Monday, April 24, 2017

A weight I welcome...

I'm not a big jewelry person.  Don't get me wrong, I do love pretty sparkling things dangling from my ears and adorning my fingers, but I tend to wear the same thing about 364 days a year and maybe remember to switch them for something else once a year.  But the one piece of jewelry I never really got into is a bracelet or watch.  As a pianist and piano teacher, I never liked the way the extra weight felt on my wrist or the way it moved up and down my arm as I was playing.  But a few years ago, I had a bracelet made and I knew the second I fastened it to my wrist that I was never going to take it off.

My great grandmother, Chava Rochel Gutt, the woman I am named after, took all her jewelry and silver Judaica she had in her small humble home in Strzemieszyce and buried them all in her backyard as the Nazis were systematically making their way through Poland in order to round up all the Jews. She buried them with the hope that when this nightmare was over, she'd be able to go back and dig up all the priceless sentimental items that she had collected over the years and begin to live again. Candlesticks that she lit every Shabbat, wine goblets her husband used for making the Kiddush over the wine, a menorah that was lit in the window of their house every Chanukah, and jewelry her husband had given her over the years.  Unfortunately, she and her husband and seven of her nine children, and her daughters-in-law and sons-in-law, and eight grandchildren did not survive the Holocaust.

My grandfather and his oldest brother were the only ones to survive and as my grandfather was making his way towards the Displaced Persons Camp of Bergen Belsen, he went back to his small house in Strzemieszyce to dig up the items his mother had buried in the backyard.  As he tried to enter what was once his family's property, the Polish owners of his house threatened to kill him.  This was not uncommon.  In fact, when he first entered the small village, he said people in the streets started pointing to him and screaming, "The Jews are back!"  The local Poles had simply moved into all the Jewish homes that had been vacated and they were suddenly afraid that they would have to give back the property they had stolen.  He sought out the help of a local policeman and tried to explain that he wasn't interested in the house, but that his family had items in the backyard that he wanted to collect.  They were his only connections to the huge family he'd lost in the war, he explained.  The policeman agreed and they returned to collect his belongings.  After my grandfather successfully dug up the gold and silver, the policeman proceeded to take every priceless treasure his mother had buried and in the end left him with just three long gold chains.  Devastated that he was robbed by someone he thought he could trust, he took the gold chains and began to think about starting his life over from scratch.

He found my grandmother, the woman he was in love with before the war, and together they made their way to Bergen Belsen where they married and began to start a family.  My mother was one of the 2000 babies born in Bergen Belsen DP Camp after the war.

After my grandfather died, my mother gave me one of the chains.  For a long time it sat in my drawer in a small jewelry box and I wore it once in a while but it was long and constantly got tangled and knotted.  I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it.  My idea took a long time to formulate, but eventually I knew what I wanted to do with it.  I commissioned a jeweler to craft me three small teardrop shaped discs and onto them he etched my name in Hebrew.  Not just my name, but my family tree where I came from, where my roots lie.

They read: Chava Rachel Laya, daughter of Fraidel, daughter of Elimelech, son of Chava Rachel - 1945.

And connecting these small discs are pieces of the chain that was buried deep beneath the ground, in the backyard of my grandfather's family home in Strzemieszyce, Poland, where it lay safe from Nazi hands until it made its way back to its rightful owner.  I look at my bracelet often.  I get asked about it a lot; curious people who notice the etchings inquire about their meaning.  And I tell them to take a seat, that this story may take a while.  And in the telling of this story, I honor the spirits of those who were murdered in the Shoah.  It puts a face onto the broad number of "six million"; gives one of these "six million" a name.  And it paints a picture of the thoughts and wishes and fears of a mother, wife and grandmother who was unfortunate enough to live during this awful time.

Despite how delicate and lightweight it is, it does shift up and down my wrist and I feel the weight of it while I play.  But this is a weight that I welcome.  It's a reminder of a woman whose name I share with pride, a woman who had hope while living in the shadow of evil.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Grateful for all things...

I'm one of those lucky people.  At least, I consider myself lucky.  I've never had any serious health issues and I'm a generally healthy person.  I rarely got sick as a child and remember pulling all kinds of tricks and stunts in order to convince my mother I was sick just for the chance to stay home from school for one or two days during the school year.  Moaning and groaning about a "stomach ache" didn't cut it for my mother.  But drinking a hot cup of tea, waiting exactly seven minutes after finishing it to stick a thermometer in my mouth resulted in the perfect "fever"... not too high but just high enough to stay home from school.  And now, as a woman in my forties, my luck has generally continued, and I thank God every day that I get up most mornings with a bounce in my step.

About three weeks ago, I noticed an odd twinge in the knuckles of my right hand, my dominant hand.  The twinge has now upgraded to downright pain and manifests itself in my struggle to open a tube of toothpaste or flip open the top of the ketchup bottle.  When it started waking me up in the middle of the night while my hand was completely at rest, I knew that something was up.

Now, I'm in the middle of appointments with doctors and orthopedists, finished one kind of medication which did absolutely nothing for me and am beginning the next step in trying to figure out what the heck is going on with my hand.

Each day that passes and that my hand gets worse, terrifies me.  It's not just that this is my dominant hand, but that I am a piano teacher and an artist and a baker by profession.  You couldn't possibly put together three careers that use hands more than these.  My piano playing is already suffering and my husband is getting used to wielding a wooden spoon to help mix cake batter when needed.  I've gotten more cuts on my fingers in the last month since my grip on a chef's knife is shaky at best and I'm dropping things left and right.  I'm hoping and praying that this is tendinitis, something that with time and some therapy may go away.  But my fear is that this might be arthritis and that this pain and inability to do the things that once came so easily to me will be chronic.

But what I did discover about myself, that I knew already to some degree, is that my left hand does not get the credit it deserves.  I preach it all the time to my students when they complain how difficult it is for them to play the notes correctly and smoothly in their non-dominant hand.  Truthfully, most people pay absolutely no attention to their non-dominant hand.  In actuality, it acts solely as a support system for the dominant hand.  It may hold the loaf of bread down while you're slicing it, or hold the coffee cup steady while you're pouring cream into it, or grip the zipper while you're sliding the zipper up or down, or holding the mixing bowl while scraping the cake batter into a pan, but it's not taking center stage.  It quietly waits for its cue from the dominant hand to lend a helping hand - pun intended.  But when it comes to playing piano, you learn very quickly that each hand is equally as important.  The melody is not always in the right hand or the left hand, but can move rapidly from one to the other and that the earlier you learn to treat both hands with the same importance and learn to use them with the same level of skill, the better pianist you will be.

I am by no means ambidextrous, but I do believe that one can teach the non dominant hand to step up, to take charge and to give the dominant hand a well-deserved break.  It's not natural and it's not instinctive, but now that the pain is impossible to ignore, my body is learning to trust my left hand a little more each day.  This doesn't mean that I've given up my quest to "fix" my right hand, because I still need the use of both hands - as we all do, no matter what our profession - and I'm desperate to play the pieces that I once played well, but for now, I'm giving my left hand the recognition it deserves.  And as I automatically opened the coffee jar this morning with my left hand, I took a moment to be grateful for the little things, for the untapped strength that has been lying dormant in the hand that had always been the understudy and the number two, the quiet supporter to my right.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Protesting or bullying?

I'm not often ashamed of this country.  Yes, we, as a nation, are generally a chutzpahdik people, but more often than not, the Israeli people will stop on a dime to lend a hand and help someone in trouble.  I've seen it, I've been on the receiving end and on the giving end.  Last night, I was deeply troubled by what was occurring just minutes away from my house.

My husband and I were on our way to a funeral and we had a car full of people.  We had turned out of our yishuv and onto highway 446 only to find ourselves bumper to bumper all the way to the Shilat junction.  Within minutes we realized what was going on.  It was not an accident despite the presence of police and an ambulance whizzing past us at top speed.  It was a group of charedim who decided to protest the law requiring all men, including ultra religious ones, to serve in the army.

For me, this brought back bad memories.  This was not the first time these kinds of protests have happened in our backyard.  We had a week worth in the summer, when the men were given a "vacation" from learning during the month of Elul, and thought that protesting on the highway and inconveniencing thousands of people was a good idea.  It was at one of these protests that I was on my way to pick up my daughter from the mall and got into an accident.  A bad one.  Thankfully no one was hurt, but both cars were badly damaged and I shook on the inside for days afterwards.  The protesters threw themselves in front of cars and the man in front of me panicked and slammed on the brakes and I plowed right into him, turning the back of his station wagon into an accordion.

That day, tensions were high.  So many of my friends were seething.  Mothers were almost an hour late picking up their still-nursing babies from day care and another friend missed her doctor appointment that she had booked three months earlier. My daughter, coming home from work, was stuck on one of these buses and she had to use the bathroom so badly, that she hopped off the bus and ran home from the Shilat junction.  It's a good forty minute walk, maybe a twenty five minute run and she made it all the way home while her bus still sat in the same spot.

So back to last night.  While we were anxious to make it to the funeral on time, we soon discovered via whatsapp that the family in mourning was stuck in traffic as well.  Next to us, a bunch of very young religious boys actually jumped out onto the highway and proceeded to sit down on the road.  Cars were honking, drivers were screaming from their windows in complete frustration, anxious to get home to their families after a long day at work, and the police was nowhere to be found.  I was thinking about this family trying desperately to get to the cemetery to bury their mother and grandmother and I was raging on their behalf.  Emotional and bereft, saddened by such a great loss, this is the one time in your life when you just need to put one foot in front of the other with no obstacles.  It's hard enough as it is to do just that, let alone worry about being late for such an event.  And as a family whose sons served in the army, it's a double insult, a spit in the face.  It's appalling and unacceptable.

You want to protest because you feel it's not important that this country - that is surrounded by enemies - has a top notch army to protect its people, then why are you even here?  A friend of mine actually stopped to tell them what a chilul hashem they were making and asked them if they were aware that her sons were protecting their religious freedoms and they told her to shut up and then told her that only God protects.

Something is very wrong with the chinuch going on in the charedi community if they encourage their youth to treat others with such disrespect.  Even setting politics aside, the bullying tactics they are using to inconvenience so many people and the lack of basic human respect for what is going on in other people's lives is just mind-boggling.  Just last week I was watching CNN news coverage of a group of militants Muslims protesting on a five lane highway in France.  They had pushed flaming tires onto the highway and began crowding cars forcing them to stop.  I can only imagine what it must have felt like to be a woman driving home from work alone - or worse, with young kids in the back - and having your car surrounded by screaming men refusing to let you simply drive to the safety of your home.  It terrified me and despite the police presence, there were so many protesters, that even they couldn't kept the situation under control.  Sadly, yesterday's protest on the 446 didn't seem all that different.

The police needs to take control of these protests and punish the perpetrators by force.  Fining them is not enough.  Imprisonment would be a good first step.  They cannot go unpunished and they need to learn respect and tolerance above all.  It pains me that my son - along with so many of my friends' sons and daughters - are working so hard and so diligently to protect this group of people who are not just ungrateful for the selfless service and protection that these soldiers provide, but are disrespectful as well.

And here I thought, that with all those hours spent learning in yeshiva they would have learned a thing or two about Hakarat Hatov.

Silly me.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

November musings...

Despite living in this country for almost half of my life (!) there are still many things I just can't get used to.  The Sunday issue is a big one for me.  Here, Sunday is my busiest work day and I get up Sunday morning ready to take it on and inevitably, at some point, I find myself frozen as it sinks in that across the ocean, my family and friends are lazing around in their pjs, eating a decadent breakfast of French toast, or better yet, have slept in most of the morning only to go out for an even more decadent brunch.  The rest of the afternoon is up for grabs - what to do?  The options are endless.  In the winters, it could be ice skating at the local rink, or building a snowman on the front lawn, and if it's too cold to venture outdoors, it could be an afternoon matinee at the movie theatre, or better yet, a movie marathon at home, bundled on the couch with a million blankets while cradling hot chocolate. In the summer, it could be a baseball game, a walk down by Harbourfront, or a trip to the zoo.  Or an afternoon swimming and sunning with friends at the beach.  No one looks at their watch and only when the sun starts to descend into the horizon, does that despondent feeling sink in that Monday morning is just around the corner and you'll have to put in a full week of work before the miracle of Sunday comes around again.

I try not to think about it.

But the second thing that I miss terribly is experiencing four seasons.  This country has just two.  Summer = hotter than Hades; and winter = cold and wet.
Considering that spring and autumn are my favorites, I'm a bit out of luck...

There will be those of you who argue with me that we do have a spring and autumn, but let's be real here.  Our spring lasts a week at most.  It's like yesterday you were wearing tights and closed shoes and then you woke up, the sun was shining and hot and you're now in flip flops.  Literally.  Yes, it might still get cool at night for a few days, but that's pretty much it.  Summer is here.
Today, this November 1st, is the first day of winter.  Yesterday, we actually had the air conditioner on for about an hour in the heat of the afternoon and today the breeze coming through the open windows is actually cold.  It's overcast and it's already raining in the north.  And I've been battling a low-grade migraine for the second day in a row, which is my personal meteorologist telling me that this change in seasons is here to stay.

I remember reading a children's board book to one of my girls when they were maybe three or four years old and it was a story about the four seasons.  The first page was a picture of a beach umbrella and a few kids in their bathing suits building a sand castle.  My daughter pointed and said, "summer!" The next page had a picture of rain boots, and an umbrella and she said, "winter!"  Well, this American book was portraying autumn, but I figured that was close enough, so we turned the page.  It was a picture of a snowman and snowflakes.  She knew it was winter, despite having never seen an abundance of snow.  The next page was a picture of tiny plants breaking through the ground under a light shower of rain, flowers just beginning to bud on the branches.  And she looked at me, confused, and said, "winter?"

Living in Israel, green and growth pushing out from the ground is not spring, like it is in North America.  It's winter, when the rains are constant and the land is transformed from the dry brown hues of the desert into a lush carpet of verdant greens.  The picture confused her because culturally, she associated growth with winter.  And my heart broke a little that she'd never really understand or recognize the beauty of a real spring or autumn.

Most people think of November and they think of the "November blues".  It's back to school and work after the lengthy holiday season, it's putting away all those colorful summer clothes and breaking out the dreaded tights and umbrellas, and it's looking skyward hoping for just a peak of the sun on those gray gloomy days that seem to get dark earlier and earlier.

Even though we might have skipped right over autumn and headlong into winter, I'm eagerly waiting for my migraines to fade so I can enjoy these five minutes of autumn.  Honesty, I'm willing to take what I can get at this point.  I'm waiting for the first heavy rain where I can sit outside on my wooden bench, under the awning of my front door and cradle a cup of hot Bengal Spice tea while the rain splashes inches from my feet.  And I'm waiting to wear that brand new kelly green sweater I bought on sale a few weeks ago, lightweight but still cozy and soft.  And I bought two cans of pumpkin filling to make that spiced pumpkin bread that my kids love. I'm pinning Thanksgiving recipes and have cinnamon and apples on my mind.  I'm thinking about how to celebrate our wedding anniversary which makes this month of November a personal favorite. I'm staring out my kitchen window hoping that some of the leaves in my garden will turn to those gorgeous fall colors of mustard yellow, russet and ochre.  They never do, but I settle for enjoying the tinkling sounds my chimes make as they sway in the wind, after they hung immobile and silent for much too long.

One of my favorite songs ever is Counting Crow's Big Yellow Taxi.  And today makes me remember the lyrics that always have a way of making my heart skip a beat:

...Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you got 'till it's gone...

And it just started to rain.  Seriously.
And I know that if I don't stop to savor this moment, it will pass me by...

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Wisdom from a teapot...

I'm not a tea drinker.  I much prefer coffee - not just the taste, but the experience of it.  The smell as it wafts up my stairs and curls into my room, the way it gently wakes me up and the milky balance of sweet and bitter as it courses down my throat.  I'm not a coffee aficionado by any stretch of the imagination.  I do not own a Nespresso (much to my brother and sister-in-law's distress) nor do I get my designer coffee freshly ground and delivered to my door.  I'm a good old-fashioned NescafĂ© coffee drinker.  One of my favorite things is to open a brand new jar of NescafĂ©, peel that foil sealer back and dip my head in for a good whiff.

I'll drink tea, don't get me wrong.  But I usually have to be running a fever or battling a stomach ache, and it has to be something red, fruity and sugary sweet.  That was until I got hooked on Good Earth's sweet and spicy tea.  Besides the fact that it tastes like heaven - with NO sugar necessary - it manages to lift my spirits at the same time because printed on the tiny little tag at the end of the tea bag's string is a quote.  A different quote for every bag, and I contemplate that quote and what it means as I sip the cinnamony heaven that it is my mug. They are inspirational, funny, witty and hopeful.  And sometimes I need that more than my daily dose of coffee.  

Today's quote is one of the best.  (Seriously, I have to hold myself back from ripping each of those tea bags open because I just want to read every single one...). It's an ancient Chinese proverb and it says: "Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up."  Epic.  Fantastic.  So unbelievable obvious but it's so perfectly succinct and hits it right on the nail.  It's the kind of quote you want to paint across your kid's room so they don't get down about failing a test, or losing a game, or screwing up in the way only teenagers manage to do.  

Yesterday's quote was a great one too:  "I make the most of all that comes.  And the least of all that goes." -Sara Teasdale 1884-1933
That one had me thinking, because it could be interpreted in so many ways.  Again, not a bad way to spend the ten minutes it took me to sip the tea.

And then this one: "As we grow old...the beauty steals inward."  As a woman approaching my mid-forties, I had to think about this one a lot.  In the middle of writing this piece, I had a phone conversation with a woman who was picking my brain about a preschool art project that she wanted me to help out with.  After a lengthy conversation, she asked me if I had any young kids and I responded that my youngest is fifteen and a half and my oldest is twenty one.  She said, wow, you sound so young.  My instant response was, "I AM young."  I'm not suffering from delusion.  I'm perfectly aware that I don't look like I'm twenty one anymore and that my body is bearing evidence of that, but I still feel like the same wrinkle-free twenty-one year old on the inside.  

So while I'm a fan of Ralph Waldo Emerson, I think he might have dropped the ball on this one.  Recently a friend of mine, also an avid blogger, posted something about her crow's feet.  I commented that she should wear them with pride because it means she laughs a lot.  And while I appreciate the sentiment of Emerson's quote, and I understand what he's trying to say, I vehemently disagree.  The beauty is still there, both on the inside AND on the outside, but it's just taken a little bit of a different form.  It might not be the beauty that Instyle magazine endlessly pushes - the smooth flawless skin, tight body, lustrous hair - but it's the beauty of a life honestly lived - through real-life experiences, both difficult and easy.  It's a body that's spread and expanded with the burgeoning of a life growing inside it, the silvery lines like a roadmap marking our hips and thighs as evidence of that life, it's the crow's feet adorning our eyes that tells of a life filled with laughter, it's the worry lines on our forehead that our kids undoubtedly put there, it's the grey stray hairs that are starting to thread their way through our dark hair, it's our feet that no longer can wear those stilettos without pain.  And no doubt, our partners, who have been with us every step of the way on this fantastic life adventure see just that when they look at us.  They see the beauty that tells the story of our lives.

And that brings me to the final quote from my teapot.  Which sort of sums things up.  "Youth would be an ideal state if it came a little later in life." -Herbert Henry Asquith 1852-1928
We were so busy planning, moving and heading towards what we thought would be our final destination that we failed to enjoy the journey along the way.  (Thank you, Dieter F. Uchtdorf) 

Now, that we are older, wiser, more wrinkled and walking with sensible shoes, it's time to do just that.  Revel in our newly-defined beauty and be proud of those stretch marks and crow's feet.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Chanukah and Thanksgiving.... Part 2

This morning my mother messaged me on Facebook and sent me a link of one of my old blog posts from two years ago titled...wait for it...Chanukah and Thanksgiving.  Since it was two years since I'd written it, I read it again and decided it was high time to write a follow-up.  (Thanks Mom!) The reason I had written the post two years ago was that it was the first time in a very long time that Chanukah and Thanksgiving coincided.  It won't happen again until the year 2070, but I still think it's important to point out reasons to be thankful on a regular basis.

So while my 14 lb. turkey is defrosting in my fridge, I'm taking the time to reflect on what has changed in these last two years and what new and great things have happened in my life to be newly thankful for.  Below are eight reasons I was thankful two years ago....

1.  Two years ago I spent two weeks with my family in Toronto for a family simcha and to visit my grandparents.  My grandfather was in the hospital at the time and while it was difficult to see my robust and very hip and active grandfather in a hospital bed, I was truly thankful to have had the opportunity to spend time with him.  Unfortunately, he passed away during that Chanukah.  So while I'm staying put in Israel and have not seen my siblings or my extended family since the summer, I'm thankful that we are all healthy and moving forward in a way that would make him proud.

2.  Two years ago I was thankful that my family was able to spend Chanukah with my daughter before she went into the army.  Well, timing is everything.  She just came home today - on erev Thanksgiving, ironically - having finally finished her army service.  So she will be able to spend Chanukah yet again with us, but this time as a civilian.

3.  Two years ago I was thankful for the fact that I live not only in Israel, but on the same historical soil as the famous Maccabee family who fought courageously against enemies that sought to destroy the Jewish nation.  This resonates even more so today, when the threat of our enemies has intensified and serves as a daily reminder that we can stand up and fight for our right to live in this land.  So ditto to that and Am Yisrael Chai!

4.  Like every year at this time, I'm grateful and thankful that my husband and I continue to celebrate our wedding anniversary - it's truly a gift to be in love with your best friend...
5.  Two years ago, I was grateful and thankful that my kids still like singing Maoz Tzur when we light Chanukah candles every night.  While I think that as they all edge into adulthood, our games of dreidel have become a thing of the past, we still set aside a night to do something together as a family and that it something to be thankful for.
6.  I'm thankful that yet again this year we will be sharing our Thanksgiving dinner again with our same friends. Sharing is what every holiday is about and I hope we continue to do so for years to come.
7.  Two years ago I was thankful for leaving the frigid Toronto weather behind and being able to spend Chanukah in a warmer climate.  While I haven't been traveling as of late, it's still quite warm here and I haven't had the need to dig out my down coat and winter boots yet, so yes, thankful for that....
8.  Two years ago I was especially grateful that both Chanukah and Thanksgiving coincided so that my inevitable weight gain was concentrated in one short week and is not spread out over several weeks....there's no hoping for that this year, so I'll just have to up my exercise routine if I want to enjoy that chocolate pecan pie....
And eight new reasons to be thankful:
1.  I'm thankful that my son is super happy in his army unit.  His happiness eases my nerves...
2.  I'm thankful for my health and my family's health.  You can never be thankful enough to be able to wake up in the morning and feel well enough to take on whatever challenges the day throws at you.
3.  I'm thankful for my good friends.  They are always there when you need them.  And living so far from family, your friends become just that.  The Flinstones was my favorite cartoon growing up and I always envisioned a life where I would be able to talk over my fence to my neighbors to shoot the breeze, ask for advice or borrow a cup of sugar.  I've been lucky enough to have great neighbors and friends who are the "Bettys" to my "Wilma"...
4.  I'm thankful for my biological family.  Both close and extended.  I'm grateful for your support whether you are located near (Modiin, Jerusalem, Shomron) or far in Toronto...
5.  I'm thankful for my kids.  You are special and gifted in your own unique way.  And when you're not driving me up the wall and around the bend without the benefit of a good set of brakes, you make me laugh.  
6.  I'm thankful that I am able to do what I love.  Being able to teach music and bring that love of music to kids is a gift.  Hearing my student play Fur Elise a year after I taught him where Middle C was, is an amazing feeling.
7.  I'm thankful that despite her old age and various health issues, our dog, Mo, is still wagging her tail and barking at strangers...
8.  I'm grateful and thankful that I belong to a nation of patriotic, moral, ethical, spiritual, and charitable people.  I'm constantly amazed and humbled by the giving nature of our people and it's an honor to be counted among them.
What are you especially thankful for this Chanukah?

Monday, July 27, 2015

July 29th...more than just a date...

My only son is going into the army.  On July 29th.  He recieved his induction papers not too long ago and the date was automatically entered into all our calendars.  He's entering a unit called handassa kravit - technically, it's a combat engineering unit but besides building things they are also the unit that was responsible for blowing up the tunnels in the last war.  While my friends and family asked why on earth would he want to enter this type of unit, I answered instinctively that considering he's been blowing things up since he was barely out of diapers, it seemed apt.  

There is a very common saying that when the cat is away, the mouse will play.  I was overseas visiting family for two weeks and while I was gone, he had decided to build a foundry on our front porch.  Granted, the boy is not stupid.  Had he decided to build such a thing while I was home, it would not have happened.  No way, no how. So he smartly waited until I was away.  He gathered up the necessary equipment, like an iron pot, coal, plaster, sand, pipes and a blow dryer (?) and then he began melting anything metal he could get his hands on - old license plates that he found on the side of the road and a metal baseball bat that has been lying around the house for the past few years along with other metal scrap lying around the garage.  Of course, in retrospect, he probably should have drilled a hole into the metal baseball bat before attempting to melt it at 1200 degrees so it wouldn't have literally exploded into a ball of fire while simultaneously singing all the hairs off his arm and almost injuring my nephew (sorry, sis....), but boys will be boys.  Of course, he is now pleased as punch that he's managed to blow something up even BEFORE he enters the army.

This day, July 29th bears even more importance than simply the date my son becomes a soldier in the Israeli army.  It also, weirdly, happens to be the same date as my grandfather's birthday.  This may seem like just a coincidence to you, but it has much more meaning to me.

When my son went on his Poland trip in the beginning of 12th grade, he came home and didn't talk too much about it.  I know it affected him, but he's never been a touchy-feely kind of kid.  But what he did say is that he had this weird feeling - a goose-bumpy kind of feeling - when he first walked under the infamous sign "welcoming" visitors into Auschwitz.  He said, that as he stepped under the sign, he couldn't stop wondering how it must have been for his great grandfather (Melech Good z"l) to walk under the same sign under vastly different circumstances so many decades ago.  It resolved something in him about being an Israeli and what exactly that entailed.  That he was nearing a time in his life where he would get the chance and the opportunity to help and protect his country and his countrymen from those who wish to do us harm.  And that he was lucky to be living in a time where this is possible, unlike his great grandfather, who was unfortunately unable to do so.

My grandfather died three months after my son's bar mitzvah and we were fortunate enough to have him travel all the way from Canada to celebrate with us.  I remember him crying as my son finished reading from the Torah and when I asked him why he was crying, he said it was because he never thought that he'd ever have the chance to witness his great grandson become a bar mitzvah in Israel.  It was about two years after his death that I went on a roots trip to Poland.  And it was there that we discovered my grandfather's real birthday.  He never knew it.  Like so many Jewish parents in rural Poland at that time, his birth wasn't registered until he was almost 21 years old in a common tactic to avoid their sons being conscripted into the Polish army.  And as a result, he never knew his actual birth date.  Since his bar mitzvah consisted of just an Aliyah to the Torah, a shot of whiskey and some chick peas and herring, there wasn't even a Torah portion that he might have remembered.  And so, upon coming to Canada, Canadian immigration officials picked Christmas as his birthday and that was the day we celebrated for years, knowing all the while, that it wasn't real.  

But now we know.  We know it's July 29th.  They say that with enough time, things often come full circle.  I couldn't have asked for a more auspicious day for my son to enter the army.  And I can't help but think of it as fate.  And when I watch him walk away from me in Givat Hatachmoshet and head towards the bus that will take him to basic training, I know my grandfather will be spending his birthday watching over him.