I grew up with this perception of the Israeli kids in school being pretty laid back, coming to school with their lunch packed casually in plastic bags. I thought it was really cool… because I was a kid, and anything I didn’t get to do was cool. Even if every year my mom took me to pick out whatever Hello Kitty, Lisa Frank, or My Little Pony lunchbox I wanted.
Fast forward to 2012. My son is three years old and starting his first year of official gan (gan trom trom). It’s the first year I’ll have to pack an ‘aruchat eser’ for him every day. That’s the 10am meal 3-5 year olds eat at gan because they don’t get a lunch until they leave at 2pm. I know right? I wouldn’t make it that long, either.
In so many ways, I’m already ‘that American mom’ since my kid always comes to gan dressed in clothes some of my neighbors go to work in. I make my kid say ‘please’ all the time. And I plan to send him in with peanut butter and jelly at least half the time.
Anyway, despite Koala’s abba bringing it up several times, I forewent the lunchbox option because I knew in my bones he’d only be starting out at the extreme end of Americanness. And any day now, that would start to matter more. And I remembered those chilled out Israeli kids with their plastic bags.
So I sent Koala to his first day with his Emek cheese sandwich and apple slices packed in a plastic Mister Zol bag.
When I went to pick him up, I was thrilled to hear he had a great time (!איזה בוגר). I was less thrilled that he was munching on a piece of sour apple taffy, his teeth highlighter green. But he was happy to show me around, and where he had eaten his aruchat eser.
“One thing though, Ima…” started his ganenet. “It’s not good to keep the lunch in a plastic bag, tied so tight… the food starts to go bad… So maybe tomorrow,” she added reluctantly, “keep it open?”
“Oh, sure…” And then I followed the ganenet to where she was taking his plastic lunch leftovers off the coat rack, where it had hung between a dozen… tiny backpacks.
“So… everyone brought tikim?”
“…yes.” She smiled kindly. Of course they did. And I immediately understood I’d be sending my kid with a backpack tomorrow, too.
As I took Koala’s hand and led him to the car, my mind wandered to the fact that, despite my ability to be adaptable and flexible – after all, I attribute my aliyah success to that – despite it, when we get home, the first thing I would do – as a proud American – would be to brush his neon green teeth.