The Holidays Are Here!

I know that I am probably supposed to be the curmudgeonly Jew who reluctantly put up with the season of American excess and bacchanalia and is breathlessly grateful when New Years signals it’s completion and a return to normal American consumerism.

Yeah, that’s what I guiltily expect of myself as well.

But I have a confession to make and I might as well make it here and now while I still have your attention.


There, I’ve said it.

I get onto the bandwagon the first of November and ride the Turkey bus through Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving! I like to make pilgrim hat place cards, search endlessly for recipes I’d like to try (even though I always make the same thing the same way year after year), watch the Macy’s parade with Evan and, of course, our traditional viewing of the quintessential Thanksgiving movie – Home for the Holidays!

I just love it.

Maybe because I don’t celebrate Christmas I just sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds and fun of the season. I love the tv cooking shows – I am especially addicted to all the Unwrapped shows where Marc Sommers goes and tells us how candy canes and turduckens are made. I like the kitschy Christmas movies like The Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation and I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit to watching White Christmas and Christmas in Connecticut a few times every year.

I certainly have my Hanukah but I also am well aware of the nature of the celebration. It’s a small holiday in comparison to our High Holy Days of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippor or even the fun and very festive holiday of Purim that most American Jews just ignore sadly.

I decorate a little and we light our own chanukiot and exchange small gifts. I make latkes and other special food items because for me, its a great time to try out all kinds of new recipes (even though I always go back to the old standbys like a good brisket!) I buy donuts and we play dreidel.

Christmas comes and finds me like it does countless other American Jews with a plate of Chinese food and a movie in front of me. I can’t say I am not bound by tradition now can I?

The holidays wrap up on New Years Eve when we have another big party for our little family with cocktail food and punch as we watch more tv and then race to see who can be the first to bed before the New Year.

It’s a great season for me. I am too poor to really be able to spend money on gifts like I was once able to so I sit now and knit presents that I think are cool and definitely made with love. I plan how to make Hanukah sparkle with homemade and dollar store decorations that Evan and I can make together. I stick cloves into oranges and I bake cookies while the snow flies outside.

It’s a nice time and a time I really enjoy.

So there…you have it. My confession.

No, I am not all of a sudden pulling a big, Griswald-sized Christmas tree into the living room. And no, I am not planning a trip to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap to whisper what I’d like under my menorah while perched on his lap.

What I AM doing is just enjoying each day as it comes and enjoying a time of year that is going to happen whether I welcome it or not. I have great memories of Christmases from when I was young. I can’t deny that now that I am a Jew. I don’t think it would be healthy TO deny that.

So I am embracing everything I am. The little girl who still has that look of wonder at the shiny lights and sparkly tinsel all around and the grown up girl who knows her boundaries and can still enjoy it all for what it is.


Six Words That Define Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

I subscribe to writing prompts and yesterday’s was to describe your current life situation in six words so here’s my stab at that.

Content in my four poster bed.

My first purchase when I came back from Israel and one that meant the very most for me was my bed. Prior to that I was homeless and a vagabond sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Having a bed frame and getting off that floor was a step up…literally and figuratively.

I had already met Scott because when I found the bed on Craigslist for cheap, he borrowed his daughter’s van and went with me to parts unknown to get it and the box spring that came with it.

We brought it back to my house….yes, the one without running water or sanitation…that I was basically homesteading off the grid in… and I remember the fun night we had figuring how to set it up with no instructions. It was an Ikea four poster white metal bed and I loved it. Sleeping in it that first night was heaven. To be off that floor and in a real bed was empowering a move that I can hardly describe in making me feel human again.

Not long after Scott decided that the conditions that I was living in were just too deplorable and offered me space at his house and I moved, leaving my bed behind.

And it was this past Thursday that finally, we were able to move not only all of my other furniture – an antique buffet, my dining room table and chairs, an antique armoire, a bookcase (can you have too many?) and a dresser for Evan – but also my cherished bed to my new home, finally leaving all of the horrible past that happened to me when I first returned from Israel behind.

So yes, those six words sum up how I felt yesterday very eloquently – content – very content – in my four poster bed.

Childhood Memories

I know we are all used to those posts filled with bright green grass, sapphire green pools and brightly colored hair ribbons hanging off perfectly curled ponytails swinging behind the gossamer curtains of childhood memories mixing with the smells of vanilla and strawberry and all those special things which take those writers back to perfect childhoods.

And those are very good posts…they’re just not MY posts and, really, they never WILL be MY posts.

I thought a lot about it today. What is my favorite childhood memory? Do I even have one? Do I have ANY happy memory?

While it’s well-known I don’t have a lot of memories of the years between 4th and 12th grade (and thank Gd that my best friend Christine keeps those memories very much alive for my son Evan for me…and keeps them for me when I am ready for them) – I have memories of my young childhood. I remember where we lived, where I went to school, the kind of saddle shoes I wore in third grade (black and white as opposed to brown and tan which is the kind I REALLY wanted), my brownie uniform that I wore every week to school and then walked to the Methodist Church in town for our meetings.

I remember the house we lived in, the year we lived with my grandparents and everyone forgot my birthday and then got me an old applesauce cake from the Thrift Store after we had supper. I hate applesauce cake to this day.

I remember the year I had a skating party for my birthday and I got beaten afterward. Beatings on my birthday were kind of expected. That particularly birthday I was also raped by an older boy who was visiting us. Later I was beaten for that too because, of course, it has to be a just-turned-8 year old little girl’s fault right?

And along with that I remember the same house and brutal beatings, the blood and the police who came as the sun rose and the broken glass and the screams going unanswered. Cries for help echoing in the subdivision in which we lived, blood curdling screams as faces were broken, glass was shattered and little girls were scared into silence.

Yes, there were happy times I suppose. I have seen some pictures that other people have. I don’t have any. My sister took all the pictures long ago and never gave any to me. She says I don’t belong to her family and so I don’t deserve any.


Maybe if I had happy pictures I’d convince myself it was all happy even though in my heart I know it really wasn’t. But I am also not so jaded as to think it was all bad. I know that everything is not so black and white.

But could I pick out a sunshine and rainbow moment of happiness that was all encompassing that involved time with my immediate family? Let me just say I qualify this only because I did spend so many happy moments with my grandmother and it was only with her that I can say I ever felt truly safe and happy. So my question then becomes and the question I have been framing is…

Do I have a happiest moment from the childhood I spent with my mom, dad and sister?

Sadly, the answer is no. I can’t for the life of me really think of one. And yet, there were opportunities. The Harlem Globetrotters Game, Disney World, so many opportunities.

But each opportunity that I think of was tainted either by a violent fight or by some other situation that had no business happening.

I don’t really know how to say this other than to just come out and say it. I can allude to it and it’s hard to just say. I can’t freely talk about it yet but if you want to know why I have no favorite childhood memory, this is why – being molested can ruin everything that ever comes after it. No matter what that “everything” is…nothing will ever be happy again no matter how happy it seems.

Remember that.

Memories – Tic Tacs, Velveeta and Baseball

I spent every summer with my grandmother to the point that a lot of my childhood memories revolve around the things that we did together and the memories I have of her.

I remember the blankets on the beds – blue flowery bankets edged in teal satin.  Her perfume – that dark brown, “grandmother” perfum from Estee Lauder called (interestingly) Youth Dew.  Her Adorn hairspray.  The aluminum gliders on the porch.  Fireflies in the twilight.  The tree in the back yard.  The peonies in the front yard.  How she would sneak a cigarette on the back porch while my grandfather was working in his study.  Laundry day and the laundry chute.  Sewing with her in the basement.  The way the books in the basement smelled and being scared of what really was behind THAT wooden door down there!

She, my grandfather and I would sit on their bed and watch the Pittsburgh Pirates play baseball on KDKA every night they were on.  If they weren’t on we would listen to them on the radio and if it was a really special night, we would go INTO Pittsburgh to see the game at Three Rivers Stadium!  I loved each of those nights and love the Buccos to this day!  I can still hear her kvell about her favourite players.  When I was an exchange student in New Zealand the Pirates made it to the World Series and not only did my grandmother send me Heinz ketchup that year but she also send me all kinds of Pirate memorabilia that was in all of the stores so I wouldn’t miss out.

She was a home ec teacher and taught school for 30 years before she retired.  My dad decided to take bartending school in Pittsburgh so while he would be in school, my grandmother would teach me to sew.  I made a really geeky polyester outfit but the time we spent together making it remains priceless. I wish I had a sewing machine even now because I love sewing that much.  When I was little and lived with her before my mom married my dad, my grandmother not only dyed her own shoes…she also made all of her own clothes.  That’s some serious respect you’re seeing from over here!

I still have her teaching cookbook which I use a lot.  Her favorite recipes are marked in it.

One thing though she couldn’t stand were vegetables and the way she choked them down was copious quantities of Velveeta melted on them.  I was basically starved at home since my parents were never there and school lunch was our only meal most of the time so this delicacy of Velveeta and broccoli or french cut green beans was like nectar!

And as far as I was concerned, her only really bad habit was her smoking.  I think because of it I can jokingly say she became addicted to Tic Tacs.  I know now that when I pop one in my mouth, that sweet vanilla mint outer coating makes me think immediately of her.  The smell of Youth Dew wafts around me and my grandmother is right there again.

I hope she knows how many memories she gave me and how very much I miss her.  She is so much a part of who I am and tehe person I have become…more so I think than even my mother.

Tic tacs, velveeta, baseball and everything.



The Biggest Disappointment

I have been thinking a lot the past few days.  Usually this leads to a very dark place that I have a hard time coming back from.  I so very don’t want to ever go back to that place ever again.  Often when I find myself headed to this place these days, I just shut down the thoughts and go to my happy place and lalalalalala… doesn’t matter anymore.

But sometimes the dark side creeps up on me.

What I am thinking about is my biggest disappointment.  That, of course, is and always will be having to leave Jerusalem.  Despite all of the wonderful things that have happened since, and I don’t want to say they are any less amazing or wonderful, leaving that city will always be the biggest disappointment of my life and one I can never fix.

Of course that leads directly to a situation of lashon harah (something very bad which was said about me by someone else to many people, regardless of whether it was true or not, who then believed it carte blanche without question because the person telling them wanted them to – take it from me, as our sages say, the evil tongue, lashon harah, does kill a person when it spreads and it never should.)

The worst case of this spread of lashon harah is when it was told to my father.  Today I had to accept that without question, without asking me, without any doubt whatsoever, my father believed it.  I had to accept today how very much this has hurt me…how truly deeply it sears my soul to not be believed by my very own father and worse, to have him automatically believe the worst of me without ever even conceiving that he should even believe the better.

This takes me back to when I was 17 years old and some piece of scum walked into my father’s nightcluband told him I was “the best he ever had.”  My father came home and beat the living shit out of me with a razor strap.  It happened without warning so quickly I barely even knew WHY I was being beaten and defense?  Absolutely none.  And mercy.  Really?  I was guilty without a trial.

And that’s how it remains today.

Guilty without a trial.  It’s just like it was when I was 17 – and my father’s opinion of me has never changed.  For a man who molested me, this is actually….well, I don’t even know what it is.

Today I had to accept all of this.  And obviously I need to act on it but I don’t have any idea what to do.  I didn’t have therapy so I didn’t have a chance to talk to my therapist – that will have to wait a week.  In the meantime, I am just going to process it and not worry about what to do about it.  I am going to let it sit there.  I am not going to roll it over and over and ride with it under my arm to the dark place.  I’ll just wait a while until I can talk to Kellye and then I’ll know what to do and I’ll act on it and send it on it’s way.

This is something I really don’t want to think about.

This is betrayal at it’s very worst.  It’s betrayal, lies, deceit, it’s a whle lifetime of what I had built up in my mind as support from my father that never was and all that “never was” just crumbled away….I guess.

But as unreal as all of that was – the hurt is VERY real.  I am devastated.  I am shot through with devastation.  I am lying on the floor, curled up in my grief for what I thought existed and never did.  I am once again afraid to trust, afraid of people, afraid of the world.

And I know it had led to both a setback and a step forward.  Hopefully they will cancel each other out.

Time will only tell.v

Riding the FACT Bus

Last week I had to take the local paratransit.  Because I get medical assistance, I am qualified to ride the bus and because I had an appointment that was overlapping a commitment Scott had to attend to, I had to take the bus.

I have to admit I was terrified.  I didn’t know what to expect and there wasn’t much I could do about it.  I just kind of had to grin and bear it and hope it wouldn’t be as bad as I thought it was going to be.  Unlike my trip to the synagogue on Rosh HaShanah, I didn’t have the chance to prep with my therapist Kellye prior to my bus ride…this was a cold turkey bus ride.

The good thing about the bus is that the driver, Jack, is a really nice guy who makes you feel really comfortable right from the start.  He’s happy and talkative and seems to understand if you’re not so much.  He called about 30 minutes before he came just to tell me that he was on his way and what time I should be outside….cool.

I sat outside and waited.

At exactly 11:15 when he said he’d be there…the bus rolled around the corner and I got on.  Little did I know it was the “party” bus!  There was one person on when I was picked up and she was chatting away with Jack which was fine with me.  Then we dropped her off and picked up three more people who were regulars apparently and they just laughed and chattered away.

I felt a little conspicuous sitting in the front seat and definitely out of place.  My face was warm and the bus was hot.  I felt like I was going to throw up the entire ride but I made it.

We got to the road where we’d have to turn left to get to our destination….I was consumed by my panic and nerves and I jumped up and told Jack to turn…and he was all like, “I KNOW dear, I come here all the time, don’t worry!” and then laughed at me.

PUBLIC HUMILIATION as the rest of the party bus laughed along.

Inside I knew they weren’t laughing at me…well, maybe they were.  And if not, when I got off the bus and lost my balance and almost fell down, well, you get the point.

But, the real point is that I did it.  And it was a HUGE step for me.  Do I want to do it again?  Actually I do.  I need to do it again to make it not so weird and not so strange.  So I can maybe be a quiet part of the party and feel like I belong more and not feel so much like I felt – a fifth wheel on an already unbalanced bus!

Still, after I got my balance back and walked into my appointment I knew I had taken a major step for me.  It may seem really small to most people and even for me, given my past life – the chick who left it all behind and moved to Israel and made a life for herself and her son despite everything for two years and would do it again in a heartbeat (her heart tells her) – it seems a little trivial, but I know given where I am at mentally now, it was one of the biggest steps I could take right now.

I don’t know when or if there will be any more big steps, I just know there was this one and I am very proud of myself for making it.

Aftermath of Elul

During Elul, we prepare ourselves for the holiday of Rosh Hashanah and the Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur. We are commanded to look within ourselves and to prepare by apologizing to those we have wronged throughout the year.

I don’t know about others but for me, I know this year was the first when I was able for a long time to even consider taking baby steps in this direction. There was one friend in particular that I wanted to apologize to. I wasn’t exactly sure why she had stopped speaking to me but I had an idea and since she wasn’t speaking to me and I have a mindnumbing fear of confrontation, I wrote a letter to her apologizing for all of the things I could imagine I may have done that could have caused the rip in our friendship. I invited her to write back and gave her my email address. I even explained a lot of what happened to me the last few years medically so maybe she’d have some understanding of where I was coming from as well.

And for some reason I had an expectation she’d understand and this apology, while not totally healing the rift between us, may be a little bridge to hopefully gaining a foothold and hopefully opening a little crack in the door that had closed between us.

And today I am having to accept that I was wrong. That rift is unhealable. I don’t even know if she forgave me. The answer to my letter of apology was a big, fat sound of crickets.

Oh I could rationalize it and tell myself she didn’t get it but I think she did. Maybe a letter was wrong but I didn’t really have any other way. I’ve sent emails in the past and the reaction was the same.


I sent another Rosh Hashanah greeting and the response was the same.


This only serves to drive me deeper into myself and to cause me even more self blame and depression. I know I deserve it and I know I cannot force anyone to forgive me. That’s their choice. I can’t force anyone to respond to me. Again, their choice.

But I do know how it makes me feel and I know it makes me take up residence even further inside of myself and trust venturing out even less. These people were friends and they don’t want me. What would make me think anyone else would.

I know it’s a bummer of a message to receive as the joyous holiday of Sukkot starts but it is the aftermath of Elul for me. I want to add that it doesn’t really change anything for me except for piling just a little more Jewish guilt on my plate,

I am who I am. I have disappointed and hurt whom I have have. They will forgive or they won’t. I am further convinced that the leprosy of my neshama (Jewish soul) lives forever and will never be cured.

The aftermath of my Elul probably will also never go away.