How wonderful when you’re here, Dad, from the first moment you arrive at Ben Gurion Airport, wearing your suit and tie, shlepping that big old green suitcase full with books in English for the kids, and the skinny jeans I ordered from Old Navy. How wonderful, when you bellow “SHALOM!” across the arrivals hall, and how wonderful that I have the luxury of cringing, that I get to be a daughter, embarrassed by her father.
How wonderful when the kids see you for the first time — your grandchildren who grow through seasons between visits, the last time you were here, he couldn’t tie his shoes, and they both took naps in the afternoon. (Do you miss that? I do sometimes.) The last time you were here, he couldn’t say his “R’s” and she was afraid to jump into the deep end of the pool. The last time you were here, they both still rode bikes with training wheels.
And now look: First and second grade already. No naps. No training wheels. And straight into the deep end. “They’l both be off to the junior prom in no time!” you joke. It’s funny. And it’s sad. And it’s funny. And it’s sad.
And how wonderful:
When you’re here, I get to be annoyed when you sing in public (COME ONNNNN, DAD. STOP!) Or when you stop random strangers on the street to tell them that you have swagger. (DAAAAAADDDDD, Israelis don’t even KNOW what that MEANS!!!) Or when you tell me to put on a sweater, or buckle my seat belt. (PLEASE. I’m 34 years old! You’re not the boss of me!)
When you’re here, there’s someone who buys us ice-cream at the store. There’s someone who will pay for a taxi so we can all go to the sea instead of spending a long, sullen afternoon at home. There’s someone who has enough money for the bus.
When you’re here, I never feel afraid that we won’t make it through the month above zero in the bank.
When you’re here, a switch is flipped and the kids can magically speak English — and I get to marvel at how much they know — all of it, even the words they pick up from me that they shouldn’t, because sometimes Mommy needs a f&cking break. Oops.
When you’re here, I get to forget that usually it’s a struggle to go out on nights when the kids are with me, that I can’t just have a drink with a friend in Rehovot, or go for a walk by myself at sunset through the fields … that I need to wait until they’re at their dad’s, that time is parcelled out in Sunday/Monday, Tuesday/Wednesday/ every other Thursday, or Friday/Saturday. When you’re here, I can lean back and close my eyes and know someone else besides me, can put schnitzel in the toaster oven, or pour milk, or hug and kiss my kids.
How wonderful, that by the time we get midway through the visit, it feels natural, like you’ve always been here, and always will be here, and that this is how it is because this is how it should be.
How wonderful you can see this side of the world — MY side of the world — the world I’ve chosen to make home for now.
How wonderful that when I think of my home here, there are memories of you sitting on the black and white chair in the living room, watching movies with the kids — movies you brought from America, or reading to them from one of the books you brought in that big green suitcase, memories of you on the front porch reading the Economist cover to cover, or simply sitting back and surveying the knock-kneed home your daughter’s trying to create…
… And how wonderful that you’ve never once made me feel guilty for leaving, and for taking your grandchildren away from you.
And then, the days turn, and we inch toward the airport once again (I could walk the way blindfolded if I had to)… the last Shabbat you’ll be with us, and my stomach starts to turn, and I get angry, and I get sad, and I get scared, and I get so goddamn tired by how BIG it is to know that you won’t see the orange flowers bloom on the vines outside my house, that you won’t get to taste the figs — they’re hard and green now on the tree, but if you would only STAY another month… TWO MORE MONTHS… then… wow — that you’ll miss the rains and the mud and how the fields turn to emerald against a pewter sky.
How BIG it is to know that you won’t help the kids with homework, and you’ll miss seeing your grandson take Capoeira, and you won’t help your granddaughter learn her multiplication tables.
Another season. And another.
Until the next time you’re here, lugging that big green suitcase, with new books, and a new pair of skinny jeans.
May you be blessed when you arrive, and when you leave.
And how wonderful it is that before you leave, in the crush of Ben Gurion Airport, you bellow “SHALOM!!!” so loud that everyone skids to a stop and turns and stares, and cringing and laughing, I can say goodbye through my tears and be your daughter.