Moving trauma, vicarious, 2014

Almost 15 years ago, my husband joined me in Israel- he and a shipping container full of stuff. I had already been living in our home in Modi’in with pretty much everything I needed. We rented a nearby storage room and little by little, emptied the contents of the storage room into our home- pretty much filling it up.

That was my last move. Since we married, I had moved 18 times. Every time, it was traumatic.

But it has been almost 15 years. This time it is my daughter who is moving and all I had to do was to see if the packers had finished their job and to lock up the house.

As I looked around the house that profound sense of loss that I had with every move returned with the same strength it had had in the past. It was just so sad. It hurt to see their life packed up in a bunch of boxes and all of the attendant mess that moving engenders.

I began to think about what it was that was so sad for me. I remembered our moves. I remembered leaving the home we lived in when our first baby was conceived and born. I looked back at the living room and saw the people gathered to celebrate his brit. I remembered the apartment where he said his first words and took his first steps. I remember the home where on a sunny spring day bushes full of white blossoms greeted me as I brought home my new daughter. I remember the house with the two yellow bean bag chairs that sat just a little too close to the baseboard heaters and the enormous effort I had to make to get out of them heavily pregnant. I remember piling into the station wagon with four little children and saying goodbye to the home we had painted and papered and carpeted. I remember our oldest son leaving his vegetable garden and my daughter leaving her plant and all of them leaving the “Mother Nature Tree” and the swamp where they played. I remember leaving the apartment where we voted on the fifth child and then the new one where she was born after a cold winter with only the fuschia-colored potted cyclamens brightening the snowy view. I remember the birthday party with my parents visiting and three of the children down with chickenpox, and I remember how the children loved to go to the orchard to see the “geezer” and to pick fruit. I remember the tiny home in New Jersey when we returned to the States and the beautiful big house we had after that. I remember the parties we had there for our family and for the soldiers and my parents’ visits and the joy at the big children’s return home for shabbatot. I remember the house in Boston where everyone had bedrooms, but most nights people were sleeping in the living room- and how if you ran the dishwasher and microwave at the same time the fuse two floors down in the basement would blow. How many times we forgot! But there was also sailing on the Charles for two of the boys and living close to good friends. I remember saying goodbye to our oldest as he left for Israel, the airline security man remarking that he was afraid he would drown in our tears. I remember the small house in Oklahoma with the swimming pool and the big house in Oklahoma where we had to explain that “yes, only one family lives here.” I remember leaving our next home and memories of grad school and sons visiting from high school and college. I remember leaving the next home and memories of a bat mitzvah and the births of two grandchildren.

And then I realized that the sadness is only a function of the fact that every place, every time in my life, was a good time, a happy time- filled with a beautiful family, caring friends, and happy experiences. Closing the door on each chapter was saying goodbye to beautiful times, but every new home brought its own new memories.

…and what more is there to say but to wish my daughter and her family and others going through transitions that the future be filled with beautiful moments they can cherish forever.

I miss it

Today I was folding laundry and I came to a shirt that I have that is similar to one that a woman might wear when she is pregnant. I had noticed that there were stains on it before I washed it and I held it up to see if the stains were gone. And suddenly I was remembering looking at my maternity blouses, also stained by my clumsiness when I was pregnant. I remembered looking down on my rounded belly and seeing the remnants of breakfast, lunch, midday snacks and dinner. I remember taking a dress to the dry cleaner and explaining what all of the stains were and the clerk saying “sounds like a good meal.” I thought about the feeling of a little one moving around inside. I remembered that my mother referred to the first awareness of the baby’s movements as “feeling life.” I recalled how amazing it was to feel a new life inside of me, to think and wonder about who that little person would become. I remembered feeling such love for someone who I had never seen, never met. I remembered the excitement of anticipation and the weeks and then days of waiting. And then there was the reward of spectacular births! I loved being pregnant.


*Note: This picture almost survived a fire

After the birth of our youngest child, we never thought of having another. Our family was exactly what we wanted. Now, all of the children are grown and have children of their own. I have no regrets, but every once in a while, I miss it.

To B- or not to B-

This week should be a very happy one. Our wonderful grandson, Yehuda, will be celebrating his becoming a Bar Mitzvah this coming shabbat. He has worked very hard, learning to chant two full torah portions (it’s a combined reading) and a special maftir and his haftarah- quite an accomplishment for a boy of 13. We have been looking forward to spending a happy, peaceful shabbat, the whole family together, at kibbutz Ein Tzurim.

So what’s the problem? Well, for about a week, the people who wanted Gaza to themselves, the ones for whom we uprooted thousands of Jews from their homes, have been firing rockets at our cities and communities that are within firing range of Gaza. They are aiming for our civilian population- firing, hiding behind their own children, safe in the knowledge that we will not target the innocent.

On Ein Tzurim, there have been sirens and people have run to shelters.

So what do we do?

Oh, I know. Both sides should show restraint. Thanks, world.

Sisters 3

This is my third post about sisters.

There was this one http://drsavta.com/wordpress/2007/07/23/sisters/

and this one http://drsavta.com/wordpress/2009/10/07/sisters-2/

because to me, this relationship is very special.

If  you have been reading my blog, you probably know that in December, my sister finally made aliya.  After over 45 years of living very far away, my sister is a 5 minute car ride away.  I can bump into her at the mall, we can see a movie together, and we can sit and talk about things that no one understands the way we do.

When she was far away, we kept in touch.  She was great about making sure to visit no matter where we were living.  She was present at most of the important times in my life.  I appreciated her and loved her.

But now, I know what a wonderful thing it is to have her here, nearby, and to not have to think about when her flight home leaves.  She is home.

If you really loved me…

I have been a family therapist for a very long time. I should have figured it out sooner, but only yesterday I realized that I had been missing something very important when thinking about certain types of cases.

From time to time I would have cases where one family member would say about another “if s/he really loved me s/he would…”

Tests of loyalty, to me, seem so beside the point. In fact, they seem foolish. Why would we expect someone to “prove” they love us by performing a specific task or acting in a manner we prescribe?  The people we love are separate from us. They have their own loves and hates, likes and dislikes, ways of expressing themselves. They show us love in their own way.

However, in this type of a relationship, they may show warmth and consideration, but heaven forbid, if they fail the litmus test the other has created, the whole relationship is at risk.

Sometimes, couples, in order to feel more appreciated and loved,  have to adjust the ways in which they show love. She would like flowers. He shows love by filling up the car. He would like homemade soup. She lights romantic candles. They clearly love each other, but by asking for the show of love to be more in line with their own concept of love, both members could feel more valued and cared for.

,

But that is different than a test of love.

Tests of love usually involve one person expecting the other to know what s/he wants and to do it, despite any obstacles. And then, if it doesn’t happen, well, then “s/he doesn’t really love me.”

But let’s look a little closer…

Who is making the relationship contingent on specific behaviors. It’s not the “uncaring” husband or wife or friend or relative. It’s the person who has decided that the relationship consists of a series of tests all of which must be passed for it to continue to be loving.

Who has the problem?

As a therapist, it seems to me that the person who is making the statement “If you really loved me…” is in fact the person with the problem. S/he has not learned the nature of relationships. Relationships are formed between two individuals, both of whom have wants, needs, and limitations.  Appreciating the other person as a distinct individual is the only way to have a truly satisfying relationship.

When ultimatums exist in relationships, it is not the person who fails to meet them who is the problem.

Aliya: a feline perspective

This is a guest post by my sister’s animal companion, Roxy who made aliya yesterday (as told to her publicist Ben Michelson).
************************************************************************************

It took some doing but I finally convinced my person, Vicki, to make Aliya.

Even though the dog next to me, H.G. Clipper, stank a bit, my flight really wasn’t so bad. I don’t think I’ll fly ELAL any more though. They offered me neither a window nor an aisle seat. The entertainment system did not work the entire flight and there was a dearth of reading material. Fortunately Clipper didn’t snore too loudly, and I spent most of the flight cat-napping.

I was pleased that my fans came to greet me at the airport. Fortunately, I had a box to protect me from the mobs.

When I arrived at my new domicile, all I wanted to do was rest. Unfortunately, Vicki had different plans and invited my fans for a party. I let them have their fun downstairs. I am after all a creature of the night. Vicki did come upstairs during the party, eager to play hide-and-seek. I’m not sure why she still enjoys playing this game. In any case, I let her win the first round, but when I saw that she wanted to continue playing, I did not let her win the second round. I was able to avoid detection sufficiently long to send people hunting me not only in the apartment, but up and down the stairwell, and out on the street as well as calling the local veterinary service and alerting them to my disappearance. Only the tempting aroma of an aliya treat sent over by the man at the pet store lured me out of my hiding place behind the bed.

Some of the locals from outside paid me a call yesterday. I am not a racist, but some of these cats are absolutely feral. I greeted them politely nonetheless, though I’m still working on my voiced uvular fricative.

Ten reasons why it’s better to make Aliya in 2011 than in 1984

This is a guest post, written by my son Ben in honor of my sister’s aliya tomorrow!!!!!

Ben arrived in Israel in 1984, a day before his 17th birthday.

 

Telephones

 

  • Cellphone networks did not exists in 1984
  • In 1984, getting a landline phone installed in your house took months, and in some cases took up to 10 years.
  • In 1984, payphones were often out of order. They worked only on telephone tokens.
  • In 1984, if you wanted to make an international call, and didn’t have a phone in your home you had to either call collect or go the telephone room in the central post office. There you paid about $2/minute and the post office took an extra 8% cut. They explained it this way, “Every minute is five seconds less.” This meant that you paid for a minute, but only got 55 seconds.

 

Inflation

 

Aug 1984 – 14%

Sep 1984 – 18%

Oct 1984 – 19%

Nov 1984 – 16%

Dec 1984 – 4%

 

 

2011 – 2.5%

 

Email

 

In 1984, Email was available only to university staff and people who took university courses requiring use of a computer. Businesses used Telex’s. (Faxes were not in widespread use until the 90s.)

 

Public busses

 

In 1984, only express bus lines were air-conditioned.

 

Television

 

In 1984, there was one Israeli channel. In many parts of Jerusalem, you could watch Jordan TV. At high altitudes you could also receive Middle-east TV from Lebanon. Cable and satellite television service was not available. Importing a satellite dish large enough to receive American television was illegal.

 

Israeli Currency

 

Towards the end of 1984, the largest denomination bill was worth only $3.50. My friend’s father bought a Volvo in 1984 with a duffle-bag full of bills.

 

Foreign Currency

 

In 1984, it was illegal to change Shekels outside of banks. It was illegal for Israelis to own foreign currency except for traveling outside the country. (Yitzchak Rabin was ousted from his position as Prime Minister for breaking this law.) Everyone I knew bought shekels only on the black market.

 

Hi-Tech business sector

 

Did not exist in 1984

 

Modiin

 

Did not exist in 1984.

 

Travel Tax

 

In 1984, Israeli citizens had to pay $100 tax in order to leave the country

 

Food

 

In 1984, ketchup was watery with red food coloring

In 1984, the only mustard available was actually mustard flavored mayonnaise

In 1984, the only chocolate available was Elite (whose factory was inRamat Gan)

In 1984, low fat cottage cheese was unavailable

In 1984, fresh baguettes were unavailable

In 1984, supermarkets did not bake bread and pastries

In 1984, bagels were unavailable

 

 

Ben             .

19 Dec 2011

Parting

June 1967

I am 7.5 months pregnant with my first child. My husband of just a year is serving as a chaplain in the US Army. We are planning to leave the Army after our baby is born and to go to a civilian congregation. He has been hired as the new rabbi at the House of Peace synagogue in Columbia, South Carolina. We have just visited there a second time to talk with them about where we will be living and what changes we would like to see in the house the congregation owns. We are in the Atlanta airport. He is flying in uniform back to Fort Knox. I am flying to Philadelphia where I must take final exams at Gratz College so that they can see that I really did study on my own that year so that I can receive my BHL (Bachelor of Hebrew Literature) degree.

I am young, 21 years old, and very pregnant.

We wait for my plane. When we are called to board, we embrace. I cry. I will miss him.

I take my seat on the plane. The man next to me starts to speak. “He’ll be all right. Lots of men return healthy and whole from Vietnam. He’ll get to see that baby of yours.”

December 2011

I am a bit older. That baby is now a man with 6 children of his own. Soon I will be saying goodbye to my husband once again. This time he really is going to Vietnam.

But I am not worried.

He is going to supervise the kosher cooking for a tour. We have been to Vietnam together several times. We lead tours there. It is a lovely place to visit. It is beautiful and has rich traditions and friendly, welcoming people. The war years are barely a memory by now except for in places they have designated as war museums or in Cu Chi where the Vietcong built an elaborate tunnel system. A tour there is a treat and I look forward to returning.

This morning I bought him some instant coffee to take along because Vietnamese coffee is “different.”

We’ll keep in touch over his iPad and my computer.

But there still may be tears when he leaves.

Thanksgiving 2011

I will spare you the usual blah-blah of how wonderful my family is and how amazingly great it is when we adults all get together and tell you instead about the good things that have happened recently and wonderful things to look forward to that make me really thankful.

We recently returned from a trip to the US. In a few weeks time my sister, the last member of my immediate family not yet living in Israel, will be coming to Israel to live. All of us are very very excited. I will finally have my sister nearby after 45 years of living varying long distances from each other (all my fault… she stayed in the same place while I roamed planet Earth.) I wanted to go and be with her to visit some of the places we shared, to reminisce, and for me to say goodbye to Philadelphia, the city where I was born, where I grew up, and where I got my education. It is unlikely I will visit there again.

When we drove up to the house we used to live in, we were surprised to find the woman who had bought it from my mother out on the lawn. She was friendly and chatty and we enjoyed speaking with her. My sister pointed out that the “new” owners had lived in the house about as long as we had.

We enjoyed walking in the downtown area. I loved seeing my cousins and hearing about their lives.

I even enjoyed the antics of a future Israeli immigrant

There’s more to tell about the trip, but that’s a small taste of some things that made me happy with the promise of more to come!

Fairy godmothers

OK, I’m not really talking about fairy godmothers, but I thought it might be a topic that people were curious about.

Well, actually, yes, I am talking about fairy godmothers, but not in the fictional sense.

There is a concept without a name (at least one that I am familiar with) that I would like to explore. If it’s been written about before, I would love to hear about it, so please let me know.

Having grown up in a home that wasn’t the most nurturing, I had to find validation other places. Here’s where I found it: there were teachers who smiled at me, there were my aunts who made me feel loved, and there were my grandmothers. All of these people were, to some extent, fairy godmothers. They were around sometimes and it was often merely their presence in my mind that formed for me a safety net in the world. As long as they were around, even if only in recent memory, I felt loved and supported. As a group, it felt as if I was encircled by them and protected.

As the years went by and I learned how to appreciate my own value and accomplishments, I didn’t need fairy godmothers so much. But still there were my parents there in the background, out of sight, but still potential supports. After the death of my father, I substituted my uncles in his role of standing behind me, supporting me.

Somewhere in my 30s or 40s, I began to realize that I took the place of fairy godmother for some Lamaze students I taught and some clients I worked with as a therapist. They carried me in their pocket or their mind or their heart, to take out when they needed reinforcement and stability and, I guess, love. I only knew, because they told me.

As time goes on, I realize the world is full of fairy godmothers. They are the people who are in our lives who just by their being there, even when they are far away, give us affirmation and strength. As we get older, often they are mentors, peers, and nowadays, facebook friends– people whose presence enriches our lives.

Often, our fairy godmothers don’t know the function they have in our lives. Often, we don’t realize it until they are no longer around.

So today, look around at your fairy godmothers. Figure out who they are. And appreciate how they have made your life better, just by being there.

And then, think about whose fairy godmother you are, because whether you know it or not, someone who is not in your family– who you may see only occasionally, someone’s life is better just because you are in it.