The Wall in My Grandmother’s Living Room

One of the walls in my grandmother’s living room had protruding plaster bulges. I watched them dance and wondered which concert or country or book they represented in my grandmother’s life. I pictured them grow and shrink with each remembering of a memory as it came up in her breathing and travelling thoughts. What if she picked up that small souvenir violin she bought in Prague and in response, her wall would hum along with the battery-powered toy? What if the wall remembered her life as she did?

I pictured two sweaty painters in tank tops come into her apartment with buckets, starting to throw balls of wet plaster onto the wall. I pictured my grandmother laughing with them and smiling to herself. I thought how lucky the painters were to get paid to throw things at walls and change them and bring them to life. How lucky they were to laugh with my grandmother and cool down in her apartment filled with classical music and air conditioning.

My grandmother’s life has lost its breath, along with its music and memories, so what does her wall remember now? Has it receded into itself to be flat like all the other walls?

/michal

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Natan’s Funeral

Foreword: I found some writing I did about my beloved great uncle’s funeral. It never felt complete enough to share, but I realized now that it never will be complete.

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Central Bus Station of Tel Aviv is a tangle of escalators woven between venders selling cheap T-shirts and phone cases.

“How do I get to Yehud?” I ask the woman at the bus information booth. “By foot,” she says, and pauses longer than I would have if I were trying to be funny, like she was. I am not in the mood to acknowledge her humour and wait for the follow-up answer. “Line 37.”

An old lady with short maroon hair and short yellow teeth asks me if this is the bus line to Yehud. I say yes as I shift on the bench to make room for her. She says she had been sitting for three hours on the bus from Carmiel, so I shouldn’t bother. Is she also going to the funeral? What else could there possibly be in Yehud that is more important? Is she an old friend of Natan’s? Am I?

From the corner of my own avoiding eyes, I see the sweating bus driver look out his window as he hands me a ticket.

We pass by Canada Park, not quite close enough to enter its borders. I was just there yesterday, and now I am here. Where am I going?

Oh right, Yehud, which means “Jew” in Arabic. My stop is Ha’atzmaut, which means “independence” in Hebrew. Do these words tense up as I think of them?

I am family, kind of. We are related, somehow. I stand amongst others who are much closer to Natan, and to each other, than me. “It’s good to see you,” they say. Yes, in some way it is good. My unplanned visit is good on today’s small irrelevant scale of joy.

The sun is strong and unrelenting, shining wholeheartedly on the sombre gathering. We share sunscreen with familial kindness, as if we have grown up together and remember all those days at the beach from our childhood. We stay quiet.

The familiarity is cracked when one of Natan’s nephews asks me how I am doing in English. I respond in stubborn Hebrew, perhaps with an accent, perhaps incorrectly.

A large and indifferent religious man flatly recites some prayers. He must be used to death. He reminds me of the venders I saw earlier today at the Carmel Market, yelling about five shekel carrot juice and fresh fish. But this man at the funeral is selling something else.

Four men bring out a stretcher with a body covered in heavy fabric with shining inscriptions. Natan’s son begins to speak, describing how he was unsure what to write at four in the morning. He describes his father as the curious, brilliant, loving man that he was. He speaks to the body directly, glancing up every few words.

The grandchildren speak about him with delicate detailed memories, such that it is clear that he was their friend and not just their grandfather. His caregiver has a speech written in English, but she cannot stop crying, so she stands as another woman reads it to the crowd.

Two graves away from today’s fresh and painful addition lies his son, Micha, who died many years ago. They are now forever beside each other, together again.

/michal

Conversations with My Father

It’s not your fault that you told me to go on a diet when I was 7. It’s not your fault that you told me I looked 4 months pregnant after a holiday meal. It’s not your fault for yelling at my mom for eating 3 grapes after dinner. It’s not your fault that you look me up and down when I come home, checking to see that I am still skinny and within your standards.

It’s my fault for remembering.

Right?

You tell me to take myself less seriously.

/michal

An Open Letter to Myself

Dear Self,

Hello again. Sometimes I forget you exist. I know that a brief letter from out of the blue won’t make much of a difference, but it’s a start. Indeed, one letter can be the start – or a restart – of feeling understood and at home. I am writing to you to acknowledge my own absence. I have been away, busy with “external important busy things”… you wouldn’t understand. You’re always so caught up in words and music and being free. I feel like I have to support you all the time, but in doing so, I never get to see you. It’s like a marriage where one of the people is always working so that the other one could be living their dream. Is that what we want?

You always ask so many questions of me, of those around us, and of the world. Can’t you just sit quietly and let things be? I don’t have answers for you. I never did. And I don’t have time to consider them fully. I am working so that our future is logical, safe, and good. Sometimes I think we disagree. Sometimes I think that you would rather be spontaneous than smart, or free rather than grounded.

I try to “be myself.” What does that mean? Am I not you? Are you and I not the same? Can I ever not be “myself”? Here you (I?) go with the questions again.

Take care now,

Michal (me) (you) (us)

I Wrote A Book!

I published a book of poems and short stories which can be purchased on Amazon.

I am including the preface below:

The words in your hands are excerpts from my journal.

These words are, more than anything, a documentation of who I have been while becoming who I am. I’m not done doing that, yet.

These words are my thoughts from ages 17 to 19.

These words are shared with you as an act of acceptance.

Each piece of writing included in this book has a timestamp. I have come to value time as an essential definition of my present state. I find comfort in making note of the precise minute in which words come to me, as if that knowledge will somehow allow me to relive the words more authentically.

I am reminded of the precision of timestamps on birth and death certificates, and I have come to think of these words as birth and death certificates of past and future selves, tumultuously ever-changing. Writing the timestamp is my way of feeling in control during the fluid and rapid process of change that has become my definition of aliveness.

/michal

Tell Me A Story

I will tell you an unfinished story. (Aren’t all stories unfinished, if they are still being told?). The story is one that is common to us all. It is about the search for your true, genuine self, if such a thing even exists.

The search begins with realizing that you even need to search for yourself. It begins with trying to define yourself to yourself and to other people, and noticing a difficulty in finding the right words.

The next stage is understanding the value in having the freedom to define yourself, accompanied by a fear of tackling such a feat.

Then you need to commit to try.

After this, you continue living your life in search of yourself, always changing, always moving, always learning. Life is a continuous process of reevaluation of yourself and your ideas. Never are you complete. Never are you finished. This story is never finished as long as people have the courage to face their lack of knowledge of themselves. Learning to search for your inner self – rather than actually finding it – is the meaning of life, if there is one at all.

/michal