WANTED: someone to talk to

ThankfulIs anybody out there?

Two 30-something partners and parents of three and full time marketing professionals seeking someone similar who has figured it all out. Realizing that no one has truly figured it all out, also seeking someone who has at least crossed to the other side of hectic and has less regrets than one would assume.

These individuals cannot currently provide help in the form of locally-residing parents or trust funds or native fluent Hebrew or any spare time.

But they can provide:

  • a generally optimistic take on it all
  • a healthy dose of not taking life too seriously
  • a joint sense of humor that takes the edge off

If you have any information as to where the secret to making this work might be located, or anyone who has survived not making it work but making it work enough, please be in touch.

To the immigrant parents I grew up with:

Dear immigrant parents of childhood friends,

Hi. How are you? Have I told you lately your English is incredible?

It was really fun growing up with your kid. Maybe I’m still even friends with your kid. Most of my friends from childhood had immigrant parents it seems. It really felt that way, at least.

To the point where I kind of felt like an outsider myself. The all-American. None of my grandparents were Holocaust survivors. I’m not complaining. Or bragging. But I just always felt like an outsider in my own community. A big part of that was my family’s religious status, too.

Anyway. I just wanted to say – I watched you as a kid. Not in a creepy way. In a curious way. The way words rolled off your tongue; the words had different edges to mine. The way you’d sometimes mention a story about back home where you grew up. The way occasionally I heard you speak another language, only for you, it wasn’t the second.

The way so many of you had groups of friends with the same background and you’d get together. Everyone there spoke your first language and I didn’t understand, or understood a little because it was my second language. Or how a group of people from different countries could still commiserate over the Old Country, even if the nationalities were unique to each of you.

I always wondered what that was like. To be from somewhere else.

Now I’m here. Somewhere else. And I’ve got kids. Kids with immigrant parents. And  I’m so caught up in my own tangled ideas about being an immigrant, labeling ‘whereyoufrom,’ speaking words with different edges, making it, that on some days, I could just cry.

And some days, I do.

They say, you can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends. But when you’re an immigrant, sometimes it’s the opposite. You get thrown in somewhere where people talk like you, and slowly build what becomes your family.

I guess you guys did that, too. I remember there always being someone at a party or event, labeled as ‘my cousins… I mean, not my real cousins, but my cousins.’

I get it now. Even if we’re not totally there yet.

I also get, after eight years, that it’s ok to melt into your own people for a few minutes sometimes. It’s ok to show your kids that there are so many parts to what make them whole.

That they can feel comfortable with different crowds.

I don’t want to hold my kids back. I have a lot of my own crap to work out. I worry about it a lot.

But once in a while, I have this thought:

That for you, parents of my childhood friends, it’s now thirty or so years later…

…and your kids have done just fine.

 

P.S. – Seriously, your English was always amazing. I appreciate it so much more now. Even if, upon request, I did sometimes explain the slang.

Birthdays.

New parenting milestone: the kindergarten birthday party.

I’m not a big birthday person. When I was a kid I was, as much as any other kid. Who doesn’t want presents? But at some point it switched off. I don’t like the attention for something I didn’t do. It feels a little forced and awkward.

I also don’t believe in making an enormous deal out of the occasion while the kids are so young and are capable of enjoying the simplicity of a leaf, stick, paper bag. I’m not into flashiness. I believe in good old fashion fun (my mom held out pretty long before we had any video games in our house).

And then there’s all the party planning, preparation, socializing… I could be good at it, but it’s just a lot of energy I don’t have right now. Or maybe my own mom was so good at it, I just give up.

Plus… the idea of throwing a birthday party in Hebrew pretty much makes me crap myself. If there’s one thing that freaks me more than getting up and public speaking in Hebrew, it’s doing it in front of a room filled with little kids. Whose Hebrew is better than mine.

So when I found out the gan will do the birthday party for you – in fact, prefer you aren’t even there – well, hey, go for it! Yesterday Koala had his first gan birthday, and from the dozens of photos the ganenet took, seems he had a great time.

I know it’ll change; maybe even next year he’ll ask for his own party at home like the other kids. I’ll let future Koala’s mom deal with that.

What have I done?

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t freaked.

Though the truth is it’s only starting to dawn on me how awe-some and terrifying it is.

I’m beginning to comprehend what I’ve done. It really is dawning; first the expectation of the rise, and then the initial tips of the rays. Pretty soon I think I’ll need the sunglasses.

With Koala proving to us more and more – by the day – how much his toddler vocabulary includes Hebrew words, I find myself stepping back and holding on to the counter for stability. I’m raising my child in Israel. Another country. Not where I grew up. Not where English is society’s first language.

It took an Israeli friend at our house on Shabbat to realize this. Sure, the huz and I  have joked about his sudden bursts of ‘mayim!’ or ‘dai!’ but when a fellow native speaker hung around him this weekend, we started to realize that a lot of the gibberish we take for granted was actually Hebrew words like ‘rega’ or ‘sicah.’

And all the questions I used to casually wonder about come crashing down on me…

Will he have a thick accent in English? Will he be able to fully express himself to my parents? Will he shun everything related to my home-culture? Will he embrace it too much?

When I mentioned the weekend as a humorous anecdote to Koala’s ganenet today, she looked at me quizzically and replied, “Ma at rotza? Hu Yisraeli.”

As he tackles more and more words, I come to realize more and more I’m an immigrant parent.

Two mothers.

My mother is a split personality. As long as I’ve known her, this has been the case.

She can speak two languages fluently: her mother tongue, English, a language that rolls off her tongue like rain dripping down a car window in the summer; and Hebrew, a language she has been tripping over since they started offering it as a plaything in kindergarten.

When I watch her speaking to her friends, I’m completely engulfed in the security and warmth of my mother, who can wrap words around concepts and make sentences into stories. When I read the notes she leaves me under my pillow, or in my notebooks, I read the words of my mother, the writer, the poet, the thinker.

When I watch her speak to my teachers, or my friends, or my friends’ mothers, I watch a different woman. This one is timid; she doesn’t have much to say. She’s an immigrant, an outsider. She has five or six phrases she pulls out for whatever the occasion. Head-nodding replaces the verbal building-blocks I’ve seen in English. Body language suffices for the story-telling sentences.

I think to her, ‘But you know a good story that could add to this conversation. You have advice you could offer. Surely you’re just lazy to string the words together, to make an effort. Yes, you’re a latecomer. Yes, there’s more to you than grammatical error. You know it, but no one else does. You don’t let them. You’re too proud to make mistakes.’

But make mistakes, momma. Make mistakes for me.


Turning new olim into reality TV.

Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just keep a blog?

There is a new show going into production called HaOlim (“The New Immigrants”) which is a sort of Real World for new immigrants to Israel. As Jewlicious reports:

“So the concept is pretty straightforward. Eight young olim from different countries live together in a big house in Tel Aviv. They each have to pool their finances, like in an old skool kibbutz, and accomplish various tasks, while going through the usual shtick that one goes through as a new immigrant. As the show progresses, the audience will witness moments of hilarity and heartbreak and everything will culminate in the selection of the Ultimate Oleh who will get a luxury condo in Tel Aviv, a new car and a hot job to help them with their new life in Israel.”

So essentially, is this a step ‘up’ for reality tv? Har, har.

Taking reality... upward.

Call me skeptical, maybe it’s just the Israeli in me, but that doesn’t really sound like a true aliyah experience. Do they have to speak Hebrew in the house? Do they have to walk into Misrad Hapnim/a bank/university admissions office completely alone and work it out? Camera crews don’t count.

I can see it now: The sniffling in front of the cameras about how lonely they feel… How hard it is to speak a new language… How life here has its ups and downs… All that while being incredibly hot, wrapped up in reality tv makeup and fashion.

There were no cameras when the rest of us rummaged through the black hole of new olehship. Then again, there is the blogosphere.

Are you making aliyah in the next few months and Interested in trying out? Email info@haolim.com. Behatzlacha!

In appreciation of honesty.

I went for an interview today for an internship possibility for my conflict management course. Details about the interview and the internship itself aside… I walked away from the experience with a totally separate outlook.

After we established that I could give the internship a shot – it’s an intense task, in short organizing mediators and vaad bayit type bodies for buildings with mainly Ethiopian immigrants – my interviewer wondered aloud if my Hebrew would be a problem.

She explained that because they are Ethiopian immigrants, the non-Israeli Hebrew along with the non-Israeli accent might make it more difficult for them than it has to be. She also considered the culture clash of what type of immigrant I am.

Instead of feeling insulted, I felt relieved. I feel like no one ever acknowledges the fact that, yes, I can speak, but yes, I have an accent and my grammar is not nearly perfect. I’m either told my Hebrew is amazing and I shouldn’t worry or I have to endure the person switching to broken English, thinking it would help me. Both frustrate me because I know I can speak, and I can communicate; I can tell a story… but I’m also realistic about knowing it’s not perfect.

The acknowledgment took pressure off me; I think it was pressure I never knew I actually had. I appreciated the honesty and I’m looking forward to trying the internship or moving on to get to the point where I need to be.