Becoming a Child on the Count of Five

Her back was straight, a perfect 180 degrees, without the slightest bit of slouch that eventually comes after years of slumping back in chairs or hunching over cell phones. She sat cross-legged on the high, plush white chair, her small body fitting on the seat perfectly. Her eyes were focused upward toward the television – why else would she be sitting so still? – but her face lacked the dazed and empty expression usually found on zoned-out high school students and brain-hungry zombies. I smiled slightly at the thought of her surrounded by “celebrities” at Madame Tussaud’s; she could have been, if not for the almost undetectable rise and fall of her shoulders and the end of her ponytail drifting in the flow of air from the vent.

“I can’t believe how nicely she’s sitting,” Valentina, the owner of the studio, remarked to us. “Most of the kids that come in at this age are running all over the place, even with the television.”

Trudy and I chuckled and shrugged. “The television is a big help,” Trudy answered, “but yeah, she’ll sit. I’m probably more worked up about this than she is.” Continue reading “Becoming a Child on the Count of Five”

Onward and Upward in the New Year

It was a good thing the wall was inflatable; otherwise my anxiety would have been even higher.

It was only her third try but she scrambled up, finding hand and footholds quickly, as though she had made the same journey hundreds of times before. I assisted her sparingly during her first two trips, giving her a boost when she needed, but usually just directing her to find the next small ledges to plant her feet. I didn’t touch her on that third time, although I was ready to catch her as she went over the curved outcropping halfway up. I hadn’t thought much of it at the time, aside from being amazed at how rapidly she had mastered the climbing wall, but she apparently noticed that I wasn’t holding her anymore.

“Are you still behind me?” she had asked. Continue reading “Onward and Upward in the New Year”

A Marvelous Lunch With Mrs. Maisel

I grinned as I saw the young man talking to the customers in line ahead of me. He carried a beige, old-style newspaper bag over his shoulder and wore a folded paper hat over his tousled black hair that he grabbed frequently to keep it from blowing away. He bounced slightly as he spoke, making quick comments and keeping the conversations brief. The banter seemed to come easily to him as he pinballed from person to person, his overdone, nasal New York accent remaining consistent throughout.

“Ah, see, this one’s got the right idea,” he said as he arrived next to me and gestured to Shayna, fast asleep in the stroller. “All bundled up in there, sleeping through everything around her. She’s got no idea how cold it is out here, does she?”

“I hope not,” I said, chuckling. “I want her to stay asleep as long as possible.”

“Good luck, buddy,” he answered. “It’s a little noisy in there.”

Continue reading “A Marvelous Lunch With Mrs. Maisel”

Hanukkah Magic

“Daddy, look what I found!” Eitan exclaimed.

I’d just walked into the apartment after teaching Hebrew school that morning. Our plans for a family Hanukkah party in the afternoon had been canceled since Shayna woke up with a fever, but that didn’t stop Eitan from discovering the towers of wrapped gifts that Trudy and I had hidden under the table behind the couch. He ran over to the table as I came in and pointed excitedly at the various shapes that were no longer covered by the towel.

“Mommy told me you didn’t put the presents there but I don’t think I believe her. It was really you two, right?” he asked. Continue reading “Hanukkah Magic”

Reflections of Sacrifice

She walked slowly, which wasn’t necessarily out of the ordinary. Her legs were strong, despite their size; I was often surprised by just how much energy she was able to channel through them as she ran, jumped and danced her way through her days. But that morning, she didn’t have the same sense of urgency that she often did. To be clear, she was not taking each step deliberately, purposely maintaining her more-than-relaxed pace as a form of protest or expression of independence. She did not appear to have any specific purpose in her gait; there did not seem to be any hidden message that could be interpreted from her soft footfalls.

She just walked slowly. Continue reading “Reflections of Sacrifice”

A Pleasant Surprise

“Can I go to the bathroom?” she asked.

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes at the question. The girl had raised her hand and waited politely to be called on, just as I wished some of her classmates would. She was also a good student; she never backed down from a philosophical debate, especially if the subject was in any way related to feminism, and her positions were thoughtful and logical. It wasn’t her fault that the bathroom question was a momentum-killer from my point of view; the progression of my class discussion wasn’t her responsibility. She just knew that she had to pee.

“Not yet,” I said as her face fell slightly. “I’ll let you go in a minute, I promise. I just want you to hear this next bit because I think it’s really going to make you angry.” Continue reading “A Pleasant Surprise”

Eighteen Months

Jordan straightened his back, trying to work out the kinks that had developed after years of sitting hunched over his phone. The subway seat helped somewhat, if only because it spared him from having to stand, but the curve of the hard plastic was hardly conducive to better posture. He knew he needed to stop spending so much time zeroed in on the screen that might as well have been attached to his fingers – Jordan’s mother had sent him that message many times, sometimes through that very screen – but he never found it as easy to do as she made it seem.

The subway doors opened and Jordan looked up to watch the new passengers board the car. A teenage girl listening to eggplant-colored Beats stepped inside and sat opposite him. She glanced around the car and paused, ever so briefly, as she noticed Jordan’s neatly manicured, maroon-polished nails before closing her eyes and returning her focus to her music. Jordan rolled his eyes; he usually enjoyed seeing people’s reactions to a well-dressed, dark-skinned man with a full beard and painted nails but he wasn’t in the mood today. Continue reading “Eighteen Months”

Make Your Voice Heard With Rock the Vote

I blushed when she asked the question.

It was my first semester of graduate school and I was sitting in a class devoted to theories of human behavior. It was later in the semester and we had covered a number of different theories. Each theory used a different approach and focused on a different aspect of people’s lives, from the ways infants develop attachments to adults’ desires for self-determination to the ways that people perceive reality in general. It was my favorite class of the two years I spent working toward my degree, rivaled only by the more informal discussions of philosophies and their impacts on social work practice during my independent studies.

On that day, a classmate had raised his hand. He was confused about the goal of our studies. He was struggling to understand how we, as budding social workers, were supposed to use all of these different and, sometimes, contradictory theories during our work with clients. Continue reading “Make Your Voice Heard With Rock the Vote”

I Didn’t Want to Write About This

I didn’t want to write about the shooting in Pittsburgh.

I didn’t want to think any more than I already had about the tragedy that took eleven lives, put six more in the hospital and terrorized a community and a people.

I didn’t want to write about the fact that the Tree of Life Congregation, the synagogue that the gunman chose as the site to act out his toxic anti-Semitic views, was hosting a brit milah, a ritual circumcision, as part of the regular Shabbat morning service that day. I didn’t want to write about the thought of brand new parents having to shield their brand new infant son from shots from a machine gun. I didn’t want to write that a celebration of life was interrupted by a man whose sole purpose in that moment was to perpetuate death. Continue reading “I Didn’t Want to Write About This”

Red Nails Revisited (or, Does This Make Me a Hypocrite?)

To say that the boy looked happy would have been an understatement.

There was an air about him, pride combined with confidence, with just the slightest hint of surprise. The missing tooth in his broad smile added an element of childish cuteness to his aura but I was particularly drawn in by his eyes. They were lit up with the rest of his face as he smiled but they also conveyed a sort of challenge to the camera.

“Check me out,” they seemed to be saying. “I caught this bad boy and I’m ready for anything else you want to throw at me.” Continue reading “Red Nails Revisited (or, Does This Make Me a Hypocrite?)”