Monthly Archives: December 2007

Lighter. Stay tuned for fluffy.

            “I think we should see other people.”

            “I promise.”

            “You’re invited!”

            “Count this as your final warning.”

            “I now declare you husband and wife.”

            Linguist J.L. Austin, in his famous book, How to do Things with Words, turned linguistic theory on its ass.  (Wait – before you click away at the mere sight of the words “linguistic theory” – I am going somewhere with this.  And PLEASE don’t tune out before you get to the request in the last three paragraphs.)  Words, he tells us, can actually do things, rather than just reflecting the “real” world. 

Take, for example, my college-friend I, who we are going to call Ian here to avoid confusion.  Some years ago (never mind how long precisely), we were at the Brickskeller in Washington, D.C.  This was a place we often gathered when 30 or so college friends converged on our nation’s capital, probably because it has over 1000 types of bottled beer.  We started doing a lot of celebrations there, branching out to include friends from work, high school buddies, and random people we met on the sidewalk.  So it was that, one evening, Ian was down one end of the table with some of my co-workers.  I was regaling them with the story of how — once upon a time — I fixed Ian up with a woman I had met for 20 minutes, a woman he had dated for almost a year before she had moved away.

“Of course,” Ian piped up, “I have since come out of the closet.”  Now, it was no surprise to anyone that Ian is gay.  The man worked in the theater, for heaven’s sake.  But, until that moment, he had not used those words.  By telling me he had come out of the closet, Ian actually was, at that very moment, coming out.  His words did the very real work of outing him.  (He then turned around and lobbed a hand grenade at the closet, blew it to tiny smithereens, and began sending us all email updates that included snarky comments about what everyone wore to the Golden Globes.)

Those words did something, just like saying “I do” does something very real and very legal at a wedding – although, in Ian’s case, it did not do anything legal when he said that at his wedding, but that’s a story for another time.  (For those of you who are still actually reading and have not wandered off to play internet poker, please note that I borrowed the example of coming out of the closet from some queer theorist or another, probably Eve K. Sedgwick.  But Ian really did come out to me at the Brickseller.)

So, while there are debates flying around just now about whether—here in the blogosphere—we are actually doing something or just talking out our asses, I would like to posit that the exchange of words it incredibly powerful.  This is why the framers of the constitution told Congress it was not allowed to make any laws restricting the freedom of expression.  This is why journalists go to prison to protect their sources.  This is why Amnesty International sends all those darned letters out to the governments that are putting people in prison for writing or saying what they think.  As I have said here before, words do real work.  This is also why English teachers get paid so well still exist.  ‘Cause we kinda know it is important to teach people how to express themselves. 

It is also important that people know how to respond to the words of others.  That free exchange of ideas is the only way words can accomplish anything.  For the last two decades, the journaling movement has been gaining speed in English curriculums.  Students write in their journals, and, in the best of the scenarios, they pass them along to another student who responds.  Free exchange of ideas, less work for the teacher.  Nifty.

Here, one the internet, we have one giant journal-passing session going on.  I read your blogs, you read mine, we post in response to each other.  This is why I focus almost all of my blog reading on people who are here reading me.  (You’ll notice I never respond to memes, but that’s just because I am lousy at coloring inside the lines; I love to read your memes but cannot stand the posts I try to write in response.  I’m sorry!)  I am absurdly, passionately interested in the way that words and ideas can bounce off of one another.  I guess I sort of have to believe in the power of language, otherwise why in tarnation am I trying to become a writer?

I have, however, hit a snag.  I don’t know who you all are.  I know who some of my readers are, but if my blog stats are not lying, there are more of you out there.  And that’s cool.  You do not have to comment if you do not want to.  It isn’t for everyone.  But, I sort of have to cut back on the blogs I am reading, because every now and then I need to carve out time to brush my teeth or acknowledge my children.  So, do me a favor, huh?  Leave me a comment today or email me and just say, “Dude, I’m over here.  Read my blog.”  Even if I already do read your blog, give a little holler today so that I know you and I are in the midst of a conversation.

And, if you still doubt the power of words, I have two examples for you.  One is Laura, who read my words about a very sick little girl and is now using her words to make Julie feel better.  Today, she emailed me a letter for little Julie, and she is sending along a card.  If you would like to join in and use your words to cheer up Julie, you know where to find me.  I’d be happy to give you her address if you shoot me an email or leave a comment.

The second example?  The House just passed a bill.  A bill the Senate already passed.  A bill that, believe it or not, George W. may actually sign.  Words, just words.  But they are going to require more fuel-efficient cars and greener appliances.

Now them’s some powerful words.

 My email address is emily(dot)r(dot)rosenbaum (in the vicinity of) gmail(dot)com.

How about tomorrow I post something light and fluffy?

Business (real post below): The Blogger’s Choice Awards tech people have been hard at work, and they promise me that now any votes for this blog will actually be counted.  That button over on my sidebar delivers you to their site where you can, in theory, now vote for this blog in “The Blogitzer” category for sublime writing that transcends the natural world, or some such.  If you do vote, please stick around to see if your vote actually got counted this time, because, as you may recall, most of your votes were NOT counted the last two times.

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           There is a little French girl in Zachary’s class.  Big brown eyes, soft brown curls, the kind of little girl they write fairy tales about.  She is sweet, and she is kind.  She is one of those strikingly beautiful little girls whose loveliness you know the other children do not recognize.  

            Zachary certainly doesn’t.  He likes her well enough, but she is definitely not his first choice of a playmate.  No, he prefers children like Timmy, who periodically denigrate him and make him feel like a lower-level invertebrate.  Julie, who adores him, lights up in a luminous smile every time he enters the room.  She giggles with Benjamin, she shares nicely, and she has nothing but love on offer.  Zahcary?  He’s not buying.

            “I don’t want Julie to kiss me at school,” Zach tells me.  Apparently, it’s OK for her to kiss him at home, just not at school.  I sigh.  This girl’s mother and I have started to become friends, ex-patriots clinging together in a sea of hostile, English, new-money mums.  We live down the street from one another.  We arrange play-dates regularly.  Moreover, Julie is the kind of kid I want Zachary playing with. 

Guess what?  I actually do not get a say in who he decides to be friends with.  It is best I learn this early, I suppose.

            It is up to him who he wants to befriend, which is kind of a shame, because he is showing rather poor judgment.  Of course, choosing vile children to befriend is a rite of passage, and it takes some children years to get wise to the kinds of attributes they should probably be seeking in their playmates.  Hell, if choosing rotten friends had been a major offered at my undergraduate institution, I would have graduated summa cum laude.  This is one lesson he will have to learn on his own.

            While he does not have to be friends with her, he does have to be kind to her.  And, he actually is friends with her – out of school.  In late October, Julie’s mother gave birth to a baby.  So, we invited Julie and her six-year-old sister, Maria, to trick-or-treat with our family.  Two more enchanting little witches have never been seen.  Zach and Julie skipped and held hands as they went door-to-door. 

            Ours is the only house Julie has been to.  The other mothers have not reached out, and her family is operating in a foreign tongue.  In school, the only child she recognizes as a friend, Zachary, never goes out of his way to play with her.  If she were to approach him, he would certainly let her play (or feel the wrath of Irate Mommy when he got home).  But, she never does.  She seems to have accepted herself as an outsider in a cliquey class, and she plays by herself most of the time.  Sometimes, the one other French girl in the class plays with her.

            There is nothing more I can do.  I encourage Zachary to play with her, but I cannot force him.  They play nicely at our house, and he is kind to her at school.  If any of those boys had even the smallest of inklings how desperate they will be for the attentions of a girl just like her in twenty years…

            Two weeks ago, Julie got a bug and missed school play.  After she had been out for a few days, we dropped by.  Sandra, her mother, answered the door.  “Oh, she has been very sick,” she told me.  “But now she is better.  Except she is getting… bumps from eating.  We think it is an allergic.”

            “Hives?” I offer the English word.

            “Yes.  And today she cannot walk.”

            “She can’t walk?  That doesn’t sound good.”

            “We think it is from her medicines.  If she cannot walk tomorrow, we will see the doctor.”  At this point, the boys had burst in, and Julie was beaming on them from the couch.  “Zach.  Benjamin,” she cooed.  Since there were no classmates around, Zach returned the affection, although I thought it prudent that they not go too close.

            I tried to call two days later, but I got no answer.  The answer, when I did get it, was the second-worst thing I could imagine hearing.  She was still not walking.  She was in the hospital; actually, the second hospital, as the first had to transfer her somewhere with a pediatric ICU. 

            I stopped by with food for the family.  Maria, the six-year-old, let me in, excited to see an old friend.  Sandra, holding the newborn, ushered me into the kitchen.  “They think it is Guillain-Barre Syndrome, but they are trying to rule out other things.”

            “What other things?” I demanded.

            Sandra shrugged, either unable to say it in English or unwilling to think it in any language.  Maria had been crying at school, terrified about her sister.  Their father was at the bedside 24/7.  Sandra wanted to be there but had two other children to take care of.  She spent the time Maria was at school in the hospital, leaving Julie only to breastfeed the baby.  All of their support system was in another country.  Sandra looked strung out and exhausted, but she was holding it together.  That is, until she shared one little detail.

            “Yesterday, Julie was singing the songs from the play.”  And that made her start sobbing.  Dude, it almost made me start sobbing, and I only cry on election day.

            Julie does have Guillain-Barre.  She will eventually recover, but it could be months or even years.  Strange how months in a wheelchair and extensive PT suddenly sounds like good news around here.  Sandra’s mother-in-law came into town, and on Thursday she will take Maria back to France for Christmas so that Julie’s parents can focus on the sick child.  And Julie?  She will be spending Christmas in the hospital, although I am happy to report she ate half a yogurt yesterday.

            So, Christmas Day will find Zach and his mother on their way back to the hospital, this time to visit a very sick little girl.  We are Jewish; what else do we have to do on the 25th?  Maybe, since they are outside of school, he’ll give her a little kiss.  I suspect he won’t have to worry about her kissing him in school for quite some time to come.

Moral minority?

This one is for Catherine.

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            Here in the UK, we get American television programs after a bit of lag time, so I must say the writers’ strike has had less of an effect on my television watching habits than it might have.  I am just now getting to watch the one and only season of Studio 60, and since I have enough energy for about 2 hours of TV watching a week, that one season seems to be sustaining me quite well.

            I can’t help it.  Bradley Whitford rocks my world.

            Despite the fact that the producers seemed determined to pack four season’s worth of developments into one season’s worth of shows, Studio 60 has some mighty fine, mighty smart writing.  Smart like The West Wing.  Smart like Sports Night.  Anyone notice a trend, here?

            I am a sucker for smart writing and good timing, which is why there is one line from the series that has stuck in my head.  Harriet, the devout Christian/late night comedienne, is arguing with her producer/ex-boyfriend, Matt, a more-or-less secular Jew.  These two characters are meant to represent the religious divide in America, yet, Harriet tells Matt, she does not even know who the two sides of that divide are and why they seem to hate each other so much.

            “Your side hates my side,” Matt tells her, “because you think we think you’re stupid.  Our side hates your side because we think you’re stupid.”

            That about sums it up, right?  The non-believer intellectuals think the believers are morons being led about by the nose.  The believing moral folk think the non-believers are soulless heathens standing on the edge of the precipice, about to fall into a pit in which they will burn in hell for eternity and into which they just might pull all of America if we’re not careful.  That is the divide, right? 

            Shit.  Yet again I did not get the memo until it was too late.  See, I do not fit into either camp.  I am definitely not a believer, but I like to think I am fairly moral.  And, while I like to think of myself as somewhat intellectual, I cannot seem to muster any enthusiasm for labeling people of faith as mindless sheep who cannot think for themselves.  Always the good sport, I tried.  Really I did.  Unfortunately, I have known a few too many real, in-the-flesh believers, and they totally blew the whole stereotype for me.

            To be fair, I used to espouse the notion that people believe in God (and angels and miracles and an afterlife) because they are not bright enough to question the “truths” they are taught in their youth.  I never would have expressed it just that way, but it seemed pretty evident to me that this whole God thing was a pretty big bunch of hoopla, so people who couldn’t see past it clearly had fairly limited vision.  I would hazard a guess I am not the only person ever to feel this way.

            But, as I have gotten older, it has occurred to me I, myself, take a lot on faith.  Global warming, for example.  I almost failed chemistry.  I know diddly about the process by which CO2 floats up into the sky, turns the planet warmer, melts polar ice, and is going to make our planet uninhabitable.  But, the scientists tell me it is so, and I believe them.  Why?  Because they are scientists and they said so.  How, please tell me, is that any different from believing what a priest says?

            I have chosen a system of belief because it makes the most sense to me.  But, because I am a bear of very little brain, I am not so sure I could argue for it in a room full of skeptics.  Put me in a room with George W., and I would fail miserably to convince him that global warming is for real and he has a moral responsibility to stop it.  Hell, I can’t even convince my husband to be worried, and I have a bit more air time with him.  I have taken a lot on faith, and I believe it fully, but I could never prove it.

            People are not stupid because they take God on faith any more than they are immoral because they do not believe.  We all take some things on faith, and just because you accept one system of beliefs and I another, I have no right to decide you are a lower order of thinker.  (Now, if you voted for George W. as the moral candidate, I take issue with your process of rational thought…)  By the same token, a lack of belief in God in no way makes me a less virtuous soul than regular church-going friends.  If we may, can we please save the label of “immoral” for the people who earn it: serial killers, animal abusers, and people who throw paper into the trash?

            So, much as I would like to belong to one clique or another, I am afraid I am going to have to sit this one out.  I just do not have the time to worry about whether someone else believes in angels and what that says about her IQ.  I am way too busy sorting my recycling.

The Lazy Mother’s Guide to Giftwrap

Part three in an ongoing series.  I promise, the next installment will not be holiday-related.

            Say what you will about ordering gifts online; for those of us who dislike shopping, it is the greatest invention of the internet revolution.  Stores are bad enough, but stores between Thanksgiving and Christmas?  If, perhaps, you can put up with the crowds, the chintzy Christmas trees, and the salesclerks in Santa hats, you are a better soul than I am.  If you enjoy the continual auditory assault of “Jingle Bell Rock,” you are probably slightly mad already.

            What gets me most at the mall around this time of year are the fake wrapped gifts.  Stacked up under trees, strewn about the display windows, alluringly spread on checkout counters.  We all know those boxes are empty, people.  We are just not that stupid.  As I dart around women made three times larger by heavy winter coats that they insist upon wearing inside the store and fourteen shopping bags, I wonder: Just how much good could we do for the environment, just how many trees could we save, just how many chemicals could we not produce, if stores simply eliminated the fake wrapped gifts?

            I like to do my holiday shopping (for children, because you know what I do for adults) from the comfort of my own home.  There are no trips to the post office because the packages are shipped directly from the warehouse to the people receiving them.  Yes, there are resources spent to ship the gifts to the recipients, but at least they are not first shipped to a store, where I buy them, and then shipped again to the child.  I could buy the presents and hand-deliver them, but these days that would require a trans-Atlantic flight.  Talk about time- and resources-consuming…

            So, I click away.  I am actually too lazy to think up gifts on my own, so Zachary makes suggestions.  Our nieces are getting a lot of pink this year.

            The online ordering does have its snags.  There is a lot of packaging.  And, if you are willing to pay, say $2.99 to $5.99 extra, they will actually add more packaging for you.  Really.  I just opt for the free gift message.

            But this is a post about how to be lazy for the environment, not cheap.  So, in addition to forgoing the gift wrap at Amazon.com, I skip it here in my house.  Yes, that’s right.  The boys got seven nights of Hanukkah gifts (remember, one night was charitable contributions) without *gasp* any gift wrap. 

            So, here is what I propose.  Instead of spending days on end wrapping gifts for the holidays, just hand them their gifts.  Or, if they cannot take that, use old newspaper.  Or, if they really want something shiny, use reusable gift bags.  Make sure you use neutral ones, because you are going to want to use them again for all those birthday parties.

            Lest you think I am a scrooge who can sit back in my Christmas-less household and fail to see the joy of a tree stacked with gifts, let me tell you that there is one Christmas tradition that I can totally get behind.  Stockings.  Stockings make perfect sense to me.  You buy them once.  You fill them up.  You reuse every single year.  And, unless you are a total glutton for punishment, you don’t have to individually wrap each gift that goes inside.  I like stockings so much that I have, on occasion, tried to convince J that we should have them.  Not in December, because that is too Uncle Tomish for me, but maybe another month.  February can use all the cheering-up it can get.  And maybe not stockings.  Maybe we’ll fill mittens or something.    

            There are those people for whom gift-wrapping is an art form.  People who express themselves through silk-screened, homemade paper and ribbon they wove themselves from the flax growing in their backyard.  If you are one of those people, far be it from me to suggest you give up your art in the name of environmentalism.  I totally get the redeeming value of art, a subject for another time.  Suffice it to say, I would not have told Picasso that the studies he did in preparation for painting Guernica were a waste of paper.  If you raise gift wrapping to an art form, go for it, my friend.

            But slapping some shiny red paper on a box just to watch it get ripped off again?  Surely you have something better to do with your time.

M is for Monday and Mommy and Mean

            Monday began as days around here are wont to begin.  Toilet, blinds, diaper, cups of milk while Mommy pulled out the remains of Sunday’s pancake mix and set about making breakfast.  “May I watch?” Zachary asked.

            “You know what, Zach?  Not today.  If you get on a chair to watch, Benjamin is going to want one, too.”  Score one for Mommy.  Not yet awake ten minutes and I had already made his face fall.  Not content with that, I got angry with him for crying about it.  “Fine.  You bring a chair over and you can watch.  But I’m not going to help you.  You can’t watch every time.  When Daddy is here, we have more time, but when it is just me, I have to get you breakfast and I don’t have time to be pulling chairs all over the kitchen.”

            Zachary, all 25 pounds of him, tried to lug over one of our heavy wooden chairs.  Now, he was crying in earnest.  And I was annoyed in earnest.  Some little voice inside of me realized the sweetness of his request, so I reached over, grabbed the chair, and pulled it over for him.  Of course, Benjamin had to get up, too, and they pushed and shoved each other the whole time I was cooking. 

            Fast forward ten minutes to breakfast.  Everyone was seated at the table, with my butt in the chair the boys had used to watch the magical transformation of liquid to pancake.  The little voice inside of me was getting a little more air time, now that the masses had been fed.  And it told me I had been a grade A, class one bitch.  Zach had asked nicely, he had wanted to participate in making breakfast, and for no good reason, I had shot him down.  “He’s three, you jerk,” the voice said.  “You think maybe you could wait a year or two to make him feel like a nuisance?”

            Like I said, Monday began as days around here are wont to begin.  Toilet, blinds, diaper, cups of milk, Mommy feeling guilty because her kids deserve someone nicer.  My kids drew the short end of the stick, ending up with a rather crappy mother.  The next step is Mommy getting even more unpleasant because she feels so guilty.

            But, this was where Monday was a little different.  “I’m sorry, honey.  I got frustrated, but you did not do anything wrong.  I shouldn’t have yelled at you.”  Silence, sucking on the milk straw.  “Did it upset you that I got angry?”

            “Yes,” Zachary said.  “You hurt my feelings.”

            “I am sorry, baby.  Mommy was wrong to get angry.  Of course I should have let you watch me make the pancakes.”  All of a sudden, little Mr. Bright Eyes was back.

            An hour and a half later, I was standing in front of a group of fifteen three- and four-year-olds.  One of them was Zach.  The rest were his partners-in-crime.  I was the guest lecturer at P-xies Nursery School. 

Zachary’s school has a nifty little tradition that each Monday is Letter Day.  The children bring in an item starting with the letter of the day.  Our item is usually related to Thomas: Cranky the Crane, Harold the Helicopter, Emily the green engine.  We are learning to read steam-train style.  This week was M.  We brought in the little book about Mavis, who I believe is a cheeky young engine, but I am not sure since I totally tune out every time I am forced to read one of these books.

It’s a darned good thing that this was M day, because I was there to teach those children about Hanukkah.  Yeah.  ‘Cause I am just the person you want teaching your kid about religion.  What I bet you did not realize – and what I did not realize until this week – is just how many M words there are in connection with Hanukkah.  Miracle.  Maccabee.  Menorah.  And it’s a good thing, too, because I am pretty lousy at lesson planning for three-year-olds.  I lit the menorah and talked about Maccabees and taught them about miracles (not so easy) and read a book about latkes, which leads me to think I would have been OK had I come in last week on L day.  Zachary identified the shamesh and giggled with Timmy, who had decided for the moment that Zach was his best friend.

            Fast forward five hours.  After nap found Zachary perched on a chair, helping me prep dinner.  He turned bread into breadcrumbs by using the much-coveted food processor.  He measured olive oil.  He dumped in beans.  He stirred.

            Casserole completed and tucked in the fridge for later baking, we went into the living room.  Benjamin, we knew, would be asleep for at least another hour.  “What would you like to do now, honey?  Play with your trains or make a picture?”

            He stopped and contemplated a moment.  Zachary contemplates like a statue by Rodin.  “I want to make a picture.”  I hesitated, not sure I had heard him correctly, because I thought I heard him choosing art over trains.  “For you,” he added.  And so he used his brother-free time to make me a Hanukkah gift.  A rather abstract drawing of trains going in and out of Tidmouth sheds. 

            Ben woke up.  We took a little walk, returning in ten minutes when the cold was too much.  I read them a book together.  Each boy read a book to himself while I read a page in my book.  They played.  They watched Bob the Builder.  (Actually, Ben watched half of Bob the Builder, after which he decided that playing with trucks is more fun than watching them.  Ben has only recently started showing any interest al all in television, now that Zach is not using his 20 minutes of TV time to watch Thomas and Friends.  Apparently, even the one-year-old finds that show mind-numbing.)  The casserole, baking in the oven, filled the house with the smell of garlic and beans.

            We sat down to eat.  The boys, quickly deciding that their palates were not sophisticated enough for bean and vegetable casserole, asked for some peanut butter on their toast.  J came home.  We lit the candles.

            “How was your day?” he asked.

            Had you told me at 8:00 AM that I would answer as I did, I would never have believed you.  Because Monday, you see, ended much nicer than it had begun.

How I dream

Update on my updates (real post below): In case any of you are wondering what happened to the votes that you tell me you cast over the last few days, well, I was kinda wondering, too.  Only one of them actually registered, and I do believe those of you who said you voted (but hope you didn’t feel pressure!)  I have contacted Blogger’s Choice Awards to let them know I am feeling a little like Al Gore in 2000, and hopefully they will work out the technical glitches soon, permitting you to actually cast a vote for this blog or to give up in total disgust.  If not, Julie and I can take it to the Supreme Court.

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            I am a vivid dreamer.  J rarely remembers his dreams, and, frankly, if my dreams were as dull as the few he does manage to remember, I would not bother either.  He has one- or two-scene dreams.  Mine resemble a Wagnerian opera.

            There are the nice dreams, in which I eat doughnuts.  Have you ever had a doughnut dream?  These dreams are fantastic on two fronts.  One, there are no calories or cholesterol in dream doughnuts.  And, two, they actually taste better than real-life doughnuts.  Nothing pisses me off more than getting awakened halfway through a glazed doughnut with chocolate frosting and rainbow sprinkles.  Can’t you wait till I finish eating and then wake me up before the part of the dream where I am re-carpeting the ballroom at the Ritz-Carlton or teaching elephants how to tango?

            There are also not-so-nice dreams.  These are the ones with Nazis.  In these dreams, I am running away.  That is the summary version; the long version is considerably more complicated, often involving abandoned buildings, neighbors’ closets, and other manner of hiding places, in addition to an absurdly convoluted, three-act packing extravaganza.  I used to have these dreams all the time.  Whenever a student seemed vulnerable or I heard about an innocent jeopardized, I dreamt about running away from Nazis with my cat.  Yes, I dreamed of protecting Nala from the Nazis, who for some reason had decided to target a slightly overweight calico-Siamese mix with a neurotic licking disorder.  Perhaps they had run out of gypsies, Jews, and nuns to persecute. 

Once I had a child, the Nazi dreams shifted.  I had them less frequently, but they were more intense when they occurred.  I no longer needed to protect Nala.  The Nazis had lost interest in her and moved on to my son.  But there was still the packing, the running, the hiding, the planning, and the looking behind every petunia pot for the enemy.

            Nazis figure deeply in my consciousness.  My maternal grandparents fled them, leaving behind large extended families to perish in one camp or another, and those were the ones who made it to the camps.  As a young adult, my Grandma Esther actually saw siblings shot in front of her by people they had once considered friends.  This might explain why Grandma Esther was a bit over-protective of her own children, although I am not sure Jewish mothers ever need a concrete reason to be over-protective.

            I may now dream about Nazis less frequently, but I worry about them more.  Yes, I know they are probably not on the verge of a world-wide comeback, but they are everywhere, if in slightly different forms.  I have a friend who has dual citizenship.  When she had a child, she was careful to get that child the dual citizenship to which she was entitled.  “A Jew can never have too much protection,” she said.  She is correct; she is way, way too correct.  I am only sorry that Benjamin is not entitled to dual citizenship, despite being born in the UK.  I would like to go through life knowing that there are two governments who take an interest in his survival.

            I think about scenarios.  If something were to happen, who would hide my children?  In Philadelphia, I had several potential families scouted out, not to mention friends across the country.  Here in London, I feel vulnerable.  What if a pogrom started?  Who do we know well enough to hide the boys and make sure they got out alive?  And, what if they started hunting someone not Jewish?  What if the English-French rivalry suddenly got out of hand?  Would I be brave enough to try to pretend the French children of our friends really belonged to us?  Would I put my children at that risk? 

How about an attack on the water supply?  The air?  We are in SW London, far from the U.S. Embassy, and J is gone a lot of the time.  What would I do?  How would I get my boys to safety all by myself?

            I think like this because I belong to a group of people who have been hunted throughout their history.  I think like this because I am a mother, and motherhood has made me understand how precarious is the safety in which I raise my children.  I think like this because I know there is a very good chance my children will live on a planet that cannot sustain them.  I think like this because my own childhood was so unsafe, and so I know first-hand that life is not all pixie sticks and roses.

            I also think like this because I know there are parents.  There are parents whose fears for their children are not hypothetical.  There are fathers who flee from their own versions of Nazis.  There are mothers who cannot give milk to their babies because they have no food of their own.  And there are mothers who, each day, have to decide whether to put themselves in the path of rapists or to skip collecting firewood that day.  There are mothers who give birth to their children, wondering whether it will be a girl, vulnerable to sexual attacks, or a boy, who will be abducted and forced to become a killer. 

While Zachary refuses to eat chicken nuggets, there are children who have never known a full stomach.  While Benjamin toddles about hurting himself, there are children in considerably more danger.  While I worry about raising my children to be good adults, there are parents who worry about raising their children to be adults. 

I would like to dream like Laura.  I would like to dream that I can make a difference, that I can help others.  I would like to be hopeful that I have that sort of power.  Instead, I gather my children to me and peer out into the darkness, ready to fight to defend them against whatever comes along, knowing full well that, if it does come along, there is very little I will be able to do and probably few people brave enough to try to protect us.

So, I dream about Nazis and they have no dreams left at all.

Updates

Update one:

            This first one is sort of awkward, but if I can’t embarrass myself on my blog, where can I embarrass myself?  You know how I told you that Slouching Mom nominated me for the Blogitzer over at Blogger’s Choice Awards for my Coleridgesque writing style?  And, you know how I told you that you could vote for me?  Well, it turns out that they were having some technical difficulties with that particular nomination that day, and all but one of the votes disappeared.  Something to do with hanging chads, I think.  So, if you think you voted for me, you probably didn’t.  Here is that button again, in case you want to recast your vote for real.

My site was nominated for The Blogitzer! 

Update two:

            Remember how I told you J and I are on the wagon, totally cold turkey when it comes to sweets?  Well, it turns out that J was still climbing into the wagon when it started, tumbled out the back, and was left behind at the starting line.  I, however, have made it three weeks now.  I am hoping to get to New Year’s Day (with the one already-scheduled exception I had told you about).  I had a rather ugly withdrawal period, a good sign that I was more dependent upon sugar than I would have liked to have been.

            The good side is that saying “no” to sweets in December eliminates all the internal debating about this particular Christmas cookie and that specific chocolate cake.  The down side is that J and the boys made a gingerbread house yesterday, and doughnuts are a traditional Hanukkah food.  ‘Nuff said.

 

Update three:

            The boys are doing well sharing a room.  Benjamin is no longer waking up at six and tossing objects at Zachary while screaming at the top of his lungs in hopes of awakening him.  They are sleeping nicely until 7:00 (knock wood).  Even better, they then hang out in the room for awhile.  Zachary uses the potty that we keep in the room and they chat till I can haul my lazy ass out of bed.

            Sometimes evening is a little rocky.  If they are really tired, they exchange a few giggles just for the sake of keeping up appearances and then nod off to sleep.  If they are not tired?  Well, J went in last night after twenty minutes to inform them that simultaneously jumping on their beds while screaming does not qualify as going to sleep.

 

That’s all.  A more substantive post soon.