By all accounts it should’ve been an okay-ish year. A year I survived, mostly unscathed. Except for the perm, but that was finally growing out. At the very least it should’ve been an awkward year. New school. New friends. Braces and acid wash jeans. And also… fourteen.
But it wasn’t. I was no George Michael rocking my acid wash jeans, but it wasn’t awkward. And it wasn’t okay.
t was the year my family and I lived in Israel, which I’m pretty sure was not something I was dying to do as a newly-minted teenager: leave my grandparents and cousins, the friends I’d been with since preschool, the community I’d grown up in. I had just started high school and nothing was more important than what was said on the gray stairs between classes or what happened under the trees at lunch recess.
I did not, however, get to hear the whole conversation on those stairs because I went to live in a place I knew about mainly from my parents’ adventures and stories, from history books and too-quick family reunions. A place where language was not the only barrier I’d have to figure out how to climb over.
It wasn’t awkward. It wasn’t okay. For me, it was the absolute best.
While “Faith” hit no 1 on the Billboard charts, my tightly manufactured curls started to loosen and grow and before I knew it, even my dreams were happening in Hebrew:
In Israel, I learned what it means to “live in the moment.” To be spontaneous and present and to enjoy where you are right now, because you never know what tomorrow, or even the next few hours, might bring. This meant impromptu barbecues on the beach whenever the weather allowed. It meant meeting for ice cream at 11pm, even on a school night. It meant finding new places to explore, new foods to taste, new views to behold as often as possible. To my 14-year-old self it meant life was mine for the living.
It also meant independence. The back of my mom’s car had been the center of my world until then, as she schlepped my sister, my friends and me to ballet, drama and home from school. Much like the minivan is for my kids now. But in Israel we walked almost everywhere. Or hopped on the bus. The 29 bus remains my favorite means of public transport anywhere in the world. Its route ends at the beach.
1988 was the year I saw “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” for the first time, at a small movie theater in Ramat Hasharon. I will never forget that day. It was raining. I thought I would run into Brad and Janet any minute for days after that. Just a jump to the left…
I learnt to play Five Stones (which is similar to or exactly the same as Jacks). The game involves nothing more than your hands, five small objects and two tiny balls. There is no greater commitment than to sit cross-legged on the floor, and transcend language and emotion. This is a wonderful way to forge everlasting friendship.
The history and story of my people were everywhere around me. Indeed I lived history every day. Which is both overwhelmingly powerful and magical to think about. Layers and layers of ancient ruins. Soil touched by biblical hands. The very sea that parted. We went on a school tour to the Negev, where our guide made a wrong turn. We literally wandered in the desert for hours that seemed like days with no food and very little water. I’m not sure I fully appreciated this as an egocentric 14-year-old, but this past summer a family friend showed my kids the hill where “David killed Goliath.” They got it.
Garbage Pail Kids hit their peak in Israel in 1988. They remain a colorful part of my life since that year. A darkly hilarious parody of Cabbage Patch Kids, I don’t know what they represent other than a cynical view on all things cute and cuddly. Perhaps that’s enough. I love them for their creative, whimsical names which are brilliant in English and even more brilliant in Hebrew (Lilach ba-Pach is my all-time favorite. Translation: Lilach in the Trash. Doesn’t sound as good).
“To Kill A Mockingbird” went completely over my head during English class, but Boo Radley found his way into my heart without me knowing. A recent reading of the great novel brought back smiling memories of those scorching hot Israeli school days and an exasperated English teacher trying to impart all of Harper Lee’s brilliance to a smelly bunch of eighth graders, who were more restless than Scout in the first grade. If I met that teacher now, I would tell her it worked.
It was a year of adventure, independence and a whole new world.
A year of fun, excitement, new friends, family, unparalleled experiences.
A year of history, my history, at my fingertips, and my entire future at my heels.
That year was not awkward. And there was nothing “okay” about it.
The best year. Ever.
This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, inspired by the prompt, “When I was 14…” Hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, and co-hosted by Kerri from Diagnosed and still okay and Dana from Kiss My List. Dedicated to the Kitah Chet class of 1988 at Tali School, Hod Hasharon, Israel. Thank you for a wonderful year.