Please don’t shoot the messenger, but I almost forgot it was Christmas. So to all my dear friends who celebrate this very festive holiday, “Merry Christmas” and forgive me for not getting any cards or emails out. It simply slipped my mind.
How is that possible, you’re surely asking. Well, without the constant reminders on the radio, TV, lights up on all the buildings, Salvation Army Santas, boy scout tree sales, reminders to change to your snow tires, inflatable plastic Santas, Rudolphs, snoglobes, Frosty the Snowman/Snowmen . . .) it’s relatively easy to lose track of the day. And in Afula, there is no evidence of Christmas. None, at least none that I’ve seen. Were I to drive up to Nazareth, I would surely see colorful lights, banners, etc. But I didn’t see them here. Only the one big Santa that I included in my last blog, stuck against a wall in the labyrinth of the Old City streets as I walked to enjoy the Hanukkah menorot set outside the homes.
So when my friend, Laura, asked me if I wanted to see a movie and find some Chinese food to keep up the tradition, I was confused for a moment. Then I remembered. It must be Christmas, since this is how all my Jewish friends have “traditionally” spent Christmas Eve in years past. Why? ask all my non-Jewish friends? Simple. They are the only two places that are open on Christmas eve. If you ever need a minyan, go to the movies or the local Chinese restaurants on Christmas Eve an you’ll find more than enough people to suit your needs.
Laura threw down the gauntlet of challenge. Movies? In Afula! Yes! There is a theater in the local mall and the Hobbit was playing there (in English!). But the movie began at 5:00 and I would be at work at that time. We had a lovely couple from Connecticut coming with their family to see the Center. So that wouldn’t work. And as far as we know, there are no Chinese restaurants in Afula. But there is Ata, the sushi/Japanese restaurant. We’re halfway there. Almost. Well, halfway is better than none, so we all met at 8:00 at Ata, had a relatively lovely dinner (it’s no Sakura, but it was still fun to be out). Interesting restaurant (part of a chain). They have videos on the walls that show you how to eat with chopsticks and the only English-language menu is broadcast on a little video monitor on the wall at your table, the same place that the old push-button music boxes used to be. Does anyone reading this remember those? I used to love the clicking noise those pages made when you’d flip through the little metal tabs that stood up, outside of the rounded glass window that protected the pages listing the selections. Click, click, click. Different than the click click of my keyboard. Not plastic. Clear, crisp, “snap” of aluminum. It was a very comforting sound. It always presaged the advent of your favorite musical selection. The memory makes me smile.
So Christmas eve came and went. Yesterday was Christmas and I waited until the evening so that I could call my friends in America to wish them a happy holiday. My children were spending the evening with our dear friends, the Lovely’s, and it made me a bit sad to know I’d miss the fun and incredible meal that Katie spent the day creating. But I was able to speak to almost everyone and that was good.
Now the countown begins for the arrival of my children. Max on Jan 6th and Zoe on the 23rd. They’ll have a few days of overlap, and I am excited, nervous, and a bit scared as to how we will all feel, the first time together on different soil. My need and decision to make this tremendous change in my life means that my kids don’t really have a “home” to go back to. The remnants of the home are stored in Fran’s basement, the rest scattered between friends and those people unknown who found great bargains at my tag sales or through their subsequent sale at Goodwill. I believe I might have mentioned how Zoe once went to the new Goodwill in Westport and came home with something that I had dropped off there two days before. Pretty funny, huh?
Both children have temporary homes and longstanding, opened-ended invitations from many of my dearest friends to come and stay whenever they need. Zoe has been the guest of Jackie Eskin and Art Finkle, their adopted daughter for this last year of Zoe’s school term, and I am always so grateful for how they stepped up, early in the game, to offer her a home. There are few people who would be willing to say, “Sure. Zoe will stay with us. It’s what we want to do.” and mean it without any hesitation. There are a million ways to help someone. And Jackie and Art found one of the most important, supportive ways to make this life-challenging upheaval do-able.
It’s approaching 6 months since I’m here. The language is beginning to come, slowly, slowly. I can form the sentences in my mind, but getting them out of my mouth is still an issue. What comes out is a jumble to Russian, French, Hebrew, and Italian. Were I able to speak in tongues, I’d be set.
Once the 6-month mark hits (January 3rd), I’ll be able to present a better assessment of what it’s like being here. And I’m sure those thoughts will become clearer once I spend time with my children in my new home, hoping that at some point they will feel that this is their new home. Or at the very least, a cool place to come and spend time with their mother.
Our lives as a family have never been exactly “status quo,” and we have been thrown more obstacles than we’d like to remember. In a way it has made us stronger than many families, and most definitely more appreciative of what we have. It has taught us all the difference between covet and need, and has made us appreciate what we have with each other—the intangibles—so much more.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, the end of the Gregorian year still demands that you think back of where you’ve been the last 365 and what you would like to do with the next. Surely I never would have thought I’d be writing to you from Israel. Never. Ever.
And that just goes to prove that you never know what will happen tomorrow. Carpe Diem.