Dreams, Mindfulness

A sip

The other night I made a big bedtime mistake: I ate some feta cheese. I was hungry, and I can’t go to bed hungry, and I figured a snack of fat and protein would be a better bedtime bet than Cocoa Pebbles, which is what I really wanted.

You may have anticipated this, but I didn’t: That night, I was possessed by dreams of excessive thirst. My dreams are often rich and vivid, even moreso when my body needs something in the waking world. My sleeping mind was consumed by an overwhelming need to rinse the thirst from my mouth. I forget now if the dreams were the ones in which I drink from a creek or from a toilet bowl even though I fear the bacteria or the ones in which someone keeps offering me wine when all I want is water. At some point, though, I opened my eyes a crack and saw through the corner of the left one the plastic Playtex sippy cup my son had placed on the bedside table before he fell asleep in between me and my husband.

I reached for it; shook it to see what was left. Estimating only a few drops, I unscrewed the top for I knew that a labored sip through the tiny holes was not going to satisfy me.  I gulped what remained.

And, surprisingly, it was … enough.

Enough to quiet the mind; enough to make it to morning.

It was that satisfied sensation I was reminded of today as the first drops of rain since last spring fell this morning — the first containing any real strength and sustenance, at least.  As I drove up and along the hills of the Lower Galilee, I rolled my window down to let the breeze blow the drops in; to feel them tickle the side of my neck enough to make me shiver. I knew the sun was coming. I could see it ahead of me and to the left near the Bay of Haifa. I knew this wasn’t the downpour we needed. I knew this was only enough for a sip.

But it was … enough.

Not enough. But enough.

Family, Memory, Music

The soundtrack of home

I am not a music-while-I-work kinda girl. While writing or editing, music typically gets in my way. Instead of focusing on the project, I’ll often sing along or find my mind wandering back to a time before.

This morning, however, as I sat in front of the screen, I realized I needed music to kickstart my week and opened YouTube whose imaginary panel of advisors recommended a few playlists to me based on my previous choices; but all were from albums I knew would distract me from the careful proofreading I was required to perform.

The last option in the row of recommended playlists was one I haven’t listened to … in almost forever: America’s Greatest Hits.

(courtesy Wikipedia)
(courtesy Wikipedia)

I recognized the album cover as one that used to be among my parents’ combined record collection that moved to the finished basement once they purchased a stereo with a cassette player for the living room. I remember only really discovering these records, though — Kansas, The Eagles, The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Jim Croce — the summer I turned ten and went off to sleepaway camp. Music, from that summer on, became the soundtrack to my memories. Music became longing.

That summer, now that I think about it, was also when I first discovered my own taste for music. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate music before — some of my earliest memories are singing harmonies in the backseat of my father’s car with my brother. But what I remember about discovering the record collection is understanding that music is not just words and melody strung together; it’s a legacy. There was a reason why certain songs ended up sung around a campfire. There was a reason why I laid on my back on the Berber carpet in the basement while Photographs and Memories crackled over the speakers, filling me with a certain sense of sorrow.

The only title familiar to me on America’s Greatest Hits.before I pressed play was “A Horse With No Name.” But as I faced the screen to review the manuscript I was working on and as the album moved along, I found myself humming along knowingly from time to time — curious that I had stumbled upon an album that was both surprisingly and pleasantly familiar, but neutral enough to allow me to stay focused on the task at hand. (Ironic since many of the songs are, indeed, about longing.)

This music, unlike my mixed tapes which seem to always jolt me back, kept me rooted in the present, but still subtly soothed by the comforts of home. Not the home I am often drawn back to — the emotionally-charged home of Milan Kundera or Proust. Home without the overwhelming nostalgia. Without the compelling need to look back.

Love, Memory, Music, Writing

We remember so little even as we remember it all

I am minorly obsessed with memory. Why we remember. What we remember. How we go about retaining and recalling memories. Which of our senses most trigger memory — is it smell? Is it sound?

I am not as obsessed as I could be. Most of the books I want to read about memory are still holding their place on my “want-to-read” shelf on GoodReads. The closest I do get to studying the topic is scanning every single article Maria Popova posts on the subject on BrainPickings and examining — both critically and creatively — my own memory and others’.

Generally, when I am not worrying about the future, I’m thinking about the past.

Based on conversations with friends, I get the sense that my memory is comparatively vivid and richly detailed. I can remember incidents as far back as age four; I remember the song I slow-danced to with my first camp boyfriend. I remember when I saw Jurassic Park, with whom, and at which theater.

But while I’ve forever prided myself on possessing accurate knowledge of when I did things and how and with whom and in what season and to what soundtrack … I’m beginning to understand just how inaccurate and filled with holes my memory is even in its breadth of knowledge. Moreso, I’ve started to recognize a pattern about what I can remember and what I can’t.

For instance, I remember scene well. My visual memory is stunning. But I get lost trying to conjure up anything physical — pain or pleasure. I remember sound more than smell. I remember color more than texture.

I remember sitting in the backseat of my dad’s green fiat convertible, the top down, the interior beige, my hair blowing back as we all sang — me, my dad, and my brother — at the top of our lungs Little Honda .

First gear, it’s all right (Honda, Honda, go faster, faster)
Second gear, I’ll lean right (Honda, Honda, go faster, faster)
Third gear, hang on tight (Honda, Honda, go faster, faster)

But I can’t remember if it was cold back there or comfortably breezy. What season was it? Early summer? I can’t remember if it was when my dad had a mustache or not. I can’t remember where we were going or what I was wearing.

Likewise, I can recall many a ride shotgun in my high school boyfriend’s used light blue BMW, a hand-me-down from his uncle. I remember the dashboard and pulling a Van Morrison compilation out of a gray canvas cassette holder and pushing it into the tape deck. But I can’t recall more than a handful of kisses — even though I must have kissed him thousands of times during our 10 year on-again off-again relationship.

The list goes on. I remember an Elvis Costello concert in Maryland the summer of 1994 (Crash Test Dummies opened). I remember it because said high school boyfriend had returned from a semester abroad in Israel and this concert was our first attempt at being “just friends.” But until I Googled Elvis Costello Concert Tour 1994, I couldn’t remember a single song on the playlist that night. And when I read the playlist, I still couldn’t recall hearing any of them or cheering for them or singing along.

I remember a fight with my brother in an airport in Denver. I remember he threw a glass rootbeer bottle at me, but I can’t remember over what we disagreed.

Then there was the time I first saw my now-husband. I can picture him sitting in a conference room in the JCC in Cherry Hill, NJ. I was there with a group of 8 or 9 20-somethings to be interviewed for a position to lead a teen tour to Israel. Get this: I remember the lighting in the room. I remember where I sat at the table in comparison to my future-husband. But I don’t remember his voice that day, what he wore, or any interaction we had.

All this matters because as I track down my memories in an attempt to write memoir — really, in an attempt to understand myself and my life — I find my memories with their limited and unreliable perspective are indeed not memories at all.  I find I understand what Oliver Sacks means when he says, our memories are “not fixed or frozen … but transformed, disassembled, reassembled, and recategorized with every act of recollection.”

All this matters because it is via this patched together quiltwork of recall that we assess and reassess the fabric of our lives. Whether or not we are writing memoir.

As I continue to examine my memory and put it through the hard test of being fact-checked, I find myself re-evaluating who I am and how I got this way.

And I remember it all with a grain of salt.

Books, Modern Life, Parenting

Bring on the Parenting New Year

There’s January 1, there’s Rosh Hashana, there’s Chinese New Year, and then there’s the day or two after Labor Day (or if you live in the South, three weeks before) when parents get the opportunity to finally breathe deep enough again to consider what they want to do differently this year when it comes to raising their kids.

And then there’s the day after that when we’re all hungover from smiling and liking friends’ first day Facebook photos and feeling good about our lives for a second, and decide we’re parenting just fine thank you for much.

But then come the backpacks on the floor. And the bickering in the backseat on the way to ballet. And the globs of toothpaste in the sink.

Sigh. Someone pass me a Bloody Mary, please.

But wait … what if there was a book with easy, practical advice offered by an expert in a package that not only set you up for quick success, but made you laugh along the way?

Well, my dear friends with children between the ages of 4 and 12; have I got the book for you.

GetBehaviorYouWant-BookCheck out The Times of Israel today, which is featuring my author interview and book review of Get the Behavior You Want Without Being the Parent You Hate by Dr. Deborah Gilboa. Then go download the book on September 10 when it goes on sale.

Poetry, Politics, Relationships

The Immigrant Mother Goes to the Movies

There are days

(like today)

when emails from teachers

with names beginning with

Aleph or Ayin or Chet

or long-winded reminders

via Google group

from neighbors whose

fresh-baked challah

I truly do enjoy

or the main menu

of the University’s

Babylonian student information station

all make me want to

gouge out my eyes

with aluminum skewers

left over from

last weekend’s “al Ha’Esh

or eat Whoppers in front

of the movie Clue —

either of the three versions

released in December 1985.

Basically,

I need my information

spoonfed, please, from

the Confection Stand.

I want each request and update

to melt in my mouth like

candy did once

like Tim Curry

in 1985 before

Rocky Horror Picture Show

before heads went missing

before someone said to me,

No one moved to Israel

because it’s easy.

There are days

(not today) when

I am proud that science

has proven that my brain

works better now that it

needs to decipher whether

my daughter requested

dag or dog for dinner.

But today

I just want to suck it all

through a straw.

 

 

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Blink

The first milestone that seemed so far away into the future that hover boards would surely have come and gone by then was 1999, the year my middle brother was slated to graduate college and my baby brother would be bar mitzvahed. I remember giggling along with my parents in 1988 or 89 at the unimaginable idea of Jason in a cap and gown, and baby Josh, who was then still in diapers, grown up enough to not only talk, but sing Torah troupe in front of an audience of kippah-wearing spectators.

As I don’t have to tell you, 1999 has come and gone in the proverbial blink of my hazel green eyes and no hover boards. (Robert Zemeckis was ill-advised, I guess. Or just a hopeful dreamer.)

Jason’s cap has long ago been thrown high into the air and his gown recycled. He’s a successful professional now, married with children. And Baby Josh led the entire morning Shabbat service, squeaky voice and all, and 15 years later is now a freshly-minted lawyer, and recently engaged.

And me?

As much as I sometimes still see myself in my mind’s eye as the girl swiveling in a chair at the kitchen table and laughing in the face of the future, I am somehow here (or there. Whichever one is the future.)

I am a married woman and not only are my own three children all able to ride bikes, dive into the deep end of the pool, and tie their own shoes, but I sent my youngest off today on the bus to her first day of real school.

Annabel_Tekes_Sept2014

It’s a serendipitous junction I’ve arrived at: I just turned 40 last month. This week, I will celebrate the bar mitzvah year of my marriage. And today, all three of my children have officially made it to elementary school.

I blinked, I guess. Again.

Or else this day was so very far away into the future, I never got the chance to imagine it.