Ask Avigail – Hidden Triumphs

Please note: Avigail has the day off, so I, her creator, am filling in.

Today is Jerusalem Day. My daughter has borrowed a white shirt, which she is busily ironing. She is singing along with a broadcast of patriotic, Hebrew songs from the internet. No doubt that in her mind she is singing solo to a large audience and everyone is cheering and stamping with her, jumping wildly to the beat. Her newly-purchased blue skirt is billowing in the wind, and suddenly her daydream abruptly stops, as she realizes her less than modest thighs are showing. But, dreams are wonderful because they can spontaneously grow magical hemlines, and defy worldly-bound physics of spirited winds.

It is almost 3.00 pm, June 6th 1967. Soon, I can go home to where the TV is constantly on, and my parents are obsessively watching detailed coverage of the Six Day War. Patty Carmichael, who is 13 and still in the sixth grade, tries to catch my attention. She leers at me and slits her throat with her index finger. She has no idea what the implication means to me with that little gesture. I suppress my fear and vow to wreak revenge on her in some future gym class where girls like Patty have had earrings yanked from their earlobes. Mrs. Volk is flipping through catalogues for vacation homes, as she is retiring in June. It is not fair. I would rather think of going over to Ellen Diamond’s house and playing Barbie; or , flipping on the TV to watch Dark Shadows – the kind of being scared out of your wits that’s freaking fun

I navigate seven plastic, khaki tanks, sitting on a play board, in my brain terrain. They surround a lone tank with an Israeli flag. I am playing G-d, and my hand swoops down and knocks off all the other tanks. I gently pick up the Israeli tank, and make whooshing, crashing noises in my best G-d speak… I have not so much as gotten a loose strand of hair in my eye, yet my athletic prowess as a Jewish Deity amazes both sworn enemy and hero, alike. What a relief because, if I had to rely on my amazing lack of sports and skill, my fictional foe would win.

Our daughter loves sports. Up until now, my husband and I have given her horseback riding lessons, swimming lessons, guitar lessons, volleyball lessons, biking, roller blading and browbeating her brother, six years her junior that would qualify her as Olympic material. When her brother irks her, she assumes a mother stance that would garner a Mother’s Day Card from Joan Crawford’s daughter… She is physical because I have allowed her to be. She is free to perspire, without fear of catching cold, or having to sit out on the bleachers, fifteen minutes before gym period ended, to “cool off.”

My mother’s generation was heavily influenced by fear. Fear of failure. Fear of the possibility of what if? Overkill was the answer. They tended to be followers of Dr. Kevorkian, rather than Dr. Spock. If they could have figured out a way to put their children in plastic slipcovers, and safely let them cross the street to play dodge ball, they would have. No, Jerusalem does not guarantee a safe return trip home for my daughter, but I refuse to claim two casualties to fear.

Perhaps, I may have gone way over the “Belle curve” (my mom’s name was Belle), but I am proud of myself to have overcome a learned tendency to be over-protective. I have given my daughter all the tools she will need to be independent, yet typical of her social protocol, I will be able to maintain a healthy, un-noticeable distance from her and her peers, fear-free. If by accident, we find ourselves at the same Mall or Nature Reserve, I know I will get a severe eye lashing and a cosmic whine so shrill, it will shatter Tupperware.

To sum it up, Zehava is resourceful enough to fend for herself, and more. Sometimes, she has to answer the home phone because I will be cursing at the air conditioner remote yelling, “Speak up, I can’t hear you.”

About the Author
Shashi Ishai is a former stand-up/cartoonist from Teaneck, N.J. She resides in Netanya with her husband, Yacov; daughter, Zehava; son Zaki and dog, Stanley .Shashi is the author of ASK AVIGAIL: Advice from a Biblical Era Sagette, available on Amazon.