Monthly Archives: December 2012

On the Travel Itinerary: Back to Where it all Began

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Now that all is booked, and I’m almost ready to go (minus 24 essays to grade and a conference talk to write, a book club to host, a couple of holiday parties and a Chanukah concert to attend–details, details), I find myself reminiscing on my formative years.

This begins as a sob story: I despised my first year of university. I was bored in my classes, and I carried around an obnoxious superiority complex, thinking I was smarter than all my classmates and probably most of my professors. This attitude led me, of course, to do terribly in my courses since I stopped showing up to classes and wasn’t even aware that I wasn’t handing in assignments that were due.

In addition to the lousy academic side of my so-called “college experience” (did such a thing exist for me? I lived at home with my parents, and didn’t make a single new friend, hanging out, as I was, with all my high school friends, who also lived at home with their parents), I was romantically wretched. I was in a warped not-relationship with a hirsute, hateful, rage-driven, confidence-killing, misogynistic, homophobic, Kill-the-Arabs man that a friend of mine affectionately referred to as “ha’Shatiach” (the carpet).

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On one of his better days, he told me: “Every time you smile, I remember how ugly you are.” On another occasion, he borrowed a lip balm from a friend of mine who mentioned–who knows why–that a gay friend of hers regularly borrowed it as well, and ha’Shatiach scrubbed at his lips until they bled (he later told me his father said he should have dumped his plate of spaghetti in my friend’s lap–so we know where he got his loving personality from).

To add to this rather unpleasant foreground, the university I attended was and is one of the least architecturally attractive institutions out there–a mishmash of bad styles, most of them dating from the concrete- and industrial-art-loving 60s. All I wanted to be was anywhere but there.

And by my second year, that’s where I was.

Suddenly, school was cool. Surrounded by Jerusalem stone and the gleam of the Dome of the rock; conversing with people who were smart and cosmopolitan, and who went to famous, fabulous schools like Oxford and Harvard; partying at the “Orient Express,” a nightclub at the Hyatt that catered to stupid drunken tourists like me; high on the handshake between Rabin and Arafat (a clipping from the Jerusalem Post featuring that triptych of peace–Rabin, Clinton, and Arafat in camaraderie, Clinton with an arm almost but not quite around each of the Middle Eastern men–hung on my wall); I found, in Israel, two loves–one professional, and one romantic.

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I was 19.

One wouldn’t imagine that what happened that year would affect me so profoundly. But I guess it did. One day that year, visiting Tzfat, a beautiful, mystical city where the artists reign, I told my hosts (beneficent strangers who took me in for a Shabbos dinner), as though in a trance, that when I “grew up” I was going to be an English professor. It was the first time such a thought had ever entered my head, and it flew out of my mouth just as soon as it did.

Two days later, I returned to Jerusalem, and I told my boyfriend of the time of my plan.

That was 19 years ago–half a lifetime ago. This was me and my boyfriend:

PP & The Scientist--1994, Israel

THEN: PP & “Boyfriend of the time” in Israel (and yes–I still had the unfortunate eyebrows I had in high school, as Nancy Botwin reminds me every time she sees this picture).

My plan was extensive. I was going to go back to my home university. I would not be miserable because I would go visit my boyfriend whenever I could. And he would visit me. I would do incredibly well in all my classes. I would get into a good graduate program. And then I would get my PhD and become an English professor. And maybe–this part was hazier–marry the boyfriend.

There was one more thing: I didn’t just say I was going to be an English professor. I said I was going to be an English professor in Israel. So much had happened to me there, so many important life changes, I could only imagine that Israel would be a fundamental part of my life forever. I could only imagine that I would live there full-time. Or maybe part-time. But there was no way another year of my life would go by without my spending time in Israel.

But I was wrong. Israel wasn’t a big part of my life after that–not in any kind of physical, tangible way. 19 years went by–the same number of years of my life that led up to my year in Israel. 19 years went by and I didn’t go back to Israel once. I changed. Everyone changed. Even ha’Shatiach, I hear, changed. He found drugs, and through drugs found yoga, and through yoga found peace–and now he’s a peace-loving yogi/naturopath who lives happily in a Muslim country.

And as for me? Well, you all know where I am —

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Not tt, but happily teaching at one of the finest and prettiest universities in the world

PP, The Scientist, Cool J, LL, and Baby MoFo--2012

“Boyfriend of the time” and I are now 5: PP, The Scientist, Cool J, LL, and Baby MoFo

And, after half a lifetime, guess where I’m finally GOING?

Now, I’m not saying I’m going to be a PROFESSOR there or anything . . . but I am finally going back.

The Worst Tooth Fairy Ever

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The Scientist leads a glamorous life. Last week he jetted off West; this week East. Well, OK, the West was Minnesota (be sure to pronounce like a toothless hockey player)–not so glamorous. The East, however, is Portugal–not too shabby. He jets off here, he jets off there, and poor Poor Princess–I jet off nowhere. I stay home playing mommy–chef and chauffeur, judge and jury, teacher and trainer. And tooth fairy. Twice.

It was me who couldn’t handle the tooth.

The first time LL lost a tooth during the Scientist’s trip to Minnesota, all went smoothly. LL wrote the tooth fairy a note kindly asking for $2, put his tooth under his pillow, and I swapped his note and tooth for 2 dollar bills. Fait accomplit. Good Tooth Fairy. Good mommy.

But the second time–the second time The Scientist was also gone a second time–a second time in the span of a week. And this time he wasn’t only gone for 3 days across the country, but 7 across the ocean. And even though it was only a couple of days into those 7, back-to-back full-time mommying was making me tired. Damn tired.

That evening, the kids kept getting out of bed with one excuse or another. “Mama, I’m thirsty.” “Mama, I need to poo.” “Mama, can you come cuddle with me again?” “Mama, can you give me a math problem?” “No fair–I want a math problem!” “Me too!” And then finally, “Mama–come see all the blood!”

“What??”

“I lost another tooth!”

I debate getting up. “Come downstairs,” I finally say. “Let me see.”

Bloody Hell. It was true.

Bloody Hell. It was true.

“OK,” I say, too tired to even rise from the sofa. “Stick it under your pillow, and I’m sure the tooth fairy will come.”

Only–she didn’t.

She fell asleep on the sofa, and then woke herself up long enough to brush her teeth before collapsing in bed.

The next morning, I’m awoken to a wail. “Maaaammmaaaa! The tooth fairy didn’t come! My tooth is STILL here!”

“Uh–um–uh–”

Cool J sits up in bed. “Did you write her a note? Did you ask for anything? How would she know she had to come and give you something?”

Ah, Cool J. My savior.

***

That night, LL sat down at the table and wrote the Tooth Fairy a note: “Dear Tooth Fairy, Can I please have $2? Thank you.” He turned the two o’s in Tooth into eyeballs with long eyelashes, and signed his name, first and last.

“I’m sure she’ll come this time,” I say. I write my own notes–at least five, though they’re virtual, not physical–and I plant them in different places in my brain. Don’t forget, don’t forget, don’t forget. “I’m sure she’ll come this time,” I say again.

Only–she didn’t.

Repeat of the previous night. I was watching Kristen Stewart (I’m committed to trashy TV during the Scientist’s absence: the night before it was stuttering Stewart in New Moon, this time in Eclipse) trying to be oh-so-cool in her Northwest grunge (seriously? Is that still in style there?) and wondering how Robert Pattinson is not getting that awful red lipstick all over her, and just feeling generally uncomfortable by their permanently-pained facial expressions (are they constipated??) (Thank goodness for Jacob–Ooooooh, Jacob . . .!). And then my brain went dead.

When the alarm went off the next morning, I hit snooze. But when I started dreaming of teeth falling from the sky, I bolted awake. Shit!!!! I dashed down the stairs, grabbed my wallet, took out 3 one-dollar bills–the kid deserves interest at this point–and ran upstairs to arrive precisely at the moment that LL is sitting up, hands on his pillow, about to lift it. I slide my hand under the pillow just as it rises from the bed. I swap the tooth for the cash. Success! I am unable to grab the note–LL has already noticed its presence and is asking me why the Tooth Fairy didn’t either a) take his note, or b) write him back–but who cares. My mission was a success. A last minute, under-the-wire success.

I am relieved.

LL, however, is not. “Why did she give me $3?”

“I guess she felt bad that she didn’t come the first night, so she gave you extra. Well, that was nice of her, wasn’t it?”

“No, it wasn’t right. I asked for $2.” A child’s justice is highly inflexible.

“Oh, that’s OK. Just be happy you got more.”

“No, I’m not supposed to get more. That’s not right.”

“The Tooth Fairy didn’t do good?”

“No!”

The whole day LL sat there with the three dollar bills in his hands, wondering aloud what was wrong with the tooth fairy–can’t she read???

That Tooth Fairy needs an early retirement–or at least a vacation!

Dear Scientist, come on home, won’t you?