Friday, April 28, 2017

Creeping Summer - Reasons 2B Cheerful

Lemon Scented Geranium grown from a cutting.
Parents evening
We had our parent-teacher-student meeting this week. Here the children come with their parents. For us it's good that DD hears what the teachers have to say about her (or to her as is the case here). As a teacher it's sometimes annoying when you want to be honest with the parents of a child who has problems.

We got glowing reports about DD's character and academic progress. We are neither a genius nor a duffer. We are managing to do all the work, in our second language, with good enough grades (and excellent in English and Maths). More importantly, to me, DD is neat, organised and precise in her work, She's a good and caring friend, well liked in the class, and she loves school. Result!

Fireworks and fly past preview
Last night they had the dress rehearsal for the ceremony on Mt. Herzl that takes us from Memorial Day (for fallen soldiers and victims of terror) into Independence Day. It's not until Monday night but we stood on the balcony last night and saw the fireworks. Then this morning they practiced the fly past of air force jets. I could also see this from my balcony. All that's left for me to do on Tuesday is the obligatory Independence Day picnic.

Back to school
The school in which I was miserable for three months during the winter, said they want me to come back next year. Of course I found myself saying yes. They very cleverly wait to ask until the sun is shining, my dungeon classroom has warmed up a bit, and on a day when all the classes are rehearsing for the celebrations next week so I was totally relaxed and enjoying myself doing not much. Of course I said yes on a day like that.

No screens Shabbat
In a bid to cut down on screen time I instigated a no screens on Shabbat rule. You're not supposed to use electricity on Shabbat at all but we do because I tend to interpret my own rules straight from God rather than go through the Rabbis. The Good Book says God rested on the seventh day and the 10 commandments say remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. So we don't work on Shabbat but screen time is leisure, not work.

However, DD was spending too much time on the computer and it was becoming an obsession rather than a leisure activity. As the people we know have all sorts of strange rules and customs for Shabbat, DD was upset about it but accepted it as a reasonable rule (after begging me 100 times to reconsider).

My only reservation was that if DD couldn't be on a computer, neither could I. But actually it's been great. We play games on Friday night after supper, read - she to me and me to her. She even picked up a chapter book and started reading it herself last week - a first. And I'm always happy to read.

Apart from the new willingness to read, DD is also more willing to go out and be sociable on Shabbat. It's really a win-win-win-win move.

Blooming marvelous
The lemon scented geranium that started out as a cutting brought to me from my cousin's house in London, is now blooming. And the mint that was a tiny sprig from the greenhouse at school is thriving. The lemon pips I stuck into some soil are also growing.

I have big plans to move some plants around for a whole window box of mint for tea and salads. And another for parsley. I'm also on the lookout for more cuttings. Unfortunately a spider plant cutting given to us by a friend is not thriving. It's an inside plant but we have no room inside for plants so it's suffering on the sun-scorched balcony. (I hope there's no RSPCP.)

That's it from me as we slide down the slippery slope of lethargy into a full blown Middle Eastern Summer. Even though we still have two months left of school I'm feeling the slowness descend.

There are more Reasons 2B Cheerful over at Becky's Lakes Single Mum.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Yom Hashoah - Holocaust Memorial Day

In my time I have visited Dachau, the concentration camp near Munich, attended courses and seminars at Yad Vashem, I have taken part in 70 Days for 70 Years, I have visited Anne Frank's hiding place in the attic in Amsterdam, I have listened to the testimonies of many survivors, I have read a hundred books about the Shoah. Despite all this background, each year the impact of Yom Hashoah takes me by surprise.

In 2015 I wrote this 100 word challenge. It took a long time for me to understand the implications of being a 2nd Generation Survivor. (It is capitalized because it's a 'thing'). I used to think - you weren't there, for heavens sake, survive already. But then a flatmate explained to me how it is growing up with parents traumatized and damaged, and I remembered certain friends' parents and grandparents from my childhood.

My family, on both sides came to England to escape the pogroms in the 1880s. If they left cousins behind, which they almost certainly did, my parents probably had 3rd or 4th cousins who perished. But we don't know who they are and 3rd or 4th cousins in large families of 5 to 10 children are distant relations.

However, my mother's family did bring over a cousin from Germany with her two daughters. The collective family employed them as maids and found them accommodation. I know this sounds incredible but that's how you got visa's in those days. After the war they lived on reparations, together, the mother and two spinster daughters who never fully recovered and suffered mental health issues until they died.

My mother also remembers sitting on the stairs eavesdropping as her parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles discussed what they should do if Hitler conquered Britain. The options were to go into hiding or to commit collective suicide. There were strong arguments for both options.

During the blitz my Grandmother evacuated from Ladbroke Grove in London to Pitlochry in Scotland with my mother and her brother. Afterwards she would say, "I don't know why we went so far, we should've gone to Edgeware." But the underlying and unspoken reason for going so far, where no one knew them, was that if the Nazis took Britain they could disappear as Jews and continue to live as Christians.

So although my own family are not survivors, my facebook page is full of friends giving testimony about how their parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts either escaped or were murdered. I lit my memorial candle and read about very young children sent on the kindertransport to England and who never saw their parents again. Other children who were sent into convents or the homes of farmers or maids for the duration. Others hidden in attics.

I read about men and women who lost their whole families - parents, husbands or wives and their children. They came to England, America, Israel, or Australia alone, remarried and some of my friends' parents are their second families. What must it be like to know that your parents had children before you who were murdered in Auschwitz? How could you ever live up to that legacy? How could you ever be good enough to replace those dead first children?

No cousins. No grandparents or uncles or aunts. Only ghosts and the lifelong pain in your parents' hearts.

Just last week I was talking to a friend about her uncle who was taken in by their Christian maid as a baby and lived with them until he was about 7. I asked her if they gave him back readily at the end of the war as some families refused to return the children without a fight. My friend said there was no problem as from the very beginning the 'mother' told him that he has a Mummy and a Daddy and a sister who love him and they will come back to get him after the war. The Mummy never came back from the camps. And I can't write this without crying. Yes there was also much kindness amidst the horror.

Tomorrow at 10 am the siren will sound over the whole of Israel for two minutes of silence. I've shown photos before of how the traffic, even on the busiest highways, stops and the drivers get out to stand by their cars with heads bowed in remembrance and respect. Every school has a ceremony starting with the siren at 10 am, including every schoolchild. Every citizen stops and our collective memory rises in prayer to the heavens. Lest we forget. Never again.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Reasons 2B Cheerful At Home And Away

I've missed two weeks of Reasons 2B Cheerful as we were away for the Pesach holidays. We were staying with my Mum in London where three of us competed for shared one computer. There was also far too much good television to watch and a whole Daily Mail was delivered to the front door every morning (a real paper one, with no clickbait like they use online).

Anyway, we're back and just as we started to catch up with our lives, a whole load of new stuff was thrown into the mix. I'm reminded of that fridge magnet that says: I try to take one day at a time but sometimes several days all throw themselves at me at once.

Here are some Reasons 2B Cheerful as I battle my way through the 'To Do' list:

The London Duck Titania
We spent two weeks in London with family and friends. As usual we didn't rush around seeing everything but rather had a couple of outings and lots of hanging out. There may have been some clothes shopping involved.

DD and I went on the London Duck. I'd never heard of this tour until I read about it in my 6th graders' English textbook where there is a unit about London. It was a lot of fun. The tour guide was very amusing although the jokes went right over DD's head. As we went into the water however, she started laughing away when he showed us the MI6 building on the South Bank of the Thames.

DD: He's very funny isn't he? Everyone knows spies are only in stories and films. Hilarious.

Into Summer
Summer has officially started. I know this because DD went to school in shorts this morning. That makes it official. There's no going back now. Hot days for five months from now until October. I'm cheerful about it now but of course I'll be yearning for cold weather by the middle of June.

Hanging out at the bar at the photography exhibition

Photography Exhibition
My friend Yael Katz held her first photography exhibition yesterday evening. It was so impressive that it deserves a whole post to itself. Watch this space, it's coming soon.

My friend had her annual visit to her mother's graveside accompanied by close family and friends. After visiting the cemetery on The Mount of Olives, they return to the house for a breakfast. Obviously this isn't the reason to be cheerful but my job is to stay at home and set out the breakfast. And I love preparing food and setting it out. I was singing away to myself as I cut up fruit and vegetables, arranged cheese and dips on platters and chose matching tablecloth and napkins. (S - Sorry for being so happy on your mother's yarhzeit but please think of it as me helping to celebrate her life.)

I'm linking up to R2BC over at Becky's Lakes Single Mum blog.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tuesday Tidbits #44 - The Pesach Holiday

Standing on a London bridge
Possibly Lambeth Bridge
Who knows
Revising for a geometry test at school.

Me: We'll have to look up what these angles are called in Hebrew, I only know right angle, obtuse angle and acute angle.
DD: Really? A cute angle? Awwww!

No bread
On Pesach (Passover) we don't eat bread for a week. There are loads of other rules but this is the main thing. I am trying not to eat bread and DD doesn't like it very much so we often don't have bread in the house for weeks.

Me (to my nephew on the last evening of Pesach): If you weren't coeliac, if I wasn't on a ketogenic diet, and if DD liked bread, we could have sandwiches in 10 minutes. But you are, I am and she doesn't so we're not. And we don't have any bread in the house anyway.
DD: What? We're not allowed bread on Pesach?
Me: No, of course not. That's the main thing about Pesach. Why do you think we're all eating matza instead?
DD; Oh. No one told me. I seem to have missed that piece of information.

On arriving early for our tour on the London Duck.

Me: The London Eye is right here. Maybe we'll go and see if we can get tickets for today.
DD; Oooh yes. I really want to go on the London Eye.
(As we turn the corner and see the London Eye up close.)
DD; It's very big. I do want to go on it but not today. Maybe I'll go on it when I'm 12. Or when I'm 16.

We finished reading Heidi and went on to Heidi Grows Up. In the first chapter Heidi says her prayers and includes the line, "God bless the Grandmother up in heaven."

DD: Wait. Is she dead?
Me: Seems so.
DD: So that's it? They just mention that she died? Just like that? No expressions?
Me: What expressions do you want?
DD: Like if Heidi was sad...if they did she die...about the funeral.... Not just she's dead and that's it! I hope we get a few more expressions when the Grandfather dies.

DD went to a park in London with Grandma and she made friends with a Muslim girl who was wearing a long black abaya and a black hijab covering her hair, forehead and neck.

Me: Did you ask her why she was dressed like that?
DD: Yes. She told me she was Muslim but I didn't understand what that meant.
Me: Did you tell her that' you're Jewish.
DD: Yes but I don't think she understood what that is.
Me; So what did you talk about?
DD: We found we watch the same You Tube videos.

Talking of You Tube...

DD: You know like when a series ends and you're like, "I'm so sad?" And you're like, "I'll never find another good series," And then you do find one and you're like....
Me: Will you stop saying 'like' for everything. You know when a series ends and you FEEL sad because you THINK you'll never find another good series....
DD: You know when a series ends and you feel so sad and you feel like, I'm allowed to say that, you've lost a friend and you feel like, I'm allowed to say that, almost crying?