by Brian on July 21, 2005

in A Parent in Israel

“How did this happen?” seven-year-old Aviv asked suddenly one night.


“How did what happen, sweetie?” my wife Jody replied.


“How did it happen that Amir and Merav get to go to America and I have to stay here,” Aviv pronounced with a mix of confusion and rising consternation.


Meanwhile, thirteen-year-old Amir and his eleven-year-old sister Merav were in a very different head space.


While Amir spent his last minutes before we left for the airport with his nose to the grindstone (the computer in this case), juggling several simultaneous chat and Skype sessions while doing some impromptu bug testing of my new company’s software, Merav broke out in song every few minutes and hugged me, unable to contain her excitement.


“We’re going to America!” she squealed with glee. “Alone!” she added.


Yes, our two older kids were about to become our very first, bonafide B.U.M.s.


Blum Unaccompanied Minors, that is.


It seemed like such a good idea at the time. Amir and Merav would get a chance to spend a few weeks in California
with their grandparents on their own. We were sure they’d have some
incredible adventures, unmitigated by prying parents, while getting to
know that other half of their dual citizenship a bit better.


But as the moment of truth approached, I was a nervous Nelly.


Jody had already gone over all the rules of being a good guest.


“Remember to always say please and thank you.”


“Yes Imma.”


“Always offer to help.”


“Yes Imma.”


“And don’t leave your towel on the bathroom floor,” I added.


“Because when you left your towel on the floor when you visited your grandparents, they almost kicked you out, right Abba?” Merav said, recalling my ultimate family fashla.


“And well they should have,” I said.


The babysitter arrived and it was time to head to the airport.


“OK, let’s go through
this one more time,” I said in the car as we sped down Highway One in
the direction of Tel Aviv. I began my instructional narrative one final
time. “Now, when you get to Newark, the escort will take you through customs…”


“Will there be TV screens on each seat?” Merav interrupted.


“Yes…then you go into the customs area where you have to identify your luggage. You don’t have to take it, but…”


“Can I have the window seat, Amir?”


“Sure, whatever, Merav. Hey Abba, do you think we’ll get a hot stewardess on the plane?” he asked, entirely serious.


“First of all, that’s
not an appropriate question,” I answered. “And second, they’re called
flight attendants now, not stewardesses. Now then, you’ll be walked to
a waiting room in Newark until it’s time for your next flight….you got all that?”


“What? Huh? I wasn’t listening really,” Merav said.


“Me either,” said Amir.


I would have thrown my hands up in the air. But I was driving. And we were out of time.


As we parked the car and headed through security on our way towards the check-in counter, I started acting out my nervousness by telling anyone and everyone around me of our unique situation.


“It’s our first time,” I said, hoping to elicit a compassionate smile or some reassurance from the check-in agent that our kids would be well-tended. Jody rolled her eyes.


“Come back at 9:45 PM. Meet at Counter 17,” the agent said matter-of-factly after she’d processed our Unaccompanied Minor forms and taken our payment.


“That’s it?” I said.


“Is there something more you need?”


“No, not really, I guess…”


A couple of other kids were already hanging out with their parents. They had large orange ribbons on their backpacks.


Enough with the ribbons already!


As we waited, it occurred to me that this wasn’t any worse than when we sent Amir and Merav to Scout’s camp just a few weeks before. There, it was other kids running the show. Here at least it was a professional.


The agent arrived a few minutes late and immediately started marching us towards passport control. No hello or chirpy introduction:


“Good evening, my name is Mandy, and we’re so happy you’ve chosen to send your children half way around the world with just me in charge, an unsmiling bored desk clerk who was corralled into this dead end job after I spilled one too many tomato juice cocktails on a passenger’s lap…oh, well, I digress….”


“I’m going to miss you guys so much,” I said to the kids as we said our goodbyes.


“We won’t,” Merav said, then quieted when she realized that wasn’t what I wanted to hear. But she couldn’t contain herself.


“We’re going to America!”


And then they were off. Fading into a small blur as they disappeared into the bowels of Ben Gurion.


24 hours later, they called from Papa Mike’s cell phone at LAX. They’d made it fine.


Yes, the escort in Newark almost put them on a plane to San Francisco instead of Los Angeles,
and they lost their kosher meals, but they made do. The things that
bother us as parents, the small organizational details that make us
wacko, they don’t phase our kids at all.


After all, they’re going to America. Alone. Just a couple of B.U.M.s. And we’re going to be just fine.


All of us.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous July 22, 2005 at 6:39 pm

Yehudis Gross writes:

What a smile this article brought to my face and thanks for the picture to go
along with the article!
2 Anonymous July 22, 2005 at 7:06 pm

Amir writes:

Hey Abba! When I asked that question you didn't say that it was unapropriate! You like those questions and laugh when I ask them! So don't go making yourself seem like a goodygoody father to all your readers! 😉
3 Anonymous July 23, 2005 at 9:53 pm

Uh oh… you caught me, Amir…in public even. Yes, it's true, dear readers…sometimes I fudge things to make for a more engaging story. Yes, Amir, I laughed, but don't tell anyone…oops, I just did…

4 Anonymous July 25, 2005 at 6:12 pm

Cathy writes:

Wonderful article! It captures that bittersweet feeling of being a parent to a growing child- old enugh to want independence (and privacy, or, as they call it, 'space') and young enough to need our better (sometimes) judgment and protection.
By the way, I found you very recently because of Honest Reporting.
5 Anonymous July 28, 2005 at 7:38 pm

Mrs. Chaya Baila Spira writes:

Dear Brian,
I usually enjoy reading your column and this time was no exception. However, I must comment on what you probably considered a throw away, cheap line, but one that I found pretty revealing for a non/apolitical column:
” Enough with the ribbons already!”
You may not consider the land holy, you may think that evicting close to 10,000 people from homes they built is a no big deal if it will bring peace (not sure what you're basing that assumption on considering you yourself admit in the published article that Israel is not dealing with a credible partner) – you're entitled to your opinion – but so are the people who are being kicked out of there homes and their supporters. The expulsion hasn't happened yet – why shouldn't they continue to try to fight it? What harm does an orange ribbon do (especially unaccompanied by bullets or bombs). Are you that shaky in your pro-expulsion stance that a mere ribbon makes you feel uneasy? What's so bad about what it represents (even if you disagree with it)? Do you really think they have no legitimate reasons for wanting to stay? Are you 100% certain that only good will come out of the deportation, so that anyone resisting must be on the side of evil? Would you be so against the ribbons if they were pink for breast cancer awareness? Even if you had been subjected to seeing them all over town for weeks at a time?
6 Anonymous August 2, 2005 at 12:46 am

Dennis H. writes:

Enjoyed the article. Very funny and moving. Made more so,because I play tennis with Papa Mike every friday morning,and now understand why he was unable to play that Friday.
I know that your children are ahving a ball.
Love reading your columns.

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