Please Leave Me A Note: The Language Of Personal Notes

My husband Tzvi and I were the kind of people who left notes to each other, they were short, very often functional, but full with attention and love. By the time our first daughter was born, we had been writing notes for almost 8 years.

 At that time we lived in the US but, of course, we always corresponded in Hebrew. I never thought about the complex meaning of English versus Hebrew until it was time to read to my daughter. I knew that she would learn  English in pre-school, so we decided  to read to her mostly in Hebrew.

But then I started to think about the language of her future notes. As personal notes are such an intimate form of communication, I felt that it was crucial for my daughters (first the one and soon after the two) to be able to write them in Hebrew.

 Thus I decided to teach my daughters to read and write in Hebrew. I explained to them my rationale, and they agreed to make an effort. We created our own Hebrew school and every Sunday wrote letters to their grandparents, and invented  stories that the girls wrote in their note books.

 Although Tzvi and I spoke Hebrew at home, there was a period when my daughters spoke English to one another. I used to hear them play school with their stuffed animals giving them instructions in English. I didn’t say anything, but was worried about the future of those personal notes. Then we had spent a Sabbatical year in Israel and once we  moved  back to the US I noticed that the girls naturally shifted  back into Hebrew.

  Around us there were many Israeli friends who spoke English with their children. The strong Hebrew accent in English of the parents in contrast to the perfect accent of the children seemed to reflect something about the relationship within the family. I felt that it  weakened the position of  the parent in the new country.

 I had some frame of reference, since Israel has always been  an immigrant society. Often when new immigrants arrived to Israel they knew very little Hebrew and their  children normally became fluent in the language much faster than their parents and grandparents. A friend of mine told me that when she was 11 in the late 1960s she used to accompany her grandmother everywhere, especially to places like the local  hospital and different government offices. She was the interpreter for her grandmother who knew no Hebrew. This is a typical story, those children who became the mouthpiece for the whole family  were put in an awkward position. On the one hand, they gained a special status in the family because of their responsible role. On the other hand, this reversal of roles, in which the child is the ambassador to  the outside world, was also a source  of confusion for everybody within that family.

Our Israeli friends in the US were young professionals whose English was good enough and they didn’t need an interpreter, but still they lived in a foreign country where their children had a better mastery of the English language.  I felt that speaking to my daughters in my native tongue was  a better way to preserve the traditional roles in our family.

And as for the personal notes, my daughters, who spent most of their life in the US, prefer to read and write in English. But whenever I come home to find a note from one of my daughters, it is always written in Hebrew. This makes me especially happy.

 

 

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My Wishful Thinking List

A fellow writer wrote a beautiful blog on “My Wish List” and as I read her piece, something inside stirred me along with her challenge to write a wish list of my own.  I thought, “why not?”  This fits in perfectly in my year of turning 50.  Reflecting back, here are a few standouts that I remember fondly:

 

1. I don’t recall what happened to my nanny home tutor.  I wish I had stayed in touch with her more often while growing up.  I don’t know whether my mother sent her back to her home province or if she left because she had to.  Looking back, I wish I knew the reason why.

 

2. I wish I had the courage to look up at the trees.  If I did, what would I have seen?  As soon as it started to get dark, I’d run home in fear.  My sensitivities as a child were high and I always felt invisible presences around me.  Someone or something was looking down on me as I ran home.  How I wish I had the bravery to look up!  

 

3. I wish I had kept my gemstone collection.  I was way ahead of my time then!  I came home from college and living abroad after 5 years and developed a fascination for the occult and the mystic world.  My own family couldn’t figure me out and had trouble accepting my weirdness.  In anger and frustration, I gave them all away.  What a treasure I had then!

 

4. I wish I had more time and opportunity to get to know my grandparents from both sides of the family.  Growing up, both grandfathers were already ill.   My grandmother on my father’s side was very attentive and caring however, I felt distanced from her.  If I could go back in time, the first thing I’d do is sit beside her, hold her hand and talk to her.

 

5. I never had a proper college graduation.  I graduated off-season and never marched on stage to get my diploma.  It was simply mailed to me.  I never wore a toga and never had the opportunity to throw my cap into the air.  I wonder what it would have felt like?

 

There are so many things one always wishes for.  It’s good to spring clean the mind too.  These are five good thoughts and wishes worth remembering!

 

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A Drink Is Just a Drink

A friend's coffee maker was found non-functional this morning.  That means different things to each of us.  For me, it's time to go to the backup.  We have Keurig as primary but keep a Cuisinart in the closet...just in case.  We also have Starbucks Via on hand...just in case.  And a French press, with ground coffee in the freezer...just in case...and teas, in case I get really desperate.

Fortunately, there are also three coffee shops within a twelve minute walk, six if I jog it.  There's also a Wendy's, who serves coffee, and a Minute Mart who offers a coffee facsimile, if the situation is dire. 

Yes, coffee and I share a mature relationship.  Although friends at one point thought that I'd been born suckling coffee, I didn't take it up until I was in my twenties and in the military.  As I ~ shudder ~ AGED, I found a little caffeine on the midnight shifts helped stay awake and breathing.  I wasn't particular.  Sanka instant was available.  Nuke some water, shovel a few spoons in, stir.  Good enough.  Or the day shift had left some in the 30 cup coffee urn.  Heat it up, I'll drink it, or there was some cold stuff remaining in a carafe. 

In essence, I was a coffee scavenger, going brew to brew, consuming whatever was available.  A pivot point came.  Pivot points are always educational moments when your attitude or direction changes.  You eat steak for years then one day enjoy a well prepared prime cut.  Suddenly your taste buds sit up, startled, inquiring, what's this?  A legacy organic tomato comes onto your plate after years of hothouse tomatoes.  Romaine replaces iceberg.  Craft beers replace American lagers and Pinot Noirs replace Boonesfarm and Mad Dog 20-20.

Like an educated mind, an educated palate creates that pivot point.  You become more thoughtful and aware of the nuances.  What once passed as acceptable becomes scorned. 

Tasting a good cup of coffee opened me up to what was really out there.  I bought a coffee maker and a grinder for my home.  I added an espresso machine.  Did it all at home, sampling beans and roasts, storing them, trying them, refining my preferences.  Making and drinking coffee became a ritual.  Like wines, beers, cheeses and fruits, I found certain roasts go better with different foods, and could be dependent upon the time of day. 

I was hooked. 

It became known as so at my offices.  I always had a cup close by and passed judgement on what was brewed.  My coffee drinking at work grew legendary.  I liked arriving early so I could make it 'right'.  When we moved into new locations, co-workers suggested that lines be connected to the break room so I could have an IV drip from the coffee pot to my arm. 

Yet, priorities pass on to other matters.  Rituals consume time and I needed time for other requirements.  Coffee makers and roasters were also becoming more refined and sophisticated.  I moved from maker to maker until...along came the Keurig. 

At first, I dismissed the Keurig with contempt.  Coffee premeasured in a cup?  Bah, what good could it be?  Friends and relatives swore by them.  My wife wanted one.  She thought it would be convenient.  The words cut me;  had I fallen so low in my coffee consumption that convenience was my greatest measure? 

But...convenience is nice.

We bought the Keurig and tried different roasts and providers via the K-cups.  I had a K-cup whereby I could make my own and did so.  Meanwhile, I found Newman's extra bold French roast. 

Not bad.

Along came some northwest French bold.

Ah, there we go.  Now we were cooking.  The Keurig and I became friends.

It's worked out well with the Keurig.  I have my small collection of preferred roasts for different times.  My wife, who prefers coffee flavored water, has her K-cups, and we can offer guests a variety at will.  There is still a ritual but it's much easier, easily incorporated with other morning rituals of powering up the computers, feeding the cats, opening the back door to confirm the world is still there and sipping a glass of hot water (yes, it's another morning ritual).  The rituals are routines, freeing me to slip into my meditations and drift toward the daily writing and the works in progress and the tall masts of new ideas rising up over my imagination's horizons. 

The ritual is a pivot point embraced each day.  As it passes, the day really begins.

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The Facts Most Astounding

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"If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal — that is your success. All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself. The greatest gains and values are farthest from being appreciated. We easily come to doubt if they exist. We soon forget them. They are the highest reality. Perhaps the facts most astounding and most real are never communicated by man to man. The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched."

 

Henry David Thoreau

Walden

 

 

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Stephen Evans A Visitor to your Planet: A One-Minute Play
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Beckett would be envious.
Stephen Evans A Visitor to your Planet: A One-Minute Play
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One word: Fritatta

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