They Know That I Am There

IMG_3740 copy

Last week began and ended with hours of kiddie concerts. My tiny ballet dancer skipped around the stage first as a Ginger Snap and then as a Chinese Tea leaf in the ballet school’s production of “The Nutcracker.” It’s a beautiful show, with music and costumes and dances that carry the audience on a snowflake cloud of sugar plum dreams.

For 120 minutes. My Ginger Snap was up there for maybe three of those minutes. And another three for the Tea the following day.

I drifted. Shifted in my uncomfortable seat. Told my sons to “ssshh” when they asked if it was over. When would it be over? I wondered the same. It was beautiful and graceful and fun to watch, but of course we were there to see her, and we were wriggly and fidgety and wished we were elsewhere.

And then we glimpsed her smiling face under the floppy gingerbread hat, and she saw us waving wildly from the audience. And she beamed. Missed a step. And beamed some more.

The end of the week found me back in an audience, again for hours. This time at the school’s annual winter concert. I jostled for a seat as near to the front as I could find, amongst bright, puffy jackets and dripping umbrellas, and parents who had the foresight to reserve the best seats much earlier than I did.

Squeezed somewhere in the middle of the middle, I waved like a wild woman when my Kindergartner took his place on the stage. He whispered in his friend’s ear, pulled funny faces and did not stand still for a minute. Despite my frantic hands in the air, he had no idea I was there. What’s the point? I wondered crossly. Resentfully, I settled into my immovable chair for the next three hours.

All the kids sang sweetly. Pounded on xylophones. Played the violin and the trumpet and even the cello with their small 10-year-old fingers. But the morning dragged in a stuffy cacophony of restless coughs and whispers.

We had all carved time away from work and errands, meetings and appointments to watch the children showcase their musical talents, but of course we were there to watch our own children. Many parents left as soon as their child had performed. They had places to be, so many things to do on that busy, wet Friday morning, the last before the holidays and no-school-till-2015. I watched them creep out, one after the other, with something like envy and disappointment. That they didn’t stay to watch my child. That I couldn’t leave.

I couldn’t leave because my son is in fifth grade, and the fifth graders performed the newly-composed school song, at the very, very, very end. I was tired, hungry and irritable. I moved seats. I chatted incessantly to the friend sitting next to me. Her son is also in fifth grade. I thought about everything else that needed my attention. I wished I were elsewhere, doing those things.

It had been almost three hours since my little one sang the snowflake song, seemingly oblivious to my presence in the audience. Now I watched my big boy take his place in the left corner of the stage. Somehow I had unknowingly found a seat on the same side as he was.

Finally, I thought, as I distractedly gazed at the sea of faces on the stage. Just a few more minutes, and I can get on with my day.

A tiny movement on the left caught my eye. I focused my attention, turned my head so slightly. My son looked straight at me. And smiled. That small, almost self-conscious smile that means he’s happy. He ducked his head for a second, and looked back up at me. I heard his thought: My mom is here. For me.

The music teacher raised his arms. The opening chords filled the almost-empty theater.

“We work hard, take care, so we all can learn and play.

We work hard, take care, with kind hearts we share,

at our school on the hill by the Bay.”

Beaming Ginger Snaps and fidgety five-year-olds and school pride in the fifth grade.

“Were you there, Mom?” the little one asked me later that day. “I didn’t see you! Were you there? Did you see me?”

I have years of performances and ceremonies, Nutcrackers and school concerts ahead of me. At times I will be restless in the uncomfortable chair. I will resent that I didn’t get there early enough and all the good seats are taken. I will wish I were somewhere else.

And then my kids will stand in front of the audience. They will scan the crowd, and catch my eye and smile a tiny smile. And they will know that I am there. For them. And for me.

This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, inspired by the prompt, “When I’m really old, I hope to look back at my life and know that I…” Hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, and guest hosts Vidya from Vidya Sury and Kerri from Undiagnosed but Okay.

The Bravest Thing I’ve Ever Done


They decorate the air with sails of green and red and turquoise and yellow. They dance on gusts of invisible wind, giant soaring birds doing the tango. Strong and silent. Free and flying. The ocean is every shade of blue. And foamy white. I want to be there, on the waves, in the air.

It must take a lot of physical strength to dance with the wind like that. To fly on water. Strong arms to hold that sail. Strong legs to stay upright. Powerful inside to keep balanced. So much strength. And stamina.

And courage. To fly into the wide open sky. To let the wind lead. It must take a lot of courage and steeled, unbreakable, unbendable nerves to give over like that. To unknown waters, unpredictable wind.

I’m not sure I’m brave enough.


It’s a little more than a year since I hit publish for the very first time. I wrote about my longing to live in Israel, and I called it Kiteboarders Do Come Back. I published it on the wonderful Israeli-based news site, Times of Israel. It was 11pm at night. I was terrified.

My heart thundered in my chest. I don’t know why I did it so late at night. The noise in my head, in my ears, in my heart deafeningly drowned out any possibility of sleep. Every nerve ending quivered, from my intestines to my toenails and the tips of my eyelashes. Real. Fear.

I’ve never jumped out a plane to go skydiving, or leapt off a cliff with a hang glider, or taken to the ocean with nothing but a board, a sail and the wind between me and the sun. But I’m pretty sure this feeling of terror overpowers every shred of exhilaration in anticipation of these extreme, courageous feats. Before that adrenaline kicks in, before “Hey, I’m doing this, I’m flying, I’m REALLY DOING THIS,” must come “Oh. My. G-d,” and “W T F” and “I thought this was a good idea WHY?”

As soon as I hit that button I felt like I’d blindly leapt off a cliff. Sick with fear. Shaking with terror. That I’d made a mistake. Done the wrong thing. I wasn’t sure if I’d crash in a heap of broken somethings (heart, pride, feelings to start) or if I’d be lucky enough to feel the briefest whisper of wind in my too-short hair.

My kite boarder moment.


I love to write. To turn inward and be present and thoughtful with myself. To listen to my own thoughts, feelings, opinions and then name them with words on a white page right with my own fingers, before my eyes. It took a long time for me to feel comfortable to do even that, but I knew if I didn’t I was either going to drown in my own unnamed words, or fish them out of the deep blue where I could see them, count them, describe them, hate them, love them.

And it’s one thing to hold those words up to the light where I can see them. It’s another to hold them out for others to see.

Hitting publish is leaping off the cliff. It’s standing on stage in front of a packed theater and forgetting your lines (that has happened to me). It’s taking off on a board in the Bay, with a bright green sail above you, not knowing if you’ll make it back to shore or be tossed under the Golden Gate and far into the wild Pacific.

It’s unknown. And it’s terrifying.

And exhilarating.

I published that first piece about Israel because I didn’t know what else to do with my thoughts and feelings. They confused and troubled me. I wrote them out. Which helped, but didn’t quiet the restless grumbling I heard inside. So I held them out for others to read, in the hope that feedback, validation, discussion would help me find peace and fulfillment. It was not the first piece I wrote, but it was the first I showed to more than a friend or two.

And for so many moments after clicking the publish button, my arms went weak. My whole body shook and I lost my balance on that board. The sail slackened, and I regretted it all. Overshare, TMI, who cares if I want to live in Israel or that my dog is old or that my kids only talk to me when I’m in the bathroom!

But the wind caught the sail just so. And my arms felt strong again, and I took a deep breath. And did a tiny dance on the waves.

It’s scary, every time, to reveal these little and not so little parts of me in stark black words on a white page. But then the wind catches and gently ruffles my hair, and it’s more fulfilling to put it out there, than not to.

It’s exhilarating. To have found the courage. To feel brave.

Now if only I could learn to kite board.

This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, inspired by the prompt,”I’ve never had the courage to…” Hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, and guest hosts Tarana from Sand in My Toes and Vidya from Vidya Sury.

Storage Wars

It’s a cool, cloudy Saturday in December. There’s the potential for rain, and for clear skies. Some of us are up and already buttering toast at 7.17am, while some have decided on second thoughts today is not a workout day and wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone brought me a cup of tea right about now?

It’s early December and there’s much to think about: high school applications, the pants he needs for the wedding, pink ballet tights for next week’s Secret Nutcracker concert. Hopefully he makes it through the weekend with the pokey wire from his braces, definitely order dreidels for the Chanukah presentations, and now Pretzel is doing downward dog which means he needs to go out, so I guess I’ll get up and make my own tea.

And then through the open window I hear it. The scraping, muffled sound of boxes being pushed, dragged, stacked. An occasional huff. A very big puff. Oh. No. He’s clearing out the garage. Again.

(Please note I said clearing with an r, not cleaning with an n. When I noted that he was cleaNing the garage, he shot back with so much indignant vehemence that the garage is so spotless we could eat off the floor, I quickly recalibrated my word choice!)

The garage is his pride. And burden. An ongoing year-round project. Spring clean, summer clean, autumn and winter. And a few times in between. A free-standing structure at the end of the driveway, it’s large enough for a car and a minivan, a few bikes along the walls, three skateboards in the corner and a bunch of sports equipment neatly organized down the middle.


He is proud that he keeps it clean – I mean clear – enough that we can park our cars behind its black doors and not in the driveway every night. But we are six people living and growing out of clothes, soccer cleats, baseball bats, scooters, bikes faster than we can figure out what to do with it all. Did I mention the few dozen bins of girl and boy clothes tidily stacked floor to ceiling? The cars do fit in the garage, but the minivan driver may have almost flattened at least one of those bins, on more than one occasion. Luckily Boys Size 7-8 are soft and flattenable, even if the bin isn’t.

It’s a cool, maybe-rainy December day and there is so much to think about, plan for, take care of and definitely no time to clear out the garage – again – but that’s exactly where he is, again, and of course he needs me in there with him. Not to sort or organize or lift or unpack. That’s his one-man show and he’s brilliant at it. What he needs from me is to definitively say, right here and right now: Get rid of it!

Yes, get rid of the bins labeled 6-12, 18-24, 2T/3T. There are no more babies for this house. Yes, toss that box of fabric paint circa 1998. Paint does not last forever, and certainly not long enough for your paint muse to finally pay a visit almost two decades later. And hell yes definitely throw out the cassettes from the 80s, because a) there is no way to play them here in the future and b) they’re from the 80s and this is the future.

I find my Drama and Journalism binders from university, the contents outdated and irrelevant, my handwriting unchanged. I gingerly leaf through barely-held-together high school scrapbooks, precious photos, movie ticket stubs, birthday cards painstakingly placed on each page. Yellowed, aging memories slide out and spill into my lap as I sit on that spotless garage floor, the 20-year-old glue not so adhesive anymore. There’s a journal from camp, lines filled with writing I don’t recognize: “Dear Nix, I hope all your dreams come true.” The sweetest, sappiest notes from friends-for-eva who I vaguely remember and some I will never forget.

Part of me really wants to clear out the garage as much as he does. To be able to open my car door and not bump into a bicycle, not collide with a bin full of clothes or pop yet another basketball as I reverse.

But I can’t. I can’t throw any of it away. I can’t get rid of it. Not the baby clothes we have no need for anymore, but a nephew might. Not the old-fashioned cassettes (I labeled one of those “Slow Mix.” It must’ve taken me hours to make!), and definitely not the scrapbooks and journals. To read and remember my teen self is awkward, great, painful and wonderful all at once. Like floating on perfect ocean swells, and then suddenly getting tumbled and dumped by a frothy surprise wave that leaves my eyes burning, my nose running and my bathing suit disheveled just enough to reveal a little too much for a moment.

I don’t think of myself as a keeper of things. I love to pare down, de-clutter, and hang on to only what we need and use. But these childhood things that we’ve brought with us halfway around the world, schlepped from apartment to rental and finally to this house where we’ve created our family and our big grown-up life are the things that tell the story of me. And keeping those things, that story, feels way more important than an empty garage.

I grab my phone to take a photo of those old cassette tapes.


“There is not enough storage to take a photo,” it says. “You can manage your storage blah blah blah.”

This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, inspired by the prompt,”If they made a reality show about my life, it would be called…” Hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee and Stephanie from Mommy, for Real, and guest hosts Michelle from Crumpets and Bullocks and April from 100lb Countdown.