3

Here’s a Sincere, Heartfelt Apology…Oh, And Something Else

Finally getting back to one of the real reasons I started this blog – collecting and recapping various random memories.

I received some plays the other day via InterLibrary Loan, and I was reading down the cast list of one of them when I noticed a particular name, an unusual name, a last name. The name of someone I went to elementary school with, and around whom this story revolves.

He transferred to my school when we were in fifth grade. I won’t say his name, so let’s just call him…Levi Dungarees, since despite wearing a spiky silver belt to complement his spiky silver-blond hair, his jeans sagged so low you could see exactly which Looney Tunes character was on his boxer shorts every day (it was usually Taz). Remember, this was the nineties, when such things were in. I’m glad that my mom refused to let me wear jeans that sagged like that, otherwise I’d forever remember what underwear I was wearing that day.

Anyway…

I wasn’t popular at all, and Levi, even though he’d only been in school a month or two, was already one of the most popular kids in the class. And of course, he tormented me pretty much every day, making fun of my hair, my clothes, everything about me. Especially my thick glasses. One day, he was chosen to hand out the hot lunch stickers (in my school, when we went to the cafeteria, if you were getting hot lunch you wore a sticker saying which meal you were signed up to get), and instead of peeling it off and handing it to me or sticking it on my shirt like a normal, kind human being, he peeled it and stuck it on my glasses. Right across the bridge of my nose. Of course, he thought it was funny, but I actually couldn’t see. He tried to then peel it off, and it wouldn’t come off, so I had to spend the next 10 minutes blindly chipping away at the residue of the sticker until my teacher let me go to the bathroom and attempt to soak the rest of it off in the sink.

In October, we Jews celebrate Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, when we’re supposed to ask forgiveness from our fellow man and atone for our sins, among other things. In Hebrew class, our teacher gave us an assignment to write an apology note to someone else in the class. Of all people, who did Levi decide to write to, and hand deliver to?

Me.

He gave me the note to read, and it was actually quite nice. In it, he apologized for putting the sticker on my glasses, and for teasing me in front of all the other boys. I thought it was sweet, and I thanked him and accepted the apology.

But with someone like Levi, you know that something else is up.

After I finished reading the note, he said something like…

“I’m really sorry. But look, I just want to tell you three things about yourself that you need to change, if you want people to be nicer to you…”

I don’t remember what those three things were – it was probably about wearing better clothes or stop using big words or something – but I kept thinking, “so this is what he really had in mind to tell me when he wrote that note.” I nodded along with this impromptu lecture, more or less zoning out, and probably responding with something like, “okay, I understand,” or something sheepish. Because the whole time he was talking (and even now, when I think of it) I’m all…

Image result for what a load of crap rachel

Seriously…if you’re that garbage-y of a person that you see an apology note as an excuse to shit all over them, don’t write the note. As a matter of fact, don’t exist at all.

If I could redo that moment, I would have probably done something differently, maybe said…”here’s three things about you that I don’t like” or maybe….”hold that thought”, and then called over a teacher or someone else – anyone else – to listen to what he was saying, and been like “okay, here’s someone you can complain to, because I don’t care” (even though I was 10 years old so I probably kind of did care).

A non-apology apology is chicken shit, and I have another story about that for another time. But a seemingly sincere apology that’s essentially a non-apology apology, and is a cover for backpedaling caveats and side-complaints, that’s worse. It just defeats the whole purpose of apologizing in the first place. So let that be a lesson. When you apologize, be sincere about it, and if you can’t, then don’t. 

And that’s probably the first time I’ve thought about him in about sixteen years.

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8

regressing to someone else’s childhood

I think that’s what’s happening to me.

A few weeks ago, I saw one of those adult coloring books at Target. I swore I wouldn’t buy it, since even though I did some coloring as a kid, I colored maybe 15% of what I owned, so I knew it would just end up being more junk somewhere, but I bought it anyway.

And one night last week, I was awake until 2 AM coloring in one of the pages of mandalas with an intricate pattern, for absolutely no reason.

On Saturday, I played around with a jigsaw puzzle when I went to the rabbi’s house for lunch, and yesterday, at Target ,as I was walking past the board games, something within me reached out to grab a puzzle. I don’t even know what it is – it’s something with cats and flowers – but, even though I had and still have essays to grade, papers to write, blog posts to update, and books to read, I spent 2 hours this afternoon just playing with the pieces and connecting a few of them together. I liked puzzles as a kid, but it was just like I was ACHING to buy a puzzle and put it together, like, RIGHT NOW.

Next thing you know I’ll be wearing a onesie. I saw a grown man in a Spiderman onesie, at Target, and wondered where acceptable fashion in public has run off to. I guess looking like an infant is the new black?

Am I regressing into someone else’s childhood?

12

Things I Learned About My First-Grade Self From My First-Grade Classmates

Today was the first day in a long, long time in which all four members of my family were at home, and since my parents have been on a major cleaning spree, one of today’s tasks for me and my sister was to clear out some of our old stuff from the basement and either decide to take it with us or throw it away. I remember most of the stuff I kept in those boxes, mostly old assignments and drawings from elementary school, but some of the items took me by surprise. One such item about which I’d completely forgotten, even upon seeing it again, was a book my classmates in first grade made about me.

I do remember that in first grade, we had a “star” of the week each week, and that my week was sometime in February, but I had forgotten what exactly that entailed. What I uncovered was my “Star Book;” nothing to do with astrology, but rather a collection of sentences my classmates wrote about me and the teacher stapled in a book. Needless to say, I learned a lot about myself from this very eye-opening book of six-year-old scratches.

On the front cover, it says my full name, and that I am Shy, Terrific, Amiable, and Respectful, spelling STAR. I remember all the adjectives that my teacher had and we could pick the ones which we thought best described ourselves. I have no clue why I picked those four words; I probably was terrific and usually respectful, and I had my shy moments, but I’m not sure what possessed me to pick amiable.

So, let’s take a look inside and see what we can learn, shall we?

1. My favorite food is spaghetti.

A number of my classmates mentioned it, but I remember growing up hating spaghetti. My mother always overcooked it and usually it ended up on my lap. I hated eating it and I hated marinara sauce. Nowadays, I don’t mind it, but what a weird answer for little me to divulge.

2. My favorite flag? Slovakia.

Another odd choice, but somehow serendipitous, given that twenty years later I would visit Slovakia for two weeks and write my 155-page Master’s thesis on it. My guess is because it had just become an independent country and I’d seen it on the news or something.

3. I like Bugs Bunny.

Really? Bugs Bunny? Not a clue on why I said that.

4. My favorite animals are horses and lambs.

I think it was because of some children’s books I’d read featuring those animals. Not that I have anything against them today, at all, but it’s written several times, including in my own handwriting in other places. I have no recollection, though, of liking horses and lambs, or why.

5. My favorite musical instrument is a guitar.

Again, no clue. I thought I liked pianos from an early age,

6. My favorite car? A van.

Apparently, I knew nothing about cars. Still true.

7. I am the best speller in the class.

Yep, true. I even have a story about it.

8. My favorite flower is a morning glory.

What the…? Of all the flowers, Jacob? Someone had probably been reading seed packets at the grocery store that day or something.

9. I am handsome, kind, and almost everyone listed me as “my friend.”

Not true. Out of the 18 people in said class, I am still friends with 6 of them on Facebook. I am still in contact with exactly 0 of these people, even though I know where many of them went after high school. Most of these people were either rotten to me at some point, or just indifferent towards me. I know that I definitely thought that more people in my class disliked me, when it was probably the case that people just didn’t care one way or the other, but didn’t go out of their way to talk to me or interact with me, which I guess meant to little me that we were not friends, and therefore, enemies. I didn’t really grasp the concept of friends back then, probably because I was a weird kid.

10. My birthday? October 21.

Yep, still true. Some things never change.

 

0

Happy Places

Getting in bed late last night, I was trying to calm myself down after a hectic day (well, mostly a hectic three hours’ worth of throwing a six-page paper together), and decided to travel to my happy place.

What is a happy place?

A “happy place” is something that I first heard on Friends, in the episode where Phoebe is trying to calm Monica down by asking her to access her happy place. Monica admits she doesn’t have one, so Phoebe lends her her own happy place, but admonishes her friend “…but please don’t move anything.” Phoebe then goes on to describe the happy place, which includes a waterfall. This fails to make Monica calm down, but does make her want to pee. Actually, I kind of have to pee now too, but I’ll finish writing first.

Probably not a great idea, but we’ll see what happens.

So, back in bed last night, I was attempting to find my own happy places, and realized that I don’t have that many. Then I really took a good long flip through my memories, and found that there are plenty of happy places for me – I just fail to recognize them as what they are. For a place to count as a happy place, it must be a concrete memory, and not just “the beach” or “in a garden.” It’s gotta be personal.

I’ve been short on stories lately, so here’s a list of random memories of times and place where I felt best, my true “happy places.”

Childhood

  • Not in my memory, but a picture of myself sitting on a brown blanket at the park near Wellwood Elementary, with my family. There are two pictures of that day that conjure up only happiness in my mind. In the first, I am a chubby toddler in a striped shirt and tan shorts, laughing and looking slightly south of the camera. In the picture, it’s just me, and for a moment, I am just happy with myself, by myself, just enjoying life. The second picture is one from that same day that my dad probably took. I am sitting on my mom’s lap at a picnic table. I know it’s from the same day because I’m in the same outfit. She’s bouncing me on her knee, and I’m laughing, and she’s looking down at me and laughing. In that frame, there’s no worry, anger, anxiety, or stress, just happiness.
  • Evenings spent sitting by my mother as she graded her third graders’ work. She sat, as my dad says “like a deer, on her haunches” on the blue bedroom carpet by the heater with her work in very specific piles around her, and usually me among them, talking to her or just sitting and reading or watching whatever channel my dad has decided on for the moment. Being situated between my parents was comforting, and such a familiar scene helps me feel like I’m right at home, in an easy part of my childhood.
  • Riding in the car with my mom, wherever, whenever, but listening to good oldies music. It seems like many of my childhood happy places seem to be close to my mother. I wasn’t really close with my father until I entered adolescence, really. Also, no school memories come to mind at all.

Adolescence/Teenage Years

  • Spending a peaceful Shabbat at home, usually involving a rotation between the couch, the brown chair in the basement, the plaid chair in the living room, my parents’ bed, and my bed. Extra happy if I got to finish at least one or two books.
  • Spending Shabbat in Ocean City. I’m not as huge on sitting on the beach reading as my dad is, usually because it’s cold, but coming with a suitcase of books and between the beach, the deck, the couch, the chairs, my bed, my parents’ bed, and my parents’ deck, worming my way both around the house and through several books could only be described as happy.

Amherst Years

  • Being lost in a bookstore. Any bookstore. Food for Thought, the big one on Pleasant St., the one in the mall in Northampton, some of the little ones in NoHo. Brattleboro, Vermont? Even better. A warm cup of something from Postcard Cafe, or Sylvester’s, (or Mocha Joe’s in Brattleboro), and a quick duck into Acme Surplus, just celebrating my freedom by hopping between stores.
  • Friday nights with any arrangement of Daniel, Goldie, Nora, Neta, Sarah, Cory, Kelsey, and Zippy on the couches at the Hillel windows for our weekly entertainment: cars getting towed on Phillips Street with their owners absent, standing by, or the best kind – running shoeless and coatless from a frat/sorority house only to watch their ride leaving without them – literally; or, watching guys pee in our parking lot, banging on the window and catching them midstream, and seeing their reactions. Pure fun with pure friends.

Israel

  • Midnight to 2 AM in the Nahum Lifshitz apartment, watching marathons of Hannah Montana, That’s So Raven, and Lizzie McGuire with Rael (and later, Adina). The routine: I get home from whatever I’m doing that night at the theatre or at the gym; if it’s the theatre, I put on the pasta and make the salads. If it’s the gym, I get out the veggies, put on the pasta, and leave the door unlocked for Rael so she can let herself in to check on the pasta in case I’m not out of the shower yet. In either scenario, at this point I take out my pasta and bring it to the table, as well as our salads and beverages. We watch show number one while Rael’s pasta continues to cook (she likes it stringy and mushy – I still don’t understand why, but whatever suits her appetite) and usually by the time show one is over, her pasta is ready and I focus on my salad or eyeball whatever dessert Rael has brought. The company, the conversation…man those were happy times. I can’t believe we’re so far away now. We did the midnight walks through Jerusalem as well…okay, this is bordering on tear-worthy nostalgia…
  • Being busy at the theatre. The busier, the better – I’m in control, I feel alive, and I’m in a million places at once, doing it all as hard as I can. Dedication, commitment, and in spare moments, a sweet garden to lounge in, or my insanely large office with the couch that served as a nap spot for myself and numerous others. Everyone comes to Jacob’s office.
  • Sunny days off, wandering around Jerusalem. Old City, New City, a different neighborhood anytime. The Old City’s the best though, the shuk, the Western Wall, getting lost and meeting locals and tourists, on the precipice of both myself. So fab. And in my happy place, I can have less acne.
  • Sitting by the sea in Kyrenia, Northern Cyprus, with the whole sea to myself. Sketching, reading, white wine, Mediterranean breeze – it was just one afternoon but it couldn’t have been more perfect. A language I don’t understand? Perfect for zoning out and being in the moment.

Houston Years

  • Hanging out in the apartment. Just knowing that I have this luxurious nest that I can go to and just lie on the couch watching TV, sit on the porch, or holing up in bed.
  • Studying at the Julia Ideson Library in downtown Houston. Leather couches and chairs, Greek statues, old bookshelves, roomy tables, free wifi, picture window views of Houston. Usually alone –  Houston’s hidden gem. Sometimes I just couldn’t sit still and got up and danced around the room – quietly, of course.

Bonus Happy Place: Vacation

  • Prague. A bench along the Vltava. A sunny Saturday. Getting lost in a book – but then looking up and seeing the most beautiful picture postcard in the world. And not only can I see it, I can feel it, I can touch it, it’s all there. I could sit on that bench forever.