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Oct 28 2014

So That’s Why Women Don’t Usually Travel in Their Eighth Month

By at 2:02 pm

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For my 36th birthday, my husband took me out to dinner and a show in San Francisco, an hour north of where we live with our three kids. This was exciting mostly because we were an hour north of our three kids, and also, because we were celebrating not only my birthday, but also that morning’s pink line on my home pregnancy test. We felt both giddy and overwhelmed by the news, and were happy to be out, distracted.

We saw “The Book of Mormon,” and, as observant Jews, it hit close to home. We laughed and laughed. We were laughing at the show, and, by extension, at the Mormons, just as we were also laughing at ourselves, modern people of an ancient faith living a life of contradictions, trying hard to make sense of the traditions and stories that shape so much of our lives, so many of our decisions. Our laughter was uncomfortable, for we saw ourselves on that stage, and were afraid of the possibility that we too were living in an absurd world of illusions, dreaming of Orlando. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 17 2014

We Came For a Bar Mitzvah, But What We Got Was a War

By at 12:38 pm

Israel desert hills

We came to Israel this summer to celebrate.

And for many other reasons, too. Because our kids had never been and we wanted to show them the land of their people, because we love beach vacations and no matter where you are in Israel you’re seldom further than an hour from an incredible beach, and because the food is amazing (never mind the shwarma and falafel, even frozen schnitzel and french fries are delicious here–especially if you eat them on the beach!). Because you can kayak down the Jordan river and ride a wobbly camel in the Judaean desert, buy fragrant spices and the freshest challah at the bustling Middle Eastern market in Jerusalem, and find the most exquisite shoes at the beautiful mall just steps away. Because Israel grabs you by all five of your senses and never lets go…

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But mainly we came to celebrate my oldest son’s bar mitzvah. He’s been practicing his Torah portion for almost a year. I’ve heard him once or twice–he doesn’t falter, never hesitates. He has spent hours with our rabbi in Oakland learning, discussing, preparing his speech and his words of Torah. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 7 2014

Filling in the Gaps of My Grandparents’ Jewish Past

By at 10:43 am

Grandparents vintage photo

I remember my grandfather reading The Forward (in Yiddish) on the back porch. I remember my grandmother in the kitchen cooking all the wonderful Eastern European foods from her childhood for me and my brothers and sisters.

I loved my grandparents, but they were foreign to me. I knew they weren’t born in the U.S. and came from somewhere else. I knew they had to leave their childhood home suddenly and it had something to do with them being Jewish, but the details and the reasons were fuzzy to me. I had a vague sense of something heavy and intense, but couldn’t quite sort it all out. Nobody really talked about it much.

Even though I was just a little girl, I knew my father loved his parents, but also felt ashamed of them. He would avoid driving through the Bronx and Queens where he grew up. He hardly ever spoke about his parents at home with us and rarely said the word “Jewish.” I used to eat my grandmother’s chopped liver by the spoonful when I was younger–it was so delicious. My father, on the other hand, gravitated to more refined food. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 18 2014

My Son Has a Secret Life on Skype

By at 10:05 am

boy-computer

Did you know “nvm” means “never mind”? I didn’t.

My almost-teenage son explained that to me. When he texted me to ask how he could get my online signature for a board he’s applying to. But when I didn’t reply because I was in a different time zone, he figured out he could ask his dad, so “nvm.”

I didn’t understand why he didn’t ask his dad to start with–I was clearly out of town and not very available, or even at all available. And I didn’t know what “nvm” meant. Oh, and I also didn’t know he was applying for a position on this board. Because I think he has a secret life. Actually, I’ll rephrase: he thinks he has a secret life. Or at least one that need not involve his parents. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 11 2014

Thank You to The One School That Found a Way to Include My Son

By at 11:48 am

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“Our entire sixth grade class is going to Six Flags for the end of the year trip.”

A familiar feeling of anxiety overwhelmed me. I wasn’t concerned about the venue. I believe that 11-year-olds deserve plain, simple fun after a year of hard work. I had no concerns for their safety. I am not an overprotective, helicopter parent.

My anxiety stemmed from the fear that the school wouldn’t agree to take my son Amit. Once again, his excitement would be quickly transformed into disappointment, frustration, and anger. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 3 2014

I Need My Kids to Know That There is No Right Way To Be Jewish

By at 3:13 pm

curly-hair

I never want my kids to feel like there is a right way to be Jewish.

Because that’s the way I felt growing up. Even though both my parents are Jewish– and their parents, too.

I grew up in the 1980s in New Jersey in a town that was predominately Jewish. I wanted to be like the popular girls who seemed so together: pretty, well adjusted, wealthy, and yes, Jewish. So I tried to copy them. I thought wearing Guess Jeans, having beautiful hair, a big house, a big fancy car, and a mom who stayed home and always looked glamorous that I would finally become Jewish in just the right way. But I failed miserably. My parents were artsy. I wore Lee Jeans. My mom worked outside of the home. We didn’t live in the fancy part of town. No matter how much I blow-dried my hair, it remained frizzy. My nails were always dirty. Read the rest of this entry →

May 27 2014

When Your Kid Gets Rejected From Jewish Day School

By at 12:03 pm

duel-school-family

We are a “dual-school family.” Our daughter is in 6th grade at the local Orthodox Jewish day school while our son is in 3rd grade at a public school.

We often get asked how this came about. I enjoy replying that when deciding which child should learn Torah, we picked our daughter as a corrective step for generations of reduced access to Torah by girls. But that’s really just a line. As with most things in life, there’s a longer story behind this–and as with much of parenting, our intentions only played a minor role.

When we were first considering kindergarten options for our daughter, we chose the day school. We had seen the way that graduates from the day school can navigate rabbinic literature, converse in Hebrew, think critically about moral issues, and behave generally as mensches. We decided that this upbringing–which I think is a more appropriate word in this context than education–was worth the high financial cost. Read the rest of this entry →

May 14 2014

Your Old Mom Is No Longer Available–Try This One

By at 2:50 pm

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Sweet face. Naughty smile. Huge brown sparkling eyes that stared straight into mine. We’re not usually at eye-level. He’s only 5.

“Will you, Mom? Get me the sunscreen? Now? Will you get it for me now?”

We were having this conversation eye-to-eye because I was sitting on the toilet. I’d been in the bathroom 30 quiet seconds before he barreled in with all his bursting, small-boy energy. It was only 8:30 a.m.–he still had oodles of it. And he needed the sunscreen, right now, immediately, now, now, now. Read the rest of this entry →

May 1 2014

For Now, They’re Teens in California, but Soon They Will Be Israeli Soldiers

By at 10:12 am

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“Hey Ima, you know, the college scouts come to see the U16 games.”

I felt shivers up and down my spine, the same sort of chill that gripped me in early fall while watching my 14 and 15-year-old sons play together in a competitive soccer match in San Rafael, California. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching them play; or at least I used to.

Both boys are passionate about the game, playing at a high level of competitive youth soccer. Every weekend during our stay in the San Francisco Bay area, I watch them play–two, three, or four games. I spend hours and days gazing at their strong, rapidly growing bodies, their lean muscles, tanned skin and their incredible agility as they chase a ball on a soccer field, somewhere in sunny northern California. Read the rest of this entry →

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