First love

Among my cardboard boxes, there is another. It’s plastic. A clear Tupperware container with a blue cover marked “Jen’s papers.”

I laugh a little at this because the markings on the masking tape are in my mother’s handwriting and I would have expected it to read “Jennifer’s papers.”

But Jen is shorter than Jennifer, shorter than Jenny, shorter than any of the names I answered to during the time of the papers. And easier to write on a label.

I opened this container a few months ago when the shipment arrived, and was first struck sick by the smell, a strong combination of mildew and 30-year-old paste.

I quickly secured the top back on  (imagining my own ironic, horrible scifi death by spores) and put it back on the pile of boxes for later review.

A bit heartbroken, I intended to throw the whole thing away. Clearly the papers inside were ruined; forgotten leftovers stored too long. But before I got rid of all of it I wanted to document the contents.  After all, my mother took care to fill this container over the course of a decade and to rescue it — not once, but many times — from basement catastrophe (flood, hurricane, divorce).

Despite potential ruin, after all these years, the Tupperware reached its destination: in the hands of grown-up Me. It would be a shame not to unload its cargo. Also, and most important, as a mother who hoards, I know well the affection wrapped up in the saving of those papers.

I approached the container again this week, when I had a few hours to myself during the day and when the weather was mild enough to be able to go through them in fresher air outside.

I took out our good camera and prepared to archive my findings.

I knew that most of what I’d find would be handwriting exercises, A+ papers, and art projects. Nothing extraordinary, I imagined, would be discovered inside. What could I possibly have produced in elementary school that would elicit any deeper emotions than sentimentality? On the other hand, my boxes  constantly surprise me and this one was no different.

Among the findings:

  • My first voting ballot — indecision written all over it — from a Weekly Reader in 1980. Anderson or Reagan for the Win? I had checked off both, though I wonder if the Reagan was an afterthought as I remember distinctly wanting Anderson.
  • A report on Voyager 2 when it was still hovering near Saturn
  • A now-vintage souvenir postcard sent to me and my brother (addressed to Miss Jennifer and Master Jason) from Disneyland
  • And, a drawing I made when I was three or four in which my mother’s image was a presence greater than anyone else on page, larger than me, larger than life.

I also found love letters.

Between me and Mrs. Aducat.

I completely forgot loving Mrs. Aducat.

Mrs. Aducat, who wasn’t even my homeroom teacher, not even the woman I spent most of my day with in first grade, but simply my reading teacher. The woman who taught me language, sentence construction, how to express myself with carefully crafted words.

Based on the persistence with which I sought her love, my affection was strong.

ms aducat i love you

Over the course of months, I wrote many love notes to Mrs. Aducat on the back of my writing exercises.

And she wrote me back.

“I love you, too, sweetie,” she wrote in red cursive on the back of one.

And with a smiling heart on another.

i love you too jenny

“Yes!” she answered me with an exclamation point one time when I asked her if she loved me too.

I even made it simple for her once. YES or NO, I wrote under two boxes. An ultimatum, perhaps?  If so, she took the bait and checked off YES. “Lots and lots,” she wrote underneath it in her red pen.

I am struck by this.

I am struck by the love given me by a grownup; not a relative, just a woman paid to teach me to read.

And I am struck by the unrestrained expression and bold audacity with which I expressed my love for her and asked for it in return.

Oh, to love and be loved again — unabashedly, without reserve — as I did, and was, when I was seven.

= = =

This is one in a series of essays inspired by my cardboard boxes. If you like this post, and want to know how it began, read A Case for Hoarding. One post in the series, Note to Self,” was recently featured on Freshly PressedAdditional posts are tagged “the boxed set series“.

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If i was a lawmaker, but then again no…

Today’s Daily Prompt:

You have the power to enact a single law. What would it be?

Wait for it.

Wait for it.

Wait for it.

I would make a law that allowed me to make three more laws.

Ha!

Don’t ever try to limit me to just one anything!

I will beat you

at your own game

every time.

But, in all seriousness, as much as I love laws — and I do, I’m one of those irritating rule followers — I have a hard time coming up with the laws I would enact first if given the opportunity.

I would certainly enact one law that would benefit mothers.

And enact another that would benefit the Earth.

Somehow both of the above laws would trickle down to benefiting children.

Not just today’s children, but tomorrow’s.

Because I think the Earth, mothers, and children are often the ones who suffer with a lack of laws in their favor.

I would enact a law, I think, that would allow one parent to choose to be at home to care for his or her children, if he or she chooses, for at least two years full-time, and then supplementary after that until the children leave home.

My new “Family Leave Law” would not emphasize the LEAVE, but the STAY.

It would make a case for staying.

So staying is something a parent could choose to do, as opposed to making a major financial sacrifice when choosing to leave a full-time job in order to care for children, which is the situation for most people.

My law would reward and support parents for choosing to take on the job of caring for, educating and nurturing their children before and after school, for which we now pay others to do in a daycare system or through paid childcare.

My law would use taxpayer’s money to offer the parent caring for the child financial benefits and significant tax breaks for the time spent caring for the child.

In many countries (not the U.S.) laws like this already exist in some form.  The existing law is not as supportive as my proposed law, per say, but it’s better than what exists right now in America under the Family  and Medical Leave Act which basically protects no one and supports nothing, but the employer.

Really.

It’s a joke.

If you have ever been pregnant, you know what I mean.

Unless you’re a teacher, a union member, or work for the state government — those guys, from what I hear, have it pretty good.

Of course, there are cases to be made for not doing this.

Israel is one such case.

People here have lots of babies.

For a long time.

I’m talking 6, 7, 10 children.

My new law could potentially create a financial hardship for the government.

Which then may lead to the government putting a cap on how many children they will subsidize.

Which then will lead to anti-government people getting all up in arms about government regulating what we can and cannot do; how many kids we can or cannot have.

Which would lead to a media frenzy.

Which would lead to an outcry. And then a backlash. And then, maybe a reversal of my law.

Which makes me really glad, for once, I’m not the one making laws.

It’s really not as easy as it appears, is it?

What law would you enact?

What matters to me most

What matters to me most in life and politics is what’s closest to my heart. It’s related directly to my own personal experience.

Isn’t that true for everyone?

And, perhaps, why I haven’t connected to the elections in Israel is because what matters most to me doesn’t matter to most of the people voting in this election. Or most of the people that live in Israel.

But what I still don’t get is why?

In between fighting wars, and between reading the newspaper in the morning and watching the news at night, don’t we all need/want to live healthy lives?

Don’t my neighbors, friends, relatives understand that nothing else matters once your health is poor?

Taxes won’t matter.

Housing prices won’t matter.

Military duty won’t matter.

Statehood won’t matter.

Once a health crisis takes over, little else matters.

And each and every one of us are in some stage of a health crisis right now.

Many of us are only days, weeks, years away from cancer due to chemicals in our food and self care products.

Many of our children are only days, weeks, years away from debilitating asthma due to air pollution.

Many of our grandchildren are…

Many of our grandchildren are…

Many of our grandchildren are…

an impossibility

due to rising infertility rates … climate change … drought…. famine…diminishing resources on our planet.

Vote what matters.

Policy wordle

Is it smart to vote with your heart?

The other day, I asked Israeli politicians via my blog on The Times of Israel, if any of them wanted my vote.

Apparently, Dov Lipman does. In fact, he’s really the only one who answered the call. It could have something to do with the fact that my “call” was in English, Dov’s mother tongue (he’s also an immigrant from the U.S.). It also could do with the fact that he too is a Times of Israel blogger, and perhaps the only political candidate who actually read my post.

Understanding this, I sent the link personally to English-proficient Bibi and American-born, greenie like me Alon Tal via social media outlets to try to get their attention. Neither responded. Not even their twitter-bots.

I did get a Facebook shout out from the English campaign manager of HaBayit HaYehudi asking me to call him, and an offer from one of their volunteers to come to my kibbutz and speak about the elections.

But Dov was the only one who hunted me down on Facebook  (not hard to do) and engaged me in a one-on-one Q & A  about his agenda — and mine — and that of Yesh Atid, the party ticket he’s running on.

This is one of those moments where we say:

Only in Israel.

(Or in Newark, where one particular politician  makes voters feel like they matter.)

I liked what Dov had to say (type) to me — but, moreso, how he said it.

He was nice.

Excited.

Passionate.

Hopeful.

Optimistic.

Engaging.

He listened.

He asked me for my questions.

And answered them. To the best of his ability.

And was honest when he didn’t have the answer.

He asked me what mattered to me.

He made me feel as if I matter.

Smart guy.

A politician in the making, but not politician enough to sound inauthentic.

Which is a good thing in my book.

And while important issues to me are sorely missing from Yesh Atid’s platform –environment and health, in particular– I don’t think any one party in Israel is addressing the issues that matter to me. (Which is stupid, since religion and government will mean nothing to nobody if this land is either flooded over or otherwise uninhabitable due to the effects of climate change; or if we’re all dying of various of forms of cancer thanks to air, water, and land pollution.)

So I have a few choices in this election:

1. Choose not to vote

2. Choose the party and politician most of my close friends are choosing (In my case, HaTnuah, Labor or Meretz– which is probably why HaBayit HaYehudi didn’t waste even a 5-minute call on me)

3. Choose the guy/party who makes me feel like I matter

Choosing 1 is completely reasonable for a new immigrant. I mean, to be honest, I’m surprised they let me vote at all. I can barely make it through the grocery store on my own.

Choosing 2 would put me among the majority of the people in this country. Most people, especially immigrants, vote half-heartedly or with little research. Most of my friends told me they are still undecided or are choosing a party based on who they don’t want to win or based on who their father/husband/sister wants to win.

Is it so wrong, stupid, or immature then to choose option 3? To choose to vote for the one person on the ballot who made me feel like my vote matters?

Obviously, there is something in Yesh Atid’s platform that speaks to me  — education improvements, for one. Focus on helping small businesses succeed and giving opportunities to the middle class to afford homes.

And then there’s the fact that Yair Lapid, the party leader, actually thinks Israels should be nicer to each other.

Me, too.

Niceness goes a long way.

Obviously, Dov Lipman could be telling me exactly what I want to hear to get my vote. That’s what a few of my friends said when I told them I was considering giving Yesh Atid my vote after my correspondence with Dov, followed by a careful reading of their English web site and Facebook pages, and speaking to one of their hard-core supporters..

But isn’t that’s what all politicians do any way — on a grander scale? Tell us what we want to hear to motivate us to vote for them?

Really, when it comes down to it — after all the newspaper articles, the televised debates, the advertising: none of which I was audience to, in all honesty, because they were either in Hebrew or took place far away — how educated can we really truly be before an election?

How rational can we really truly be? Most of our decisions, any decisions, are biased anyway.

So is it so stupid, so wrong, such a waste for me to vote for the guy, the party who made me feel like I matter?