Monthly Archives: December 2009

One classy lady

Alaina Reed Hall died last week after a battle with cancer.

Three kids and a snowstorm

It was six-thirty on Sunday morning, and I had already shoveled out one of the cars.  Lilah had been very sick since Saturday evening, but the driving snow had made it more dangerous for me to take her to a doctor than to remain at home, listening to her cough and wheeze in the bed beside me.  Neither of us had gotten much sleep.  She woke me up again at five, and after forty-five minutes I realized the snow had stopped.  I snuck into the kids’ room and woke J, who I had sent to sleep on the top bunk so that one of us would be rested for the day ahead.

And so it was that, at 6:30, Lilah had fallen back into a fitful sleep beside her daddy, the car was liberated, and both boys were still asleep.  I had enough time to shower before she awoke and we could finally get out to a doctor.

Of course, a third of the way through my shower, Benjamin came stumbling in, an endearing mix of hand-me-down orange PJs, rumpled hair, and eyes still not quite focused in the light.  “Sweetie, Lilah is sick and sleeping.  Can you wait here very quietly while I finish showering?”  He nodded, not ready to remove his giraffie from his mouth.  Some people are not into chatting first thing in the morning.

Silently, he relieved himself, then sat down on a stool and watched me shower.  I gave up the right to privacy when I had children.

I made it out of the shower before the other boy showed up.  He is five, and although we haven’t drawn clear lines, we are both quietly making efforts to establish some ground rules for modesty.  He waited outside the bathroom for me to finish dressing, using the time to develop his list of complaints for the morning.

I leaned over to put some moisturizer on my legs.  Benjamin, I guess finding something interesting enough to bother speaking, found his first words of the morning.  “Mommy,” he asked, “why do your breastes dangle?”

For a few seconds, I was dumbfounded.  It doesn’t happen often, but every now and then, I am speechless.  This was one of those moments.  I just had not expected that particular question.

Because, seriously, “dangle” is a pretty sophisticated word for a three-year-old.

Ronna and Beverly

Sorry for two posts in one day, but I had to tell you that my friend, Jamie, a dedicated reader of this blog, is having her pilot aired next week!!!  Click here, then watch it and TIVO it.  Also, tell your friends.

A letter to the peeps in Copenhagen

Dear World Leaders,

So, I hear you people have all gotten together in Copenhagen for a little retreat to talk over a couple of things having to do with luxuries like air and water.  Since you are all, like, People and you are all leaders of more People, I was under the mistaken impression that your primary concern is, you know, People.

If that were the case, however, you would realize that, if we don’t take some serious fucking action, People will be extinct soon.  It may seem that I am exaggerating, except it turns out that all species depend upon their environment for the basic materials of life.  Shit like food and water, not to mention oxygen.  And, bizarre little species that we are, People seem to be doing our very best to make sure that the very materials we rely upon are completely destroyed in short order.

I know that you world leader folks think all the stuff you are arguing over is so very important.  I have read high-flown terms like “matter of principles.”  You know what?  I don’t give a rat’s ass in a bikini about principles at this point.  I want air to breathe.

So, get over yourselves.  Stop the pissing contest that uses the earth as a target.  You are world leaders.  Your ONE responsibility is to lead the world in saving itself.  Anything else you do will not matter one damned bit because there will be no people left to enjoy whatever you have managed to accomplish.

If it helps at all, I am sure that you all have very large penises, even the women.  Now that we have established that, can we move on to, you know, stopping Armageddon?

Thanks dudes.

Emily Rosenbaum

My bed is in a small town

It should not have come as a surprise that it gets dark earlier in New Jersey than it does in Los Angeles, yet somehow this phenomenon caught me off-guard.  Even after experiencing the pitch-dark London winter afternoons, I somehow had forgotten that moving north moves up December evenings rather dramatically.  It is dark here early.

In Los Angeles, I never noticed the nighttime like I do here.  There were streetlights and store lights and so many homes close together with car doors slamming and teenagers laughing.  Night was never really night because there were always sounds and sights to break into it.

Here, in this little town, they have night.  Real night, disturbed by relatively few streetlights.  The Christmas lights on most of the houses break up the visual silence right now, but the cars are few and far between after 7:00.  People are home, and there is no place to go.

I am living in a small town.

Not since I was (as they say) knee high to a grasshopper have I lived in a place like this.  I spent my teen years in a busy suburb that at the time seemed dead to me, so I set off for an urban campus and never looked back.  For almost twenty years I have lived in or very close to cities, as long as the likes of Chapel Hill and Charlottesville can be called cities.  They can be, I think, because they have that intense walkability, where ice cream shops and bars are all a quick stroll at the end of a busy day.

It bears repeating: this is a very small town.  There are no bars or, come to think of it, ice cream shops.  There aren’t any coffee shops, book stores, toy stores, Gymborees, Gaps, sporting goods shops, or gelaterias.  Of course, those things are all a quick drive away, either one town over or just up the highway.  We are not, after all, in the Himalayas.  It is weird, setting out along the highway and entering the world of commerce, because here in town there are the following businesses: one sandwich shop, one restaurant, one car repair shop, one hair salon, one dentist, and one Lionel train enthusiast store.  That’s it.  People who live here have chosen a life without quick access to the flotsam and jetsam of American commercial life, and so they come home at night and stay at home.

Urban life affords a certain anonymity that I had come to take for granted.  Not so here.  Dropping Zach off at kindergarten the first day, the aide looked up and smiled.  “Oh, you just moved in down the street from me!”  Recalling the previous day’s bike ride, which featured me hollering repeatedly at Benjamin to stay to the side of the road, I tried my best to smile in return.

After that first kindergarten drop-off, I drove the 27 seconds down the road to Benjamin’s preschool.  If we buy in this town, we hope to buy closer to the elementary school so that I can walk that short distance.  Yes, I mean to use the definite article here, as there is only one elementary school.  And two preschools.  Dropping off Benjamin, I see many of the same mothers I have seen just moments before outside the elementary school.  Because they are almost all mothers.

I took Benjamin into his classroom.  His preschool teacher smiled at me.  “You just moved in down the street from me,” she remarked.  Fuck.  Note to self: stop yelling at the kids in public.

We have chosen this town because it allows us to slow down.  Despite being an hour from New York City, this town is a throwback to a quieter time.  There is a town Christmas tree lighting, featuring Santa arriving on the fire truck.  A week later, as a nod to the changing times, the town has a menorah lighting.  Mid-morning, if I am out driving or walking, the dog-walkers and joggers wave, just in case I am someone they know.  Across the street from our rental house is a boy from Zachary’s kindergarten class.  It is charming, but I fear it will start to chafe.

No, I know it will start to chafe.  There will be a long period of discomfort, after the novelty has worn off, when I realize I have intentionally denied myself the energy and vitality of the urban life.  Yet, I believe, I truly do, that once we get past that period, we will find something less glittery than urban conveniences that is nonetheless worth putting up with everybody knowing our business.

Sorry things are so spotty around here…

…and that I have been such a loser about reading your blogs.  I seem to have misplaced my identity.  It may be in one of the boxes I haven’t yet unpacked.  I’ll be posting as often as I can, and hopefully things will get a little more stable soon.

Eleven more days and counting

I do my best not to lie to my children.   If a shot is going to hurt, I acknowledge that fact.  If they want to know about sex, I give them the straightforward – albeit simplified – response.  If they see pictures of unrest in Iran on the cover of a magazine in the grocery store, I try to explain the importance of fair elections.

And when Zach came home from his Jewish preschool talking about God, I was honest then, too.  “Many people believe that God exists,” I told him.  “I do not.”

“Well, I believe in God,” he told me.

“That’s fine.  A lot of people do.  I just don’t.”  To be frank, it made me uncomfortable.  I am not at all on the fence on this one.  I am quite sure that God does not exist.  And I do not like my kids being indoctrinated into a belief that I do not hold.  However, I made the choice to send them to a Jewish preschool because it is their culture, and I get that part of that package is a discussion of the Big Guy.  So be it.  It’s definitely not the worst thing he could pick up in preschool.

Now that we are here in New Jersey, however, he is in a public kindergarten.  With children of different faiths.  But mostly children of one faith.  The predominate one here in the U.S.  In the middle of December.

So my kid is coming home from school believing in Santa Claus.  This is a hell of a lot worse than believing in God, I must say.  At least that’s a belief that fits into the general arc of my own culture.  Santa Claus is big problem on several levels.

I think even if we were Christian, I would not want my kids spending this solemn and holy day thinking about some dude in a red velvet suit.  As a member of a minority faith, the Santa Mania that grips our culture in the month of December is enough to cause a minor seizure.  People in diners lean over to ask my children if they have been good and then to promise that stockings they haven’t hung and trees we do not have will be laden with presents brought by some fictional character who breaks into our house in the middle of the night.  Everywhere we go, we are accosted by guys with pillow bellies and crusty fake beards, wanting to grab my kids and promise them whatever goodies they might desire.

Here’s a little tip, people.  Not everyone celebrates Christmas. You are promising gifts and festivities to small people that they will not receive.  And, even worse in my book, this Santa Mania holds that good boys and girls get whatever they desire.  Well, here’s another news flash.  Santa brings the good shit to the rich kids.  Poor parents or even those who are just struggling a little bit can’t deliver on the promise, which means that their kids learn a terrific lesson – Santa is fundamentally unfair and discriminatory.  Fan-fucking-tastic.

Today, my child will participate in a Polar Express party at school.  I do not mind this so much, as they are giving equal time to Kwanzaa and Chanukah, and they are making it about bringing a book and a cultural tradition come to life.  The teacher has been careful to present Santa as a part of one culture.  However, since the majority of the kids are Christian, they are all blathering on about Santa in every free moment.

“Santa’s not real,” I told Zachary.  “But you shouldn’t tell that to the other children, because he is a part of the Christian tradition and they may believe in him.  A lot of people do believe in him.”

“Well, I believe in him,” my son replied.  We had this conversation about eight times before I decided that, hell, at least my kid wouldn’t be the one ruining Santa for the other children.  I could take comfort in the fact that I had told him the truth and he had chosen not to believe it.

“Why hasn’t anyone seen Santa?” he asked.

“Well, people who believe in Santa say that he only comes when you are sleeping.”

“But what if I pretend to be asleep?  Then I’ll see him.”

“People who believe in Santa say that he can tell if you are just pretending.”

“Well, I believe in Santa and if I am good he’ll bring me something in my stocking.”

“You don’t have a stocking,” I pointed out.

“Oh, yes I do.  I have one I made in art class in school.  And Santa is going to fill it on Christmas.”

“Honey, we don’t celebrate Christmas.”

“But I believe in Santa Claus, so he is going to come.”

I lost my whole resolve not to fight a losing battle.  Because now the poor kid was going to think he was being punished by Santa Claus for some infraction of the maddeningly oblique “Be Good” rule.  “Zach, Santa Claus is not real.  But don’t mention that to your friends at school.”

“Maybe you could pretend to be Santa and if I am good you could put something into the stocking like money or a present.”  Oh, good grief.  It is tiring enough dealing with the eight nights of Chanukah, now he wants me to pretend to be some offensively commercial figment of another religion’s imagination?

Come the twenty-fifth, we’re planning on trying not to mention that this day is actually Christmas.  Maybe he just won’t notice that Santa didn’t come because he won’t realize that this is the big day.  No matter what, however, my husband and I are really looking forward to January.