Sunday, January 13, 2013

13.1.13 - Because this is Israel

It's been a while. I know. But then, nothing really happened for me to need to process it in writing, so I suppose that's a good sign.

Cue dramatic music.

I happen to have a soft spot for The Golden Girls, in particular, Sofia, so in her wise words, picture it: Tel Aviv, 2013. An ideal Saturday. Breakfast with friends and their kids who we hadn't seen in an age; followed by a fun family lunch with the cousins, to be topped off by coming home to catch up with other friends whom we hadn't seen in way too long, expecting their own little one in a few short months. You have friends over, you offer them refreshments. So out came the biscuits and tea and coffee. And then it happened.

My 18 month old pulled a cup of scalding hot tea off the table, spilling it all over his body.

Within half a second I darted over, undressing him to see exactly where he was hurt. Luckily, it missed his face, (although a few spots hit his chin) and some dripped on his neck and chest, but the major burn was on his left bicep. As I watched his skin peel, I had him halfway out the front door, shouting instructions at my husband to grab a jacket and get in the car. Our friends, angels that they are, drove us straight to the local children's hospital, Dana, where he was seen immediately, given pain relief, examined by a plastic surgeon, wound dressed and release form signed within an hour.  We were home by bedtime.

So, first things first, I am eternally grateful to our friends who simply didn't blink; they stayed by our side throughout the entire ordeal and both contacted me today to see how my brave boy was doing (which is excellent by the way, but I'll get to that later.) I am also extremely impressed, but on second thought not that surprised by, the efficiency of the children's hospital. You know why?
Because this is Israel.

In all the hubbub of running between children's emergency and the plastic surgeon, my son's coat got left behind in the waiting room. I called the hospital later that evening to see if anyone had seen it and could put it aside, feeling trivial and rather materialistic for asking an emergency nurse to waste her time doing so, especially on the heels of a nurses' strike in this country. The nurses response? "Of course we'll look for it - your son needs his coat!"

I hopped on my bike later that evening and went down to the hospital to search for it. When I arrived at plastics, a family who had seen us come and go was still in the waiting room. I hadn't really noticed them but they remembered me and asked how my baby boy was doing. I told them fine, but we had forgotten his jacket. Three of them at once shouted, "We know! We were saving it for you in case you came back! But a doctor just came and took it away!" A young girl from the family, perhaps all of seven, led me through the double doors (she knew the code to get through!) and said, "I hope you find the coat. And I hope your son feels better. Poor thing. He's really cute." As she turned on her heels and sped away, a nurse, whom I had no recollection of, shoved the jacket in my face and said, "Here's his jacket. How is he feeling? Poor little guy. Hope he recovers speedily." And then he went back to sorting paddle pop sticks and gauze.

This is Israel.

Another friend of mine who had a baby recently had noticed a slight "deviation" if you will between the generosity of friends from abroad and friends here in Tel Aviv. She asked if I had had the same experience, to which I replied, "Totally. Look - its impossible to get a tradesman here to do good work or use decent materials, or to get a government worker to work a second past closing time, but when it comes to the children, only the best." She smiled and agreed. It's true; most buildings in Tel Aviv are made out of sticky tape and chewing gum and God forbid you arrive a minute past two at the tax office to file a form, but if there's a baby involved, everything is different. Pharmacists let you cut stupidly long lines; everyone moves aside on the bus to help you get the pusher through and they insist you take their seat; the checkout chick at the supermarket who hasn't smiled since the release of Thriller grins at your little menace pulling apart her chewing gum display, "because he's happy, let him be."

When it comes to the children, we all religiously follow the unwritten law that says they should have it better than we did. You give them everything you have because they deserve the best. When you can't do that, or worse, they feel pain or suffering and there's very little you can do about it, you begin to get an insight into why people in this country are so intense and crazy and wonderful, all in the same moment.

Becoming a parent, I knew there would sleepless nights, stretch marks, mess and stains and all sorts of noise. All of that I was prepared for. But this, the soul crushing guilt, this is the stuff Jewish stereotypes are made of and for bloody good reason. It's simply awful. My husband and I played "it was my fault because..." for about 20 minutes after we climbed into bed last night, realizing we had to stop ourselves before one of us just jumped out the window in shame. My husband stayed home with him today to help him recuperate and to, you know, spoil the living crap out of him, which I am only sorry I wasn't there to do myself. They played all morning in pyjamas, watched cartoons, ate cookies, played in the park, went a bought a new bimba (tricycle) and had chocolate milk too. Everyone was smiles and cuddles and laughter until bath time. Until the awful red spots and open wound came back into full view. Carefully bathing, not splashing in bubbles like we usually do, having to gently place a clean, medicated bandage on a wriggly 18 month old who believes running around the house naked is an olympic sport he's training for, was awful. It looked awful. I felt awful.

My son's biggest concern was that we hadn't chosen a book and sung his favorite bedtime song yet. That, to him, was awful.

The doctor said that there won't be any permanent scarring, thank God, and it should all heal in matter of days. Well, my son will.  My husband and I, well, that's a different story altogether.
Because this is, and we are, Israel.

1 comment:

  1. dear Jamie,
    I read your open letter carefully with tears in my eyes. first of all I'm glad to ear that your little angel is doing well. then I wanted to say that I know what it's like to feel guilty. I'm not Jewish but as a catholic guilt is running trough my veins. I moved to Israel 8 months pregnant following my israeli husband from Switzerland... quite a different environment Israel?! my baby boy is now 15 months. I raised him on my own 12 hours a day without any family support. I made so many mistakes... my god so many! and I'm sure I will continue to make more because at the end of the day I am only a human; true also a parent, but still a human being dealing with a 15 month old little monkey that tries all day to change the beautiful shape of his head. most of the times I avoid accidents but sometimes I'm not fast enough. nothing bad ever happened but you know... guilt is always there. it's our cross to carry as parents, our sacerdotal.
    I wish you all the best in life. I'll be happy to hear from yo and your family very soon.
    take care,

    Maria Camer Levi