These are my kiddies! That's Charles (2) and Zoe (6) in the top pictures, and the bottom one is me with my sons, Nathan (l) and Jared (r). Charles and Zoe belong to Jared. If you want to know the truth, Zoe really belongs to me. When I went to see them on my trip to the states, Zoe wouldn't stop hugging me before I left. She told me, "I miss you, Nana." She knows how to tug on the heartstrings! It was so hard to leave her again. At least I got to see them twice; Nathan and I drove down to see them once each of the two weeks I was there. Jared lives about three hours outside of St. Louis. On the last visit we went to Petco to see all the animals (you name it -- kitties, rodents, snakes, lizards, spiders, birds and fish) and then to Wal-Mart where we got all of Zoe's school supplies and even a dress to wear on her first day of first grade. Then the kids went swimming in their nice-sized wading pool. It was a hundred degrees; I pulled up my skirt a little and got in with them.
The whole time I was in St. Louis the temps hovered around 100 degrees. Nathan's car had no air conditioning, but the friends I was staying by let me use their car -- which used to be my car; they bought it from me a few years back. Sweet! They didn't want Nathan driving it, though, and his car wasn't in the best shape for long distance driving (especially in the heat), so we rented a car the second time we went to see Jared's family. Unfortunately, the rental company called late in the afternoon to see how the car was working out for us. I say unfortunately because they used the number I had given when I registered online for their rental club, which was our St. Louis number that rings at our home in Israel. Which is eight hours ahead of St. Louis time. Which woke David up from a sound sleep when he had to run to the salon in the dark to answer it. Which didn't make him happy.
It wouldn't have been so bad if that had been the only time it happened. On one of the nights I was in St. Louis, I went with my friend, Lori, to the Muny Opera to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Someone had given her great tickets. I normally don't like musicals (strange, huh?) but it was a great performance, even in the heat. I kept thinking I couldn't forget to call David. I was calling him twice a day while I was in the states so he could share in what I was doing; noon (8 PM his time) and 10 PM (6 AM the next day his time). I called him before the show started, at 8, thinking that was the regular time, and when he answered I immediately started raving about how we got to park right in front of the Muny in the guarantor's lot and how we had box seats and how much fun it was. He finally interrupted me sleepily and asked, "Do you realize it's 4:00 in the morning?" Stunned, I realized what I'd done. "Oh," I said sheepishly. "Never mind."
The flight to St. Louis was pretty uneventful. I had an aisle seat at the end of a section which I had thought would be good because the שירותים (bathrooms) were right behind my seat and I could stand comfortably behind my seat when my tush got tired of sitting, but it seemed the seats in that particular row didn't tilt back except for an inch or two. I knew I had to sleep on the flight because I would be getting into St. Louis (with a quick stop in Atlanta) at 8:05 in the morning. So when they offered wine with the first meal, I drank it along with a couple of Benedryls. Normally I don't sleep at all on planes, but I think I that might have done the trick. I slept about five hours off and on on the 12 1/2 hour flight, which felt great.The fun thing about the flight was that the plane had state-of-the-art video equipment. On the back of every seat is a personal video screen for the seat behind. It was a touch screen, and the options were tv shows, movies, HBO ($2 a show), music or games. Each one of those options had many, many choices. There were at least 20 different movies on the movie channel, and you could start each one whenever you wanted. You could even pause it. The music station had at least three or four choices in each genre. I fell asleep with slow jazz playing in my headphones.
The big event while I was there was Malky's bat mitzvah. This was a bat mitzvah celebration unparalleled in modern history. It began on Thursday night and ended on Monday morning for all the out of town guests. Malky's parents are Albert, my officer manager at Aish who I worked with for ten years, and Shifra, one of my "best" friends and mahj partner for ten years. Malky is a special girl who makes friends wherever she goes. She told her parents that she wanted ALL her friends at her celebration, and they were happy to comply. You see, as Albert said (what Shifra wrote) on the video they played on Sunday morning, they were told when they adopted their daughter over eleven years ago that Malky had "special needs." What no one knew at the time was how much Malky would flourish with such "special" parents; that the nurturing and love and attention she received from them would truly make her special. Malky knows what a stranger is; she's just never met one. Everyone who's come into her life, from her teachers and aides and classmates to the firemen at the fire stations her Doda Lynda takes her to, to the people who work at the Jewish Community Center, to the many clerks at the mall she visits regularly - is a friend for life. Approximately 200 people came to Malky's kiddush and twice that number came to her carnival celebration the following morning at a downtown hotel. It's equally a tribute to Albert and Shifra as it was to Malky that so many people wanted to be a part of the celebration. I was grateful that I could be there.
(The secondary benefit was that I could see so many people that I wanted to see all at once!)
The third best thing about going "back" to the states (first being seeing my sons/grandchildren and second participating in the bat mitzvah) is that I got to PLAY MAH JONGG WITH MY GROUP. It was so nice for the four of us - Shifra, Lynda, Barb and myself - to play together again. Barb could only play one night the first week because she had to get her father home to South Dakota, but the other three of us played again the second week and the last Shabbos afternoon I was there. It felt so comfortable - and comforting.
The really wierd thing about going back was that it sometimes seemed the previous twelve months hadn't occurred; that I was simply in a time warp where I went to bed one night and when I woke up the next morning all the kids in the community got a whole lot older and bigger! Plus new houses and buildings that were being constructed when I left were suddenly finished. So it was kind of like being in the Twilight Zone, you know? Also, I fit in - but I didn't quite fit in. I just really, really want all my family and friends to move to Israel! That would be really, really cool! Really!
David passed his driving test this morning and he'll get his license within a week. Yea! The process for getting it is so long and drawn out. Hopefully they'll call me soon so I can have my test. It took all of ten minutes, if that long, David said. Oh, I have a great picture I want to post. After I end this post, I'll just add a lot of pictures. I figured out how to upload all the pictures in my camera to the computer (okay, fine - David told me how to do it).
Oh, but don't go away yet; I have to tell you one more story! This is really crazy. Late Sunday night, early Monday morning (2 AM), Emma started licking me and wagging her tail. I just thought, why does she want to go outside now? She never wants to go out in the middle of the night. I just rolled over and went back to sleep. I sort of felt her jump off the bed as I drifted back off. All of a sudden, there was screeching, the likes of which no one should ever have to hear. I thought something weighing 2 tons had fallen on her or else someone had an axe and was chasing her around the house. David and I both jumped out of bed and went running to the salon. David switched on a light, and we saw a cat hunched up against the patio door and Emma hysterically screeching (it's the only word I can think of to describe it) at her. David tried to grab the dog and the cat ran past us - and out the open front door!! Now I always check to make sure the front door's locked before I go to bed; I must have forgotten Sunday night. But for sure it wasn't ajar. That cat must have jumped on the door hand and opened the front door! David thinks it's the cat who used to live here. She had gotten in our trash can and there were chicken bones on the floor. It was pretty wierd. I'm surprised the upstairs neighbors didn't ask us about it the next morning; I thought the whole yishuv must have heard Emma. Baruch Hashem, she may be small but she's a great watch dog!
Okay, I think I can safely end this now. There's more I can say (isn't there always?) but it can wait until the next installation of A Mahjer Makes Aliyah and Has Wierd Experiences in the Holy Land. 'Nuff said.