Monday, 29 October 2012


Little Warrior, he tried to subdue
you and rape your intellect.
You would not cease not submit.
Your books against your chest
Steadfast with your armour,

You turned and traveled home
And he watched and he waited
As you passed, he cocked his rifle
shot his dirty bullet, and
it tore through your skull,

and spattered across
the other children riding home
on that bus, on that day.
He then ran, as they do,
to his friends, to tell his tale.

They played your video on TV.
You, little warrior, woke
to white sheets, in a white room
and guarding family, celebrating
That you could stand. Stand again.

That you could ask for your books
but could you speak? I wondered,
slipping my view around your
mother's tired shoulders, I watched

While on exhibit, your
enduring eyes search the new room,
learning the imposed changes
to a world of 15 years.

Your father greeted the press
His smile maintained between gasping,
grasping water, and pausing
He described funeral plans and
I cried, and my daughter came to me

but you are alive to lift
your sword again with hilt
in hand, settling into soft skin.
Before scoring and scarring it.
All at 15 years

You are to return to your
rapist and his army,
Knowing he is loading his gun, again.
Knowing your father may cry again.
Your father will wave you off to battle.

I held my daughter,  tightly.
Sheltering her eyes from
the news of men who hate
A choice, I have.

Her head against my breast. She
felt my heart beating, so she said.
I thought of you, passing your
predator, when you clear fields for
little girls who trail behind you,
skipping between your footprints.

I unlock my arms and
my daughter breathes easier.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Trapped in Wendy's World

I remember standing in the hallway of the old synagogue, waiting... quietly... for the classroom door to open, waiting to take our seats and open our Hebrew books and recite our Hebrew letters.  It was the last class of the day, but our first class considered serious in the preparation for our bat mitzvahs. While waiting and wondering about such important issues like will Julie and Gopher's secret love stay secret, I felt a kick at my back. It was a hard kick, hard enough to knock me in to the cold cement wall, making me gasp.  I then heard a rapture of squealing laughter coming from a group of girls. They were pushing in and slopping up the entertainment. In the front of those girls, stood Wendy. A soured face girl with thin lips,  a pushed in pug nose and squinting eyes, all harshly framed with a fringe.   She wore argyle woollen sweaters, creased chino trousers with penny loafers, which also was the uniform of her lackeys.

 I turned to her. She smiled, squinting her red-rat eyes, and I stepped forward about to kick back when she cuddled into a teacher, who held her tightly.  Mrs R said, finger pointing, "Don't you dare!" I turned back around, which is when Wendy kicked me again.  This time, I just turned my head around and stared at the teacher. She stared back, raising her eye brows and Wendy smiled her winning smile and the line moved on.

Life at that time didn't imitate art because in this small girl's world the "baddie" always won. I was the kid who followed the rules, obeyed my mother, my teachers, was kind to my peers and elders, never lied,  never swore. She was the kid who ripped out pages of the bible and used it for spit balls, similar to the ones found stuck to my cheek or dangling from my hair.Wendy achieved the award of Best Student that year and life continued to defy logic. If it was possible for a little girl to hate, I hated her.

However, somewhere inside my thoughts,  I was consoled by the hope that to every negative there was a waiting positive, to every push there must be a pull, to every horrendous unkind act that Wendy did, there had to be an unkind act slapping back at her.

And then one day it happened, my proof, in our synagogue's adaptation of Annie, Wendy declared her unhappiness at not getting the lead role.  She took second to my friend Clair. Accepting her position with hostility, she talked through scene rehearsals, mocked performances and questioned the teacher's decisions.  The teacher continued to sigh and turn to Wendy, requesting appropriate behaviour.  Wendy ignored her and grew louder with her taunts. The teachers voice grew in assertiveness and volume and Wendy matched it note for note. Finally, Ms. G whipped around and shouted, "Shut up, just shut up!"

"You can't tell me to shut up, you are just a teacher.  You shut up!" Wendy snarled loudly.  That is when it happened. Mrs. G spun around, hand following, high in the air, and coming down with full force to a hard slap.  Wendy with her new red glow, stood quiet, shaken, as did the teacher.  "I am telling the principal," she whimpered, "I will have you fired."

Mrs. G released her breath, slowly, deliberately and quietly whispered, "Good, go, you know where his office is."  Wendy left and Ms. G turned to us and without a word picked up her baton and led us in song and we sang, "The Sun Will Come Out, Tomorrow."   Ms G returned the next day and the day after that and nothing happened and Wendy learned a bit of humiliaty, at least towards Ms. G. That was it, my formula for life had been restored. 

I enjoyed that slap, and the nine year old in me, today, still thinks about it and smiles. However, it haunted me at the time.  I knew that slap was wrong, violence shouldn't be used.  No one deserves to be hit. I had been taught all of those things by my family and had it confirmed in my religious studies. Well, that is until the assault happened. When Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, came, and the Book of Life was opened and lists for life or death were made, this event loomed large.  I realised I had to seek forgiveness from Wendy. I approached her and then I circled around her, my stomach tightened.  I waited for her to be alone, but that didn't happen, so I said, "Excuse me, Wendy, can I talked to you for a moment?"

"No,"she replied.

"I really need to talk to you,"I continued.

And with a mocking reply, and high screechy voice, she said, "I really need to talk to you. NO!"

" I enjoyed seeing you get hit." seem to burst out. "I am sorry."

A genuine look of hurt came across her face, "You enjoyed seeing me get hit."

"Yes, I laughed often about it and I know that's wrong and I am sorry," I waited as she stood silent.

Slowly and with disbelief, she responded, "I cannot believe that you laughed."

"Wendy, you have to understand, you have been horrible to me," pleading my case.

"I have not,"she shouted.

"Yeah, you have." Her response confused me because she had to have realised this. "Wendy, you can't naturally be that big of a bitch.  You had to have worked at it."

"I cannot believe that you called me a bitch,"inflection in the correct place, repositioning her body, shoulders and head brought back.

She turned quickly, her pony tail brushing my face as it whipped passed. Now talking to the back of her head, "I just really wanted to apologise and I wanted to let you know that I also forgive you for the horrendous things you have done."

"Teacher," she called out. "She just called me a bitch." This was not going to plan. I turned and leaned on the familiar wall and waited.

Ms. G turned around. "I am sure that you will get over that, Wendy. It is the New Year, forgiveness is important." Ms. G looked at me and smiled. I smiled back. "The bell has rung, time to go to your next class."  I raised my eyebrow, turning my smile at Wendy. She looked back at me, dropped lip, giving gasp and then a snarl and passed me to walk through the door, which slammed it in my face.  Ms. G reopened it for me and I said, "Thank you, Happy New Year."

The purpose of this post is not to say that it is alright for people to be hurt or called names but to warn you about the Wendy's that exist. Sometimes we find ourselves trapped in their worlds. Unable to fight them and unable to walk away and we are stuck, at least for a short while.

Tonight we celebrate the Jewish New Year again and at the sermon today, the rabbi talked about the importance of forgiveness from those who seek it. I had forgotten that forgiveness had to be sought before given. Wendy didn't want to change.  She didn't want forgiveness. She was quite comfortable in her skin, probably more than I was.  Her behaviour warranted my anger and my anger came from a place of self-respect. When faced with a Wendy, I want you to be alright with anger, expect better treatment. As a practicing-to-be young lady, I was instructed that anger is an unattractive trait. In the 70's, the mantra seemed to be anger hurts you more than the offender. Now that I am no longer a practicing lady or young, I realise that anger has its role, it is self preservation. It lets us know to be weary, to keep a distance.

More often than not, we can't fix the Wendy's of the world.  Their demons lurk in very dark unreachable places and we didn't set their demons free. We were simply the catalyst used to justify their demons.

Remember, little one, you will escape her world, maybe with some bruises and scrapes, maybe even a noticeable scar, but those will fade with time. I promise you that. And when you leave, you will shut the door tightly behind you, leaving Wendy alone with her Demons and, of course, the demons will have no other choice but to turn against Wendy because that is just simply what demons do.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

When Selfish Isn't A Bad Word

I threw away your father's toilet seat today.  It had been attached to a toilet about a week ago and before that to your father's backside for many an hour of solemn thought.  I suppose that had created some bond between them. A bond that was stronger than the bond given by the faulty hinge which had screamed for freedom. She was not suited to the life assigned  and she wiggled and slipped free from her station and fell from the toilet, cracking the seat she swore to protect.  Since her leap, she lay on the dining room floor, waiting for a post mortem. I threw her away.  I surrounded her with fifty magazines, that had too lain on the floor waiting for inspection.

You will probably remember this as the quiet storm.  Where daddy and I circled round and round each other in a cold cyclone, pushing the pressure up, picking up papers, sponging counters, putting away clothes, silently clearing the home of the clutter.

Your father had just finished another night shift, which meant night time routine had to be adapted and we needed to keep busy but quiet during the day.  You girls were brilliant for 3 and 7 but you were still 3 and 7 and the weather was terrible.  Had the weather not been terrible, we could have played in the park.  Had we had more notice, I would have made plans to visit friends. Had we not had Grandma and Grandpa coming for dinner, I wouldn't have felt the need to stay in the house and clean.

While I ironed, you both set up a tent in the hallway and played cops and robbers.  I ushered you back in to the toy room and shut the door.  While I prepared some food, you two decided to take the crying baby up and down the hallway.  I ushered you both back in the toy room and turned on the TV.  As I bleached tiles in the toilets and wiped away the grime. The littlest you came in crouching and hopping and I moved out of the way, so that you could do what needed to be done. I waited in the kitchen until I heard the sink throwing out water at the mirror, at the wall, at the pond developing on the floor.  I dried your hands, changed your clothes and ushered you back in to the toy room and opened the computer for the older you.

As I went through the papers and mail that went into that draw, I heard a scream, and I went to you girls, someone had accidentally kicked someone else.  I gave the injury a magical kiss, and set up a craft that I couldn't monitor because I had to season the beef and I had to peel the potatoes.  That is, until, I had to clean the paint off the wood floors that the littlest one of you was trailing in.   It was washable and I washed the table, the chairs, hung the paint soaked work of art, put the littlest you in the bath and changed your clothes, quietly, as your father slept.

I was soaked and tired and I stood up and looked in the mirror and felt that I resembled a worn tyre.  I remembered a story that Bubbie had taught me. It was about a dutiful wife and mother. Her Bubbie had told it to her, before she married. It was a story of the woman who kept a spotless home and spotless children.  Who spent all her money on the family before she spent on herself.  Who cleaned her house but didn't always have time to shower.  Who ironed everyone's clothes and if she had time she would iron her own, and because of this she had a beautiful home, beautiful husband and beautiful children.  One day her husband came in to the house and he had something in his mouth that he had to spit out.  He couldn't spit in the beautiful home, nor could he spit on the beautiful children, so he turned to his wife.  This is a very harsh analogy as your father described it and I explained it was metaphorical. If you are always last, giving yourself no value, no worth, neither will anyone else.  It is all right to take your turn.

I walked you back to the now destroyed room and finish sponging off the paint.  Plastic babies, puzzles, wet tea sets decorated the floor and I started to clean again.  Dolls in doll basket, puzzles (at least 33 of the 36 pieces that were found) back in the box and then I turned to the magazine case with its bulging, stretched form and I got a bag, a big bag, big enough to only make one trip to the recycling bin.  Your father's magazines about art, home design, politics were stained with yellow overlapping rings earned during our many late night conversations. While pages flipped by, your father and I gained ideas, many of which  would later take a position in your childhood memories of the home we created with you in mind. Maybe that is why I hesitated to throw them out. The stacks leaned against the sofa, fell over the magazine rack, fell across the kitchen table to the floor and lent itself to be slipped on. The week before, I told him that if they weren't sorted out they would be thrown out.  It was vacant threat, one I usually would not have followed through with, one that was made several times throughout our marriage, but today, I threw those magazines away and I smiled.  As I walked back through the door, I noticed the shine of a ceramic seat. I decided that like a wounded animal, it too needed to be put out of its misery and the mystery of why it didn't work, would never be found out.  I could live with that too.

Your father woke about three and smiled.  I smiled and passed him passing the baton and I went to shower and dress.  When I came back in to the kitchen. He was helping to prepare bread, he looked up and then down at the kneaded dough. He knew.  Later he mentioned it to me and I just said "Yes, Dear," as I finished putting on my lipstick and combing my hair,  "It was time."