Saturday, November 17, 2012

Travel Log II: Suburbia

My brother and sister-in-law have been phenomenal hosts thus far, and it has been a pleasure beyond words to watch Raphaela play with her cousins.  She has always preferred to play with the older kids, and now can emulate two pseudo siblings, a completely new experience.  In our house in Jerusalem, it is normally just the two of us, except for occasional play dates and weekends away.

For me, my brother's house falls under that Utopian Brady Bunch concept.  You pull up to a driveway and park without fighting with your neighbors.  Scattered leaves from the last vestiges of Fall Foliage crunch under your feet as you walk up to the front door.  Instead of the cold and bizarrely designed tiles that characterize most places in Israel, the hard wood floors are warm to bare feet, and glow as only wood can.  The playroom/family room is in the basement, the communal areas are on the first floor, and the private bedrooms inhabit the third floor.  The backyard is big enough for a porch, a swing set and a hammock, and grass to spare.  A short half mile walk away, you find the local shops and bakeries, including a newly opened and fully Kosher supermarket.

Right next to this shopping center, Raphaela and her cousins played at the small lake and play ground, populated as well by ducks and geese.  In that moment, watching them interact and enjoying the crisp Fall air, not answering my cell phone with calls from patients, I felt more relaxed than I had in years.

For all that I have willingly and happily sacrificed to build my life and family in Israel, I have never let go of the dream, this dream of a house of my own with a little bit of nature and a little bit of privacy; that sense of space and quiet which I took for granted growing up in America and now desperately miss.

Meanwhile, I check email and facebook at every spare moment, hoping to scan some details about the critical situation in my home country.  I cringe every time I read that sirens went off in Jerusalem (they would even attack Jerusalem!), thinking about my neighbors sitting in bomb shelters while I photograph the geese at the lake and sip a Peppermint Mocha coffee from Starbucks.  Thinking about how I would comfort my daughter, and my cat Harry, if we were in Israel right now.  Feeling guilt for not being there, and grateful at the same time.

Several unconventional people deserve thanks, and I want to acknowledge them before they get lost in the shuffle:

1.  In transit on our first plane, there was a group of Israelis traveling to India (via Vienna), and they befriended Raphaela to keep her entertained so I could try to rest. "We Israelis have to stick together."  On our second plane, several older American couples also watched her briefly so I could go to the toilet or get Raphaela a drink of water.

2.  My iphone and ipad did not function as expected at Dulles Airport, and so two strangers at various times lent me their cell phones to call my brother.  Thank you Maria and Carlo for your generosity.

3.  My brother could not pick us up straight away, so his mother-in-law took up the task, though she does not live in the same area.  She drove us to the house and sat in rush hour traffic, she packed a dinner and snacks for us in case we would get hungry along the way, and she even bought Raphaela a small gift.

4.  One of Raphaela's bunny dolls, one of her oldest transitional objects since infancy, did not survive the plane trip so well.  We took Pink Sister Bunny to "Dr. Cho", as we now all call the local tailor and dry cleaner;  Pink Sister Bunny underwent major reconstructive surgery and returned to us before Shabbat as good as new, and for only $15.

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