Thursday, July 13, 2006

Drenched In Murk

It was a phone call that told my mother to turn the television to CNN. Her tone of voice was calm but focused. Winter of 1991, I was eleven and scud missiles were raining down on Israel. I wondered then, as I do now, what it's like for my mother to watch pictures play over newscasts of crumpled apartment buildings on streets she used to drive down herself. I wonder if she still recognizes the buildings and the restaurants. It must be like seeing World Trade turned to ruins. The worry on her face told me that this was real - as certain things in life are. Children know those certain things. Death is real. Divorce is real. Love is real. War is real. The next morning at day school, after the pledge, an announcement was made that we would be praying for those living in Israel and their families. We did. Aside from the kids at day school, nobody else I knew was worrying about their family having gas masks that worked properly. Quickly, the word "Hebrew" on our busses was covered up with a block of wood. Stones had been thrown as it traveled down our nice, suburban streets. One morning, a swastika was spray painted in blue on the school walls along with some other signs I didn't recognize. The kids across the street taunted us on their way home from school. I futilly called one boy Dumbo, making reference to his floppy ears and told him I'd not only give him a black eye but take pleasure in doing so. It didn't make any sense that we should be afraid. But we were told to be. I was afraid enough. Almost years later, when watching a video tape of home movies that my aunt brought with her on a visit, I watched her camera scan my Aunt Lisa's house. She sat in a dining room chair, arms and legs crossed, eyes half open as always, a casual smile on her face. She pointed a finger to the ceiling and the camera focused in on her ceiling lamp. It looked like a flower, petalled by thick, murky plastic the color of packing tape. It was still there from the war which had ended so long before the video was taken. But it was a reminder of the fact that the house had once been drenched in it. The only protection for loved ones in from the world raging on the out. I wondered what that would be like. To live wrapped in plastic. Would I know what was coming before it hit me? Would I even be able to see it? Or is the plastic just like a child covering their head from a thunderstorm... It's hard for me to watch CNN, FOX or MSNBC for too long a period of time for two reasons. One, because my family is over there. Two - because I want to be there. I want to stand in the midst. Watch the eyes of the IDF as they try to hide the concern and focus while answering petty media questions. See the people hesitate when they wake. See the world unfold in a place where it never settles.

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