Sunday, April 23, 2006

Dog 1 : Bird 0

Yesterday started off like any other typical Saturday for us. The little one and I were up at around 7 am (and before you start grumbling about the hour, I actually woke up before him, and couldn’t fall back to sleep), and following a stroll with the four-legged family member, we returned home for chocolate milk and coffee (and I’ll leave it to y’all to figure out who had what).
A few short hours later, we were showered, dressed and out of the house, heading down to Tel Aviv to meet some friends at the Park Hayarkon. Following approximately 45 rounds of “This Little Piggy” with my son (who kept taking my hand, placing it on his toes, and sweetly asking, “more piggies?”), he was thoughtful enough to fall asleep just as we were pulling into the big city, allowing him to nap for about 23 minutes or so, while we found parking and waited for our friends to arrive.

We realized about halfway through the drive that we’d forgotten to bring the stroller, which could have put a serious damper on things. We needn’t have worried, as our friends – who have three children – brought both a stroller and a little bicycle (with parent steering from behind) for their youngest, so while she alternated between the stroller and her father’s shoulders, our little one happily took over the bike. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of going to Park Hayarkon, it is a lovely, huge park with lots of grass, a huge play area, footpaths, water features, vendors, etc. And on a beautiful, extremely warm Saturday afternoon, it is full of Israelis - running, riding, playing, seed-spitting, dog walking Israelis, with all that this implies. I could have stayed longer, as some areas of the park were quieter than others, but as a few in our group were clearly dismayed by the mayhem, we decided to move on, heading up to Tandoori in Herzliya Pituach for lunch.

Tandoori puts out a most excellent buffet of Indian food on Saturdays, and I highly recommend it if you happen to be in the area. The food is fab, and the value for your money couldn’t be better. Oh, and they’re also really child-friendly, which was very important yesterday, given that we were four adults and four children ages seven and under. Our little one was impressively (surprisingly?) well-behaved, munching on bread and schnitzel (thank God for children’s meals!) without making a mess, and even admonishing our friends’ daughter (three months younger than he is) for getting rice on the table, telling her to sit down when she tried to stand up in her high chair, and putting his finger to his lips and shushing her when she shrieked. All in all, it was a very good meal. I love Indian food almost as much as I love sushi, so needless to say, I was one happy camper.

The ride home was uneventful, as the little one slept for most of the journey, waking up only once we’d arrived home and Husband attempted to lay him down in his own bed. Given his earlier frolicking at the park, we were quite convinced that we were in for some serious nap-time, but alas, the little one clearly had different plans. Husband attended to him while I attended to myself, and when Husband made a comment regarding the dog, it was muffled by the bathroom door, and I didn’t pay too much attention. Making my exit into the bedroom, Husband casually suggested that I go see what our dog had done on the couch.
As I wandered down the hall towards the living room, I tried to imagine what I might find. Had he had an accident? Had he been sick? He wasn’t prone to either, and will resort to such actions only out of absolute desperation, so needless to say, I was very curious as to what might cause my husband to send me to the couch for a peek.

Oh. My. God. It was GROSS. At least the fleeting look that I got when I realized what it was. Dead pigeon. On the couch. Feathers everywhere, but thankfully, hardly any blood, etc. Ran back to the bedroom in disgust. It would seem that the poor creature had managed to enter through the porch door, which we had left open so that the dog could go in and out while we were out, and had had the misfortune of encountering our aging, four-legged hunter. I delegated cleanup duties to the husband (I mean, isn’t this precisely the kind of task for which we marry them?), who reported back that our mutt hadn’t actually eaten the bird, but had apparently just removed its feathers. Man, was it disgusting! As the little one put it, “Malal (his butchering of the dog’s name) pichsa couch”, and I couldn’t come up with a more accurate assessment if I tried.

Once Husband disposed of the body, I swept up and vacuumed all the feathers (who would have guessed that a little pigeon could have so many feathers?), laundered any item that may have come into contact with our feathered friend and shampooed the spot on the couch where “the body” was found. Hopefully, the wind will get rid of any feathers remaining on our porch (did I mention the copious amounts of feathers?), and hopefully, our dog’s breath will soon return to normal from its current state of “bird breath”, as my husband coined this latest bout of “dog breath”.

If a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, what is a bird on the couch worth? Does it make a difference if the bird is dead? Sigh…

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Eat matzoh. Drink more wine. Slouch. - Thoughts during Passover

Here we are, about halfway through the Passover holiday, and unfortunately, about three-quarters of the way through the Passover cookies. Our Seder was mercifully quick, and seems to get quicker and less structured from year to year, which suits me just fine! Fourteen of us at my sister-in-law's home, which is where we've held the Seder every year since my mother-in-law passed away, just before Passover back in 1999. The food is always wonderful and always plentiful, and I am extremely, extremely lucky that my sister-in-law actually enjoys making the family Seder, as the thought of doing it myself practically brings on a panic attack.

The Seders I remember most from my childhood were held at various hotels in the Catskills, where the amounts of food served at any given meal were simply mind-boggling, and Seders were performed by various high-powered cantors. We often spent at least part of the holiday there, depending on how the school vacation was scheduled during a given year, and we would spend our time running around with all the other kids, begging quarters from all ancestors and blood relatives, to be spent on the hotel arcade pinball machines and video games (Pacman, Asteroids, Phoenix, and the like), and I shudder to think of the house I could have now had I saved all the quarters spent on arcade games in my youth. For the most part, the same kids would return year after year, and we wandered around like a pack, looking for things to do (Bingo, anyone?), going swimming/ice skating/bowling/etc, participating in Simon Says, going to the evening shows that embodied the Borscht Belt genre of comedy. Those were good times, characterized by food (it always comes down to food with us, doesn't it?), bingo, Latin American waiters who were often both charming and handsome (and given the amount of time spent at our assigned table in the dining room, we got to know our assigned waiters quite well), and endless supplies of Kosher-for-Passover rolls that my grandmother (and all the other elderly ladies in the vicinity, of which there were many) casually nicked from the dining room by stashing them in a pocketbook seemingly designed for just such an eventuality.

We even managed to maintain contact with some of our "Passover" friends during the year, and no one was more surprised than I at a new student orientation lecture on my first day at university when a guy came over and sat down next to me and said, "hi, don't you recognize me from "Unnamed Hotel"? I'm Garey. I saw you and your parents moving you into your dorm room." I did indeed recognize Garey, but had always assumed him to be older, as he was always with his grandparents, and never hung around with the other kids. While never becoming great friends, we maintained casual contact throughout our four years on campus.

I must say, that despite nearly 13 years of marriage, I've never become completely satisfied with my husband's family Seders. While I do enjoy the "rapid" pace of the Seder itself, I often find myself missing the Seders of my own family, always a special occasion where everyone gets dressed up and makes extra effort to get into a festive mood, where the pace is comfortable and familiar, where the traditions are mine, and not something I've had to adopt (and anyone who has attended a Persian Seder probably knows what I'm talking about...). Every year, I tell myself that maybe next year we'll plan our trip to the US to coincide with Passover, but it never seems to happen. Admittedly, though, my joy knows no bounds when it comes to the fact that we only have one Seder in Israel, instead of the two held everywhere else, and the holiday is one day shorter here (isn't it, or am I just making that up?). All good eating habits go out the window whenever this holiday comes around, and one of my most anchored traditions is spending a week feeling guilty about my calorie consumption. As the old saying goes with regard to Jewish holidays, "they tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat." And that, my friends, sums it up.

In keeping with the holiday theme I've got going here, I'd like to share a recent email that my father sent...

The Two-Minute Haggadah - A Passover service for the impatient

Opening prayers:
Thanks, God, for creating wine. (Drink wine.)
Thanks for creating produce. (Eat parsley.)

Once we were slaves in Egypt. Now we're free. That's why we're doing this.

Four questions:
1. What's up with the matzoh?
2. What's the deal with horseradish?
3. What's with the dipping of the herbs?
4. What's this whole slouching at the table business?

1. When we left Egypt, we were in a hurry. There was no time for making decent bread.
2. Life was bitter, like horseradish.
3. It's called symbolism.
4. Free people get to slouch.

A funny story:
Once, these five rabbis talked all night, then it was morning. (Heat soup now.)

The four kinds of children and how to deal with them:
Wise child - explain Passover.
Simple child - explain Passover slowly.
Silent child - explain Passover loudly.
Wicked child - browbeat in front of the relatives.

Speaking of children:
We hid some matzoh. Whoever finds it gets five bucks.

The story of Passover:
It's a long time ago. We're slaves in Egypt. Pharaoh is a nightmare. We cry out for help. God brings plagues upon the Egyptians. We escape, bake some matzoh. God parts the Red Sea. We make it through; the Egyptians aren't so lucky. We wander 40 years in the desert, eat manna, get the Torah, wind up in Israel, get a new temple, enjoy several years without being persecuted again. (Let brisket cool now.)

The 10 Plagues:
Blood, Frogs, Lice - you name it.

The singing of "Dayenu":
If God had gotten us out of Egypt and not punished our enemies, it would've been enough. If he'd punished our enemies and not parted the Red Sea, if would've been enough.
If he'd parted the Red Sea... (Remove gefilte fish from refrigerator now.)

Eat matzoh. Drink more wine. Slouch.

Thanks again, God, for everything.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

When I see the world through the eyes of my child, it is an infinitely more beautiful, simpler place. The look of pure joy on his face as he runs out to our porch to see the plane he hears flying overhead, the excitement of watching trains go by, the pleasure of seeing so many cars on the road. His world consists of his family, his friends and his favorite television characters, and it is a happy little world indeed. A world where he is the center, a world filled with love, laughter, tractors and trucks, and a perfect day includes all of these things.

The innocence of my toddler is precious, and I sometimes long for a similar innocence. I am tired of the wars, the politics, the hate. I am world-weary, saddened by the news of more death and dying, whether it be victims of war and terror, the friend of my father's whose life was cut short by cancer, or the woman I grew up with who, at age 38, is in advanced stages of ALS - Lou Gehrig's Disease. I am saddened to hear about a former classmate who will never see 38, a woman whose doctor did not believe that such a young woman could have breast cancer. It is all so senseless and so frustrating. I am angered by stories such as this one, angry at these young Israeli soldiers who use their powers to hurt the innocent, simply because they know they can. I am tired of hate for hate's sake, tired of senseless anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, tired of people hating me for my outer "labels", without bothering to find out who I am on the inside (though admittedly, I'm sure there are people not too keen on the real me either...).

Sometimes I don't like this adult world, a world where priorities are screwed up, where money is power and we forget what is truly important. A world that frequently rewards those least deserving, and often shits on the rest. I had breakfast ruined for me one morning last week by an individual who believes that he, as an engineer, is worth more than one who works as a cleaner for a living, and that there is nothing wrong with the fact that the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer, with no end to this gap in sight. He said that people who are earning less than minimum wage aren't really working, so they essentially deserve what they're getting, as does he, an educated (!) man who claims to work hard for his (I'm guessing high) salary. I was shocked and disgusted by his attitude, and left pretty quickly, having lost my appetite during the opening moments of his rant.

I envy my son his innocence, and I marvel at all he does not yet know about the world outside his door. I imagine a world where the worst things that can happen are not getting another cookie or having a toy taken away, and where both are soon forgotten by Mommy holding him close, stroking his hair while whispering softly into his ear. I feel his excitement over identifying members of the animal kingdom wherever they might appear, whether in books, on television or somewhere outside. It doesn't take much to make him happy, and his laughter brings me great joy. He knows nothing of betrayal or abuse, murder, death or mayhem. He is happily unaware of political wheeling and dealing, nor does he know what a terrorist is. There is no pain that his parents cannot make disappear, and money means nothing.

Granted, there are some good things about the world of grown-ups, but sometimes I yearn for the times when all I needed was a warm embrace or a piece of cake to take my problems away, the times when seeing planes, trains and automobiles were all it took to make me happy.