4

Magical Money Box

According to the Buzzfeed machine, the newest Twitter hashtag going around is #ConfessToSomethingStupid.

Even though I don’t have Twitter, despise hashtags, and only use them ironically, I thought to myself a) this would be the perfect topic for a blog post and b) I probably have so much material from my life. In fact, I had a post quite a while ago with stupid things I used to believe, right here, and I reread it to make sure I wouldn’t repeat a story.

So here’s a story about something stupid I used to believe.

Up until the first grade, I went to a Conservative Jewish preschool in the same building where my mom taught. As a Conservative Jewish school, one of the values they taught was tzedakah, or charity. One of the ways they would teach us was by having tzedakah box time. Our parents were instructed to give us some coins or a one-dollar bill every Friday so that we could participate. So, every Friday of my preschool and kindergarten years, the teachers sat us down in a circle and put one of those little blue and white cardboard Jewish National Fund fold-it-yourself tzedakah boxes in the center, and we’d sing a song. I can’t remember the name of it, but it went something like this: “Do you have a penny, a penny, a penny? Do you have a penny, a penny today?” All the kids who had pennies that day would crawl to the middle of the circle and stuff their pennies into the box. Then, we’d repeat the song, only with “nickel” instead, and then “dime,” “quarter,” and “dollar.” About once a month, the box would get too full, and one lucky kid got to take it to the front office.

As a preschooler, I had no idea what happened to the money once we dropped it off and then traded it in for a new box. I don’t know where I got it from, but I had this image in my head that there was a secret pipe somewhere behind the secretary’s desk – possibly like the tubes at the drive-thru bank – and at the end of the day, the secretaries would open the lid and pour the money into the pipe, where it would magically travel to Israel. Once it was there, it would fall from the sky into a giant pile of all the rest of our coins and dollars, and people would just kind of take money as they needed it. I then imagined that all schools had pipes like this that magically spit money into Israel and hopefully not hit anyone in the head. Then, when you went to Israel, you could go and find your school’s money pile., kind of like if you pay to have JNF plant a tree for you in Israel, you get a little certificate and you can go see where that tree was planted.

It wasn’t until the hashtag came up that this memory resurfaced. Completely irrational and weird, but what can I say, I was about 4 years old. Secret tubes and giant piles of money.

And that’s how I thought charity worked.

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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.

0

Random Thought of the Day: Old Home Movies

So, tonight, my parents and I were watching some home movies my grandfather made of my mother when she was a baby, in 1952. Apparently, he went to her nursery school and filmed her and her friends doing nursery-school type things. I’ve seen the video before and it’s incredibly funny, but for the first time I noticed that in one bit, my mother is making up a bed for a baby doll and pretending to put it to bed.

Upon seeing her make the bed, my dad said “I guess it must have been a Tuesday.”

31

This Day Is Your Day, This Day Is My Day

I turned 28 years old today, and it was hectic but otherwise completely unremarkable.

Just the way I like it.

A beautiful morning for some gym time, barely making it to Humanities in time to administer the midterm, after which Steffen and I sang the theme song from Maude (because, why wouldn’t you?). Then I taught 2 classes about commedia dell’arte, the highlight of which was during my first class when a student almost cracked his forehead open in an improv game, and then when I broke a piece of chalk while writing on the board, and then proceeded to lambaste the broken piece for not being a team player.

Then, when I thought things couldn’t get any better, my parents showed up (well, I knew they were going to), and then we went to dinner at Naf Naf and to the Union to see Arlo Guthrie in concert. Our seats were in the nosebleed section, but singing along to “Alice’s Restaurant,” “The City of New Orleans,” and “This Land is Your Land” with my mother (and Arlo, at the opposite end of the room) was one of the sweetest gifts of all.

I have been celebrating my birthday wrong all these years. It took me 28 years to realize this, but now I know how do it. It’s not about how I celebrate, or it being my day. It’s not even about growing up or getting older. It’s about being with the ones you love, and just celebrating life in general. For me, it is a happy birthday when the ones I love are happy being with me.

Quote of the day:

ME (to my class, after the commedia game): Good job everyone, that was fun. Did you have fun? Well, I had fun, and that’s all that’s important, because I’m a selfish person and that’s really all I care about.

Happy birthday, everyone everywhere.

6

27 Things I’ve Learned In My 27th Year Of Life

So, I just spent time I should have been studying going through my blog and reliving the past year, good and bad, on this, the eve of my 27th birthday. And I realized that I’ve learned a lot of things about myself and the world. Take notes, if you like.

November 2013

1. I can, in fact, memorize 55 pages of lines and recite them three times a week for two weeks. Maybe my acting career isn’t dead after all.

December 2013

2. Coffee cup lids are evil.

3. Cheese and crackers are Wisconsin’s answer to chips and salsa.

4. Einstein Brothers Bagels is always a bad idea.

5. I can drive down a country road through an ice storm.

6. But I need to scrape the ice off the windshield first.

7. Underground parking is a must in the Midwest.

January 2014

8. Car shopping sucks. Get a new one before yours dies in Mount Airy with all your stuff in it.

9. I can blog by talking into my phone. Technology!

10. Lacrosse has been the official team sport of Maryland since 2003.

11. The battle of Bunker Hill did not actually occur on Bunker Hill.

12. I will probably never develop orthorexia (thank goodness)!

13. Wisconsin is cold.

February 2014

14. Naps are underrated.

15. A true friend is one who listens to you cry and make unintelligble sounds for a solid half hour on the phone.

March 2014

16. Identity theft sucks.

17. Southwest Airlines offers free alcoholic beverages on Saint Patrick’s Day.

April 2014

18. Seeing your school lose in a sports game is still depressing, even as a grad student.

May 2014

19. Making good on resolutions is so not my thing.

June 2014

20. Arguing about race in high school musicals is one way to end a friendship.

21. Getting fined for horseplay in a state park is a horrible way to end a day trip.

July 2014

22. I own so much crap.

23. When bunking with three friends in a hotel, make sure your phone’s ringer is turned off at night.

August 2014

24. My favorite wine still exists, but it’s only available in Puerto Rico now.

25. Turkey burgers are fun and easy to make.

September 2014

26. Frustration is futile; forgiveness is fantastic.

27. I am a good person and I can make it on my own.

and as a bonus

28. I’m actually a pretty good cook.

So there we go.

27 years old…bring it on.

This post was inspired by my new online crush Taryn Southern‘s “Awkward Lessons from Instagram” video. Thank you, don’t sue.

6

Heard It Through The Laptop

Today, I heard some voices through my laptop.

No, it wasn’t Marvin Gaye. Nor was it Gladys Knight and the Pips. Nor did it tell me to plow under my corn and build a baseball field.

My dad sent me a link to an mp3 tonight, and with him and my sister in the room, I opened it.

And what I heard amazed me.

The crackle of the static and the whistle of the feedback yielded to the first voice, accented by the chirp of a parakeet in the background.

“Stanley? Stanley…Stanley?”

It sounded like a sweet old lady, but not at all who I thought it was. But as she began her recitation, it became clear exactly who it was.

“Dear children, and grandchildren, and the children who will come after we are gone…”

It was my grandmother. She identified herself, and announced the date as November 17, 1972, and began to tell the story of how she, along with my grandfather, great-uncle, great-grandmother, and aunt (a baby at the time) escaped Nazi Germany in 1938.

I’ve heard this story many times, from my grandmother before she passed away in 2005 at age 94, and then from my father. Even I have retold the story, a few times. First, shortly after my grandmother’s death, to a group of students from my college, and then one day to my friend Stacey over lunch at Franklin Dining Commons, during my junior year at UMass, who listened with wide eyes and a spoonful of cereal that never made it to her mouth. My grandmother openly told the story at school assemblies, in synagogue, and even on camera for the Steven Spielberg Holocaust Archives at Yale University.

But this was the first time I heard it through the voice that my father knew, that my aunt knew, before age deepened and roughened it slightly. She spoke slowly, with grace and dignity, adding dramatic pauses for effect and choosing her words very carefully.

After a few minutes, another voice emerged from the background.

It was not a familiar voice, but it was one that I felt like I had known forever.

My grandfather.

My grandfather, whose name is in mine, who died in 1973.

I had never heard his voice…until now.

For the next twenty or so minutes, we listened to the story that we all knew, now told by my grandfather. His voice was slightly more accented than my grandmother’s was, but it wasn’t hard to match the voice with the photos I’ve seen of him, notwithstanding the fact that I always imagined him speaking in a deep voice with a German accent, which is exactly what I heard.

But listening to him, it was like hearing the story told for the first time.