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.
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.