“Look Saraleh, no monsters,” my mother would tell me when she’d shine a beam from my Little Mermaid flashlight in my bedroom closet when I couldn’t fall asleep.
“Check under the bed, Mommy.”
She’d get down on her knees, lift the dust ruffle with the dinosaurs on it, and peer into the darkness:
We’d hug and kiss on it, which made it true.
These demons of the imagination, so easily dispelled, banished by the beam of a flashlight, by a hug and a kiss.
Not so in Israel.
There are no monsters lurking beneath our bed, or lunatic clowns crawling out of closets.
“Mama, I don’t want to go to sleep,” my daughter wimpers.
“Mama, I’m afraid of the rockets,” my son says.
These are our monsters, these rockets hurling toward us.
And they’re very very real. Sometimes, they go away for a year or two, but when they return, they are hungrier and more ferocious, caged for too long, they are drooling and growling.
I wish I could tell my kids that everything will be OK, I wish I could shine a flashlight around the room and hug and kiss a promise that they’re safe.
But the straight up fact of it all is they aren’t safe, as the night before showed us when a rocket landed literally a five minute walk from our front door.
And yet, we gotta keep on keeping on, from here, from home, and we will not let the monsters beat us.
So this is how we fight the monsters:
“Well, if there is a siren, what we do?” I ask.
“We run outside, and go to the shelter.” They answer.
“What can we do to make sure we’re fast enough?”
“We can put our shoes by the front door, and have our bag ready.”
We line our shoes up by the front door. We pack a bag with a deck of cars, a can of Pringles, a bag of M&Ms and a flashlight.
We practice walking to the shelter, so the way becomes second nature, as familiar to us as the veins on our hands.
We sing the “Red Alert” song:
“Red Alert, Red Alert. Hurry hurry hurry to a safe place, hurry hurry, because now it’s dangerous.”
“Mama,” my son says while his eyes shine, “if you forget the way to the shelter, we’ll show you. Because we know it now. So don’t be afraid.”
Yes, we are living with very real monsters. And no, I can make no promises to my children.
But I bend down on my knees and wrap my arms around them and hold them tight.
We kiss and hug on it to make it true.