Acid Wash Jeans In Israel. Awkward.



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.


photo by Jenn Fox

photo by Jenn Fox

Fantastic, I thought, as I watched them performing. These kids are fantastic!

It wasn’t just their performances – some of those were definitely less than fantastic. It was their creativity, their confidence, their palpable joy at being on the stage.

I remember feeling that way.

Piedmont High School’s Bird Calling Contest is exactly that: high school students behaving like birds, flapping and chirping and squawking and doing weird things with their throats and their eyes and their hands, on stage, in front of hundreds of people – competing for the prize of best bird call.

The contest has been around for 49 years – it’s received national acclaim as the top three flocks fly to New York City and appear on The Late Show with David Letterman, where they do it all again. This time in front of millions on national TV! It’s pretty fabulous to sit at home in Piedmont and watch kids you know or have seen around town strut their stuff with David Letterman.

But before their west-east migration to NYC and Letterman fame, the wannabe-birds have to prove themselves on stage in the wilds of Piedmont. And they are great. Every last one. They are funny, and talented, and determined. They perform in flights of two or three, and part of their challenge is to present facts about their birds creatively and dramatically. Some are, of course, better than others. Some skits are more artistic, some birds have killer comic timing, others are more imaginative or have feathers to die for. But every single one of them loves being on that stage. I can tell.

photo by Jenn Fox

photo by Jenn Fox

And I remember that feeling.

I haven’t been on a stage, in a performance, for over 20 years. Probably since I played a hippo(potamus) in Rhodes University’s production of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories: How the Elephant Got its Trunk. Definitely not a role that stretched my acting abilities any which way, but still. It was a play, on a stage, in a theater (a few theaters – we toured it to a bunch of schools in the Eastern Cape), in front of an audience, with costumes and set and crew and cast parties and all the elements that I love about a theater.

At the impressionable age of six, my very first drama teacher ignited in me a passion for the dramatic that burned way beyond the stage of the Piet van der Walt Theater in Pretoria West. I was headed for Broadway. Or Hollywood. Or Rhodes University, Grahamstown. Or sitting in the audience at the Alan Harvey Theater in Piedmont.

The first real play I was in was Carmel Primary’s all-school production of Bible Bonanza – each grade performed a biblical tale from the first grade suns and moons until Moses told Pharaoh “Let my people go” and the Red Sea majestically parted. My third grade class honored heroic Samson – and I played his mother: “No razor shall touch my baby’s head,” my little eight-year-old voice rang out clearly, as I stared into those spotlights, unable to see a single human form but knowing the hall was packed with proud parents and they were all watching me. It was fantastic.

It’s a rush, being on stage. Thrilling and terrifying and awfully amazing. My brain always, always goes blank right before I start speaking – but somehow the words find their way back. And then… lost in the magic. Until it’s over. And there’s applause. And the blood rushes in my ears, and I know I’m smiling the biggest smile ever because even my heart is smiling. Smiling and soaring.

I remember that feeling.

I felt it again while I watched those fabulously feathered friends on the stage at Piedmont High School’s 49th Annual Bird Calling Contest. The young man who played his guitar and sang like he was at the Bluebird Café, all kinds of charm and charisma at the age of 16. The girls who were a little off-key but so brave, so confident, so happy. The hosts who could give Ryan Seacrest a run for his money, with their impromptu one-liners and perfect timing every time. And the Snowy Egrets and Owls, Goldfinches and Cockatiels who took flight in that theater. I soared with them.

photo by Jenn Fox

photo by Jenn Fox

Hippo or Athol Fugard or The Crucible or Puck or some crazy sex-crazed character in a play called The Well of Horniness… (stay tuned for W).


Fly by OPI mischsbeautyblog

Fly by OPI

Fly is my favorite OPI color and is on my toes right now. It is fun and fabulous and lifts me up when I’m looking down.

*This post was written as part of the April A to Z Challenge. To read more of my A to Z posts click here.