“Mama, where are we going?” my daughter asks after I pick her up from gan on the kibbutz.
A sudden gust of wind, and her hair dances. “Wind!” my son shrieks from his perch on my shoulders.
It’s cold for October. And it gets dark early now — a few weeks of passive-aggressive autumn and then winter will be riding us hard in full force, slamming my LA ass against the ground in torrents of wind or rain while I look for a cozy room with a radiator. #FirstWorldProblems.
Except, then she asks again:
“Mama, where are we going to sleep tonight?”
This should be the biggest no-brainer question in the whole entire universe. Because let’s be real: there is only one right answer, and I should be able to look into my daughter’s upturned face and say “we’re going home, sweet girl.”
But… It turns out there is something worse than feeling homesick in the Homeland.
Anyone want to wager any guesses?
Try Homeless in the Homeland. And on the nights when I am with my kids, I do not have anywhere to take them.
And let’s be real, while Sukkot is a freaking awesome holiday and gazing up at a starry sky through palm fronds is all meaningful and whatnot, it sucks to sleep that way because you have to.
Basically, it’s the perfect shitstorm of not being a kibbutz member, of still having to pay rent for an apartment 45 minutes away in Tel Aviv (until mid December, by the way, in case any of you are interested in subletting) and starting a new life from scratch in a country where you lack the basic infrastructure afforded to most of its citizens: like the simple tools of being able to read the fine print on an apartment contract, or, oh, I don’t know, family.
Because even when it’s sticky and inconvenient, and your kids are sick, and you have nothing to offer but a simple, “Thank you,” your family will have your back.
Unless they live on the other side of the world and can’t break out the roll-away bed.
But, I am lucky. And I have an answer for my daughter:
“We’re going to Peri’s house.” Peri is an American friend with three children of her own.
“Are we sleeping there?”
“Will Peri make me cupcakes with pink frosting again because I am a beautiful princess?”
“That’s the plan.”
And while I watch her eyes light up as visions of licking pink frosting flutter through her mind, I begin to relax. Because I realize this: my kids don’t understand that this is a problem. They don’t understand that we’re sleeping at Peri’s house because we have to.
During most of the week, they have a home with their Aba — a safe space with food in the fridge, and two cozy beds, and their artwork on the walls. They have a safe space that I am able to help maintain by sending their father my child support payments before the 15th of the month. And as far as they’re concerned, a slumber party with Peri and her family is like the best thing ever.
And that evening as Peri, her husband and I sit around the table and listen to the clamor and chaos of five children playing together, I begin to relax even more, because even if I haven’t gotten my shit together yet to create a permanent home for my kids, I have a support network of friends who are like family. Friends who are willing to open their homes to a ragtag mama in hooker boots with two kids in tow. Friends who will help me make sure my kids feel safe… and help me feel safe. And while I may not yet have a physical home in this country, with friends like these, I am home.