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”

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?)”

How to Be a Man in Scary Times

It’s a scary time, he says.

He stands at the microphone, a preacher in front of his congregation, a cold, defiant smile on his face. He gesticulates as he speaks, waving to the masses and shaking his fist in the air to emphasize his point. His forehead glistens slightly, though it’s hard for me to tell if the sheen is a result of tiny beads of sweat from the spotlights or the oils from a low-quality spray tan. The crowd cheers in response, drinking in his charisma as if it has been forty years in the desert and he is the land of milk and honey.

I’d rather stay thirsty, I can’t help thinking. Continue reading “How to Be a Man in Scary Times”

Pear Shapes And Water Bottles

I’ve never considered myself an artist.

The most generous among you would say that I am an artist with words and I would thank you politely while struggling somewhat to accept the compliment. In this case, though, I’m referring to visual art.

I do have some artistic talent. I can draw a fairly straight line without a ruler, for instance, and I know a little about the use of coloring, shadow and perspective. My drawings are usually close enough to the image in my head that someone else would be able to tell what I intended without having to ask. Continue reading “Pear Shapes And Water Bottles”

Be The Match, Part 1: Answering the Call

It was a Tuesday afternoon when I made the phone call, the kind of lazy summer day when everything seems slower. Even when work is busy during the summer, I feel like I’m walking through the shallow end of a swimming pool, dragging my feet and struggling to build momentum, while the world seems to continue rushing by. I’d been at my desk, slogging through a service plan or progress notes or some other task that isn’t the main reason why one chooses to go to social work school, when the small number “1” suddenly appeared in parentheses in one of my email tabs. I clicked on the email and immediately sat up straighter in my desk chair.

“You’ve been identified as a possible marrow match,” the email read. “Please call me immediately.” Continue reading “Be The Match, Part 1: Answering the Call”

A Little Night Music

Trudy had been asleep on the couch for about a half hour when I woke her. It had been a long week for her, from shuttling Shayna to errands and the beach to dealing with various bouts of sibling drama each evening. I had tried suggesting that she go to bed when I first saw her eyes starting to close but she protested that she was awake. I let the episode finish, knowing full well that I would have to fill her in on the details of the end of the show when she was ready to hear them later on. She began stirring when I rubbed her shoulder, lifted her head up and looked at the clock.

“I fell asleep,” she said, squinting up at me. “Sorry. Did you finish the episode?”

“It’s fine,” I answered. “You didn’t miss much.” Continue reading “A Little Night Music”

Eavesdropping on a Young Singer (or, What Makes “The Greatest Showman” Great)

I’d just come in from the kitchen to put my lunch in my bag when I heard it. It was soft, so much so that I almost couldn’t make out the words. I placed the tune immediately, though, and the words became clearer soon afterward.

“When the sharpest words wanna cut me down… I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out…”

Eitan was sitting at his table, building a Lego set or drawing a picture or working in his summer math book. He was completely engrossed in the task at hand and didn’t even notice that I had come into the room, let alone that I was listening to him singing to himself. He worked quickly, his eyes darting back and forth from the instructions to his manipulating fingers, his voice lilting ever so slightly as he sang each line.

“I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I’m meant to be. This is me.”

I smiled broadly and returned to the kitchen so I wouldn’t interrupt him. Continue reading “Eavesdropping on a Young Singer (or, What Makes “The Greatest Showman” Great)”

At Least For a Little Longer

“Did you hear that, Shayna?” I asked.

I was in the process of preparing breakfast when I heard the click of the door handle opening. The dishwasher had been emptied, the French toast was heating up in the microwave and the eggs were scrambling in the frying pan. I heard a couple of soft steps on the hardwood floor, followed by a pause and the toilet flushing. I heard the rush of water from the bathroom faucet and then he appeared in the kitchen.

“Oh, Eitan awake!” Shayna exclaimed happily from the counter behind me. “Hi Eitan!”

I looked up from the eggs at the boy standing in front of me. He looked… older, somehow. He still looked the part of a six-year-old but there seemed to be a change in the way he was carrying himself. He looked taller than he had the day before and his face seemed to have aged overnight. His tousled hair still hinted slightly at kindergarten but his posture and his suddenly broad shoulders spoke clearly of first grade. Continue reading “At Least For a Little Longer”

Being Jewish in a German Airport

I don’t usually like to put disclaimers at the start of blog posts. I actually don’t really like putting disclaimers before any sort of comment because it seems like no matter how clearly I’m able to explain the reasoning or intent behind what I’m about to say, someone will end up interpreting it in the opposite way. Whether that happens because they think my disclaimer is insincere or because the disclaimer includes the opposite idea and I’ve just put it into their head is sort of irrelevant. The point is that I think disclaimers usually create a bias or a tension before the actual discussion can even start. And yet, even with all of that said, I still feel like I need a preface of some sort here because the subject matter feels a bit uncomfortable.

Ugh, never mind. I’ll just come out and say it and I’ll explain afterwards:

I felt really weird at the airport in Germany because I’m Jewish. Continue reading “Being Jewish in a German Airport”