Jonathan Pollard and a Coloring Book

We’re going to the US in two weeks.

It’s a big trip.  It’s a huge trip.

We haven’t been there for three years and when we left last time we were a family of three.  When we went to get our son’s Report of Birth at the US embassy the consular clapped as she declared our son the newest American.  We get to travel with eight passports.  It’s a big deal.

Traveling with two children halfway across the universe is scary, and exciting – mostly scary when I think about getting there – but when I get past that first day of hellish traveling, I get excited.  About the wedding.  And the other wedding.  And the grandparents.  And great-grandparents.  And Chanukah with real, biological family.  And SNOW.  And Wal-Mart.  And Target.  And malls.  And outlets.  And museums.  And zoos that take longer than an hour to get around.  And flea markets.  And used bookstores.  And cheap, cheap clothing.

So we made lists.  Essentials (shoes, underwear, socks, pajamas), Needs (dishes, knives, towels, bed sheets) and Desires (toys, books, art supplies, accessories).

I also allocated space in the four suitcases we plan on bringing back for a few neighbors to order some of their Essentials, Needs or Desires.

The passports are all in place.  America is waiting.  All we have to do is sit tight and try not to add anything to our lists.  And we also have to live the next two weeks out in a semi-normal fashion even though the excitement/fear is overwhelming.

Tonight my daughter’s Yemenite, extremely Israeli friend ate dinner with us.  The prevailing topic has been the upcoming TRIP and tonight was no exception.  He got involved in the conversation, asking when we were going and for how long.  My daughter was letting him know all the things she is excited about (the gigantic dinosaur made of bones we promised she’ll see at the Museum of Natural History and snow, real snow not imported from Northern Israel, but real falling snow) when she offered to bring him something from the great U.S. of A.

He smiled sheepishly and shrugged his shoulders.  But when I reiterated the offer he looked at us, and in all seriousness, asked for the one thing he wanted from big, ol’ America:

Jonathan Pollard.

Yup.  Seven year old Chizkiya, the boy next door who plays on-again, off-again with my little girl, the kid who covets the little playmobile king that came in her princess set, the child who dresses up as a cheetah and pounces around the house as she dances alongside him in her Cinderella dress, wants us to free Pollard and bring him home.

The silence was broken by my little girl asking me who Pollard is…and as I tried to stutter a reply my list seemed to shrink and become just a bit silly and meaningless.

We offered to buy him a coloring book with cheetahs in it.

He accepted the compromise.

My list still stands.

My awe of all things American, however, does not.

Being Born

We are finishing dinner when I begin.

“See, I always had an issue with birthdays.”

Smiling, he settles back in his chair.

“My mother always forgot my birthday…well, she still can’t figure out the right date…”

He laughs.

“You never know, maybe this year she’ll remember…the day’s not over yet.”

We smile at each other comfortably and I am filled with gratitude that I am sitting here with my best friend.

“Anyway – she’ll definitely remember my Hebrew birthday.  Everyone does…because it’s a holiday.  Just makes it worse.  Like the holiday is remembered, therefore I am remembered.  And here’s what I mean by that.  All I ever wanted out of a birthday was the acknowledgment, or rather the celebration of the day I came into existence.  It’s a real appreciation for ME, regardless of how old I am or what I’ve done with my life.  And getting a cake, although I understand that ten kids equals ten birthdays and the expected cake is the only fair way to go about it…just didn’t cut it.  I wanted more of an emotional gift of pleasure that I am in this world.”

“You know that you’re talking about a very intense, deep view on birthdays, right?”

“Of course!  But – that’s me.  That’s who I am.  So, not getting that validation always put me in a dark, depressive place because when a kid equates birthdays with people acknowledging their very existence, and then said people either forget, don’t say ‘I’m happy you were born’ or happen to have other things on their mind that day that cause feelings other than pure joy, a kid could start questioning their place in the world altogether and whether it might just be a better idea to ease people of the burden of there existing a child who no one cares exists.  And yes, I’m aware of the immaturity of the logic – remember it’s a thought that somehow followed me from a different sort of childhood then what is considered ‘normal’ to an abnormal adult life that I’m comfortable with.”

He looks at me, waiting as I take a breath and look around the room.

The kids are running around in their pajamas, singing silly songs.  The room is the kind of messy happy families create.  There is a smell of wood that can only mean my husband has worked hard today to support us.  The princess sign on the wall is starting to roll up a bit at the edge and the bits of colorful popped balloons hide in the one corner I forgot to sweep.  The sun is setting over the mountains and I am content.

“So what I’m saying is, well, right now there are three people in this room, in the world, who are happy I exist.  And I know it.”

I look up at him, lovingly, wishing he could take my heart and feel how overwhelmed with feelings beyond words it is.

“So I just wanted to say, thank you.”

He stands and begins to clear the table.

“Happy birthday,” he says, and I know that my birth was, for him, for my little girl and my baby boy, worth it.