Picking Up Where We Left Off

It’s a new beginning. A year since I last wrote you, Yoni. And now there’s another audience member here: Abigail, your sister.

So from now on when I write it will be for the both of you, unless I say so otherwise and address you specifically by name.

A quick update: Abigail you were born; we moved to London. You won’t remember any of this. But that’s the point of this blog.

Yoni, let’s review a few things. We’ll start from the end and work back to the beginning.

We’re at a holiday apartment in Tel Aviv. You took the vacuum cleaner tube and started scratching the clean white walls.

I moved you to the couch and you slunk back to the wall behind my back [but I was watching you with the eyes I have at the back of my head]. [Your Mother also has those].

You did it again. But I was kind and didn’t destroy you. I know you’re just looking to engage me. But we’ll have more of this as time goes on.

We got here by plane. Then we went to the sea. You’re a wuss.

Abigail, your sister, is not such a wuss. She took to the sand and sea like it’s where she came from [humans may have come from the sea, or from outer space; not really sure but we may have also come from monkeys].

Abigail you are fearless. Yoni you are learning about fear. We’ve spoken about fear before.

The thing to keep in mind is that we are born without fear, but with the ability to learn fear. But most of us stop learning about fear at some point, and so we forget that fear is something we must learn about, and fear forgets that we are its master.

Fear becomes something that controls us, and not something we learn to control. This reminds me of a smart saying:

The mind can be a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.

A famous rabbi poet once said that to face your fear you need to summon it. Think about that: you are the master who summons your fear.

Your sister’s keeper

It’s about time for an update. I’m sorry for not writing here for such a long time. the truth is that we’ve all been so busy living, you included, and sometimes living takes the place of writing [can you believe I said that??].

I’ll start with the end and work backwards.

Right now you’ve got a runny tummy. The amount of gooey stuff coming out of you is unbelievably impressive. Even though you’re obviously not feeling very well, you’re stoic. It’s clear that you’re stoic; even when you’re miserable you don’t make a scene.  Not like me. When I’m sick I’m miserable and I make a scene. Because of your stomach/ nappy situation you have been temporarily suspended from nursery school. Good, you’re already following in my footsteps [I was expelled from nursery school for self-defense].

You simply love the beach. You love riding in the bike seat to the beach; you love playing in the sand, and you love the shallow water. The pool not so much — you’re more a beach boy. I can’t tell you how much fun Your Mother and I have with you at the beach. Hey, if we ever forget that, remind us OK?

Your morning routine is the envy of all writers: you wake up, make us aware that you’re up, and as we take you out of bed and put you on the floor you head to the computer for your morning writing session. I open up a Word document for you and you type. Then you point to the office phone; we give it to you and you check your messages. Once that’s done you demand to be taken to the side table where you can climb up to the fax machine to see if anything came for you overnight. If there’s nothing there you check the paper tray to see if there’s paper in there. If there isn’t, you give us a look. Like, where’s the paper?

Business over you head over to the kitchen to destroy it.

Once you’ve destroyed the kitchen you get onto your red truck and head for the door. Truth is, if you weren’t a little baby, one could mistake you for a very busy businessman who needs to get going; places to go, people to meet.

You’re the object of a titanic battle of the sexes at home. Your Mother puts little elastics in your hair to keep it out of your eyes, especially when you sweat. And this makes you look like a girl. And because you are so beautiful, people already think you’re a girl. Now with the elastics you really look like a girl. Or maybe you look like one of those boys who look so good that they can pull off the girl look. Whatever. I make sure there are always lots of cars and trucks around the house for you to play with. Also, I’m very glad to say that you love sitting on motorbikes wherever you see them. But now your grandmother has bought you a little pink pram….things are tough in this house sometimes my little man.

And the most important for last: you’re going to be a big brother soon. Please God all goes well with Your Mother’s pregnancy and your little sister should be joining us sometime around the end of the year. This is big, for all of us, and most of all for you little sister. Right now I can’t imagine you as a big brother — you are so independent, you order us all around, you go where you want, open what you want, take out what you want, put whatever you want in your mouth. I can’t imagine you looking over a little sister, but that is what you’ll do. That’s what it means to be a brother: you will always be responsible for your sister.

There’s a famous line in the Torah that someone said when God asked him where his brother was. The man [who was wicked and didn't want to own up] said: What, am I my brother’s keeper? As if he was saying: What do you want from me? I’m not responsible for my brother!

But the truth is: yes, you are your sister’s keeper. Always and forever.

Love you.

Dad.

girl

Where we live

My hope is that you read this one day in Israel; that you will merge this with what you have learned in the history books about the wars we used to have here; because when you read this now there are no more wars in Israel. Are there still wars? Did my dream for you come true?

Yoni, you’re only one year old now and you’ve already gone through your first mini-war. You won’t remember this but last November we had to take you out of your bed a few times and run into the staircase with you because rockets were being fired at us. We were scared. You were quite brave, you kept on dozing. 

Now there are signs that we’ll have war again; so many signs. There doesn’t seem to be a way to avoid it. Nobody wants it but still it will happen. Can you understand the logic of that! As if wars are something that the Gods compel us earthlings to do – and we are powerless to stop ourselves from being puppets in their schemes, and so we fly into each other, kicking and screaming. People in ancient times and ancient lands like Greece and Rome believed that, that Gods were behind everything. I never believed it before, but I’m starting to wonder now…

This time, if and when war happens, we will have to run into the staircase with you again. I’m counting on you to be brave.

I wonder, often, if I’m doing wrong by you by bringing you up here, in our only country. I see what our enemies do to each other and I know what they would like to do to us if they could – then I look into your deep blue eyes and your innocent soft skin, your delicate head with its flowing golden hair – and I wonder if I should take you out of here.

But where would we go? Where’s safe? Who doesn’t have savages in their countries these days?

It’s true that there are savages everywhere, but we have the most, here.

What animals we are

What animals we are in this house.

I pick you up by the back of your neck with my teeth, like a cat does to its young, while Your Mother circles us, prowling the house like the lioness that she is.

I bury my nose into your ear, pushing it deeper and deeper like a woodpecker sticking its beak into a tree to catch a worm.

You used to crawl around the house like a tortoise, slow and frightful. Then you became a salamander, zipping around the house like a lizard. Now you’re starting to walk and fall like a baby deer, and we watch you like two eagles perched on a mountain top.

Sometimes I’m an elephant whose feet you stand on and walk, or a Panda’s belly you sit on and rest.

When we want to get each others’ attention we make hyena noises at each other.

And when you’re exhausted and dying to sleep, you circle around your cot, round and round and round, like a dog does before it settles down to snooze.

Now you climb up and down everything, like a little monkey, and you open every cupboard, every drawer and every door, like a little monkey, and I pick at your head, sifting through your hair looking for star-dust, like a big stupid monkey.Image

Your First Birthday

One day,  I am certain, you will think about what you were like as a little child. It may be because you’re just curious [you are] or because you feel like you don’t know yourself very well [everyone does at some time].

You may wonder if you are very different now from what you were once, way back in your history, back in that place where your memory can’t go. How far can you remember?

I’m sure that one day you will ask yourself: have I always been this way?

Whatever your reasons, know that it is good to look at one’s life, from time to time, as if you were outside of time, as if time were a line you could see from afar.

For example: today is your first birthday. You are just learning to speed up, and I am just learning to slow down. Did you see how I looked at both of our lives from outside of the present moment?

It’s interesting. Give it a try.

You are learning to become very active, and I am learning to wind down. You are learning to look at everything with new eyes, and touch everything with new hands.

Sometimes I imagine what’s going on inside your thoughts as you meet the world.

If you want to know how you were as a toddler, the most important thing for you to know is that you were [are] loved. You are loved by everyone around you.

I have to hold myself back from picking you up by the back of your neck with my teeth, like cats do to their young.

I’ve saved your life a few times, you know, getting home just as Your Mother was about to eat you up. She really does want to eat every little part of you. And I’m not sure she will always be able to contain herself…

Your grandparents also squeeze you any chance they get, and you’ve given them extra space in their hearts.

You can be a very serious little boy; not easily amused and not to be trifled with. You demand attention with a booming voice. BAAAAHH!! BAAAHH!

I find this quite effective and I’ve started using it to communicate with people at my office. BAAHHH! BAAAAHHH!

You love to be thrilled; whereupon you shriek. And you talk yourself to sleep, or maybe you’re talking to angels?

But mostly you’re a very curious little chap – an explorer, fearless on the slides yet cautious on the steps. You love new people but don’t like to be crowded.

You go with the flow, as long as I or Your Mother are around, somewhere in the background. You are open to other people, and they are drawn to you.

More so than most other children you come into contact with, you are gentle, and kind. You give me the glass to drink from, and sometimes you shove your food into my mouth.

For days I’ve searched for the right words to say here to you. But someone’s already said them before, and there’s no shame in using someone else’s words when they are so perfect for how you feel.

So here is my message to you on your first birthday my son, from  a song I love called “Stand Inside Your Love”

Travel the world, traverse the skies; your home is here within my heart

I feel as though I am reborn; recast as child in mystic sun

I’ll wrap my wire around your heart and you’re mine

You’re mine forever.

Travel the world

Dive into life

I like your tenacity:  the way you grab onto something and don’t let it go. This is a good trait.

Also, you’re quite the explorer: you see a gap, an opening in the door, and you make a bee-line straight for it. When we go for walks in your stroller, we strap you in very tight because all you want to do is sit up and look at everything. You have to see everything, everyone, be involved, learn, absorb, experience.

If the fridge is opened, you scurry over like a quick little salamander and head right into it. You won’t let us close it until you’ve finished exploring it.

You crawl into our bedroom and close the door behind you. Excuse us!

You’re fearless: You dive head first down the slides, screeching with pleasure all the way down, while Your Mother holds her breath in terror.

I think it’s good that when you want something, you go for it. Just remember, that you’re not always going to get what you want.

You are allowed to fail, as long as you tried your best and gave it your all.

If you don’t succeed at something because you didn’t try your best, and son, only you will know if you tried your best or not, you’ll feel worse than anyone can make you feel.

While we do think you are clever [how can we not?] we won’t tell you this often, because people who are told they are clever tend to worry about making mistakes, and they worry about not really being clever enough. This seems like such a waste of energy no? All this worrying over nonsense.

But that’s just how the human mind works. If we are told things often enough, and convincingly enough, we tend to believe them. Now there’s nothing wrong with believing that you are clever – it’s good to have self-confidence and believe in your abilities. The problem comes when you don’t succeed in things. And it’s a fact of life that not everything you try will work out. I can promise you that. There’s nothing to be ashamed of: such is the way of the world. Sometime’s we’re up, sometimes we’re down. Sometimes we’re lucky, and sometimes we’re unlucky. Sometimes, even though we tried our hardest, we still don’t succeed.

So don’t worry too much about becoming clever, or trying to show people how clever you are.

It’s not important how clever you are, or how clever your friends are. What’s important is the effort you put into something.

If you put in a good, honest effort into something [it can be anything: studies, projects, sports, love, business] and you succeed, you will have felt like you earned your success, like it was well deserved. If you don’t put in the effort and you succeed, well then, you were lucky.

My little explorer.

explorer

Here’s a poem I like by T.H. Palmer

Try try again

‘Tis a lesson you should heed,
If at first you don’t succeed,
Try, try again;

Then your courage should appear,
For if you will persevere,
You will conquer, never fear
Try, try again;

Once or twice, though you should fail,
If you would at last prevail,
Try, try again;

If we strive, ’tis no disgrace
Though we do not win the race;
What should you do in the case?
Try, try again

If you find your task is hard,
Time will bring you your reward,
Try, try again

All that other folks can do,
Why, with patience, should not you?
Only keep this rule in view:
Try, try again.

Life’s Little Knocks

Yonbon, you are fearless.

Now that’s both a good and a not-so-good thing.

Today at the playground you barrelled down a slide like nobody’s business, you laughed all the way down until you knocked your chin at the end of the ride, and then you cried. But you wanted to do it again so I took you back up, and that’s a great thing.

Later, you hit your forehead on the merry-go-round because you were trying to hold onto the top with your hand and the side rail with your leg. That was a very creative move, but you ended up crying again.

And at the end of your playtime, you climbed up the stairs out of the playground because you saw a dog and you wanted to catch it and put it in your mouth. You climbed and climbed and I was in front of you, watching you and spurring you on, but then suddenly you fell backwards and hit your head on the cold cement slab. I wasn’t quick enough to catch you, and we both cried.

What am I trying to tell you son?

I’m trying to tell you that life will give you little knocks, a lot of them [Life will also give you some big knocks, but we'll talk about them another time].

You’re brave, determined, and persistent, and so you are going to throw yourself into many things and into many places. Just like I did when I was little. When I was growing up, I broke my nose, twice; my shoulder popped out a few times until it broke; I twisted and sprained both of my ankles. I broke my shin bone [that was very sore]. I’ve been stung by a swarm of wasps on my back and stung by a bee in my eye. I also swallowed two bees that were in my can of soda. I’ve broken fingers and toes; there’s something terribly wrong with my right knee, and I’ve got two slipped disks in my back, probably from a time I jumped over something at University. I’ve cracked ribs, and pulled muscles. I’ve had food poisoning, alcohol poisoning, and I ate some bad mushrooms by mistake once or twice and that wasn’t good either. I’ve got a gash on the side of my head from a surfing accident, which could explain why I’m ‘funny’ sometimes..and I’ve lost a lot of skin off my elbows, knees, thighs and some other places. And I’m not even talking about the gazillion cuts, burns, and bites.

So if you’re anything like me, you’re going to need to take care of your body.

But stay fearless, a lifetime of memories and adventures is worth all the little knocks that come with it.

Love, Dad.

[This message was not endorsed by Your Mother].

happy

A poem to live by

If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling