to put words to it, though. In fact, it’s hard for me to remember the tone of our national discourse before the fall of 2001. I was living in Albuquerque, starting my graduate degree in social work. I had just begun dating the man who is now my husband. I was just figuring out who I was, and who I would become, and the aftermath of 9/11 is so deeply intertwined with my growth in adulthood that I can’t disentangle the two.
As I remember September 11, the first thing that comes to mind, of course, is the fear—the fear that flooded our country that day and the days that followed, the fear for our physical safety, for the future of our country, and for the Jewish people. Of course, we Jews are no strangers to fear, even from an early age. I remember a childhood conversation with my grandmother (who lived through World War II in Italy) about our Jewish heritage, and her response was a worried plea to “Never tell anyone.” Perhaps the most notable part of the conversation was that her words didn’t surprise me, and I didn’t wonder why she felt that way. Read the rest of this entry →