Upon returning to California after almost seven years living in Israel, navigating the waters of change and the tides of time.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Trick or Treat?

Yesterday was Halloween, a holiday I've given little or no thought to for the last 7 years of living in Israel. We don't do Halloween there, we have Purim - l'havdil, not that they're the same thing, but in terms of children (and adults) dressing up in costumes and giving each other gifts of yummy edibles, etc., some experiential parallels can be made.

Every year during the weeks before Purim, the streets of Jerusalem and Tzfat are covered with racks and rows of (re-purposed Halloween) costumes, and I always seem to give myself a silent chuckle as I walk by and laugh inwardly at the children's costume industry that has two markets twice a year - The entire Christianized world (particularly the USA) in November, and Israel (usually around March).
So here I am in California - yes, I've been here an entire WEEK now! - and it's Halloween night. My 13 1/2 month-old fraternal twin grand-sons are, of course, being dressed up for Halloween. Because their mother, my daughter, a Leo with a natural flair for the dramatic, was raised in California, in a home that was not religiously observant, a house that not only participated in Halloween to the uttermost, but highly valued creativity and art - both important components in creating Halloween costumes.
So it would be out of the question in any way, shape or form to expect my grand-sons to be off the grid for Halloween.

With much love and great care, Zachary became Eyore and Eliot became Tigger. We saddled up Bailey the dog (wearing his worn-out grey squirrel doggie Halloween outfit which has frankly seen better days), and put the boys into their little red wagon. We gave them plastic pumpkin bowls (which they continually tried to either drink from or wear on their heads as hats) and we pulled them around the block, while it was still the tail-end of daylight, arrived home, gave them each one piece of candy, threw them in the bathtub and then to nite-nite.

My first-time Savta anticipation of this cute but fairly innocuous evening was attacked on Facebook by several FB Friends as basically one step short of race betrayal. I was told that Halloween was a Pagan holiday (I already know that, and by the way one of my best friends from my years in Long Beach is a Wiccan Priestess, but I digress). I was told that by participating in it in any way I was giving tacit approval, and my participation was a sign of my quick descent into hell because of being disconnected physically from the Land of Israel (for a week, after living there almost 7 years).

If there's anything that will enrage me in this world, it's to be attacked (or even criticized) for anything having to do with my family. In the public life I've created for myself I can be challenged on politics, religion, economics, musical tastes, in fact ANY topic and I don't get crazy - in fact, I enjoy the challenge of a vigorous debate on any topic. But when it comes to my children, all bets are off. My mega-Mama Lion Moon in Leo comes roaring out of her den, ready to rip the throats out of whomever dares to criticize my offspring and their descendents. My Mars in Scorpio starts firing up the Thermal Nuclear Warhead. It's instant WAR.

OK, maybe I over-react. But really, considering the context and history of my life and the story of me and my four children, it's understandable. And it's not only understandable, it's one of my main PTSD triggers.

So it was with great relish that I de-friended two people (the two most abusive, who continued their rants into private messages) and in the aftermath of the whole thing I have to say: Trick, or Treat? Where was the trick here, what was the treat?

THE TRICK is, of course, not getting riled by judgmental, insensitive people. The trick is to demand respect at all times and when respect isn't given, to deliver clear and immediate consequences.

THE TREAT is - I got to walk around the block pulling my grand-sons in a red wagon while they were dressed up as Eyore and Tigger! Gevaldt! That was a treat indeed, one that makes flying 6,000 miles halfway around the world and living in a culture I'm not in the least bit interested in worthwhile for me on an emotional level. And it's the emotional level that I'm here for - so yeah, it was indeed a wonderful treat. 

Will my grand-sons get dressed up for Purim this coming year? I don't know yet! Only if their mother and father allow me to make Purim a part of their lives. I don't know yet if they will, but I do know one thing - there's ZERO CHANCE of being allowed to introduce Jewish holidays to my grandsons if I put my self-righteous, holier-than-thou nose up in the air and boycott their parent's chosen cultural observances, Halloween being the chief one.

From L to R: Carleigh, David and Jesse Kude, Halloween 1987.

I'd like to close with a Halloween memory from 1996. We were living in Long Beach, California and my kids were 15, 13, 11 and 9. I was convinced that Halloween was a Pagan Holiday and that my children didn't need the extra influx of sugar, nor the exposure to "pagan rituals." I declared that we were going to go roller skating at the local roller rink instead of trick-or-treating - a decision that was met with an uproar similar to the cry of an entire village being napalmed. They yelled, they wept, they begged, they threatened, they pouted, they carried on - but I held firm. At the roller rink I was sailing along on my roller skates, when I hit the TINIEST LITTLE METALLIC EYELET from another pair of skates and went FLYING into the air, landing on my arm and BREAKING IT.
Later at the Emergency Room hospital, after I had been X-Rayed, medicated, put into a cast and sent on my way, my 11 year old son David and 9 year old son Cameron looked at me and said very solemnly: "Mom, this happened because you wouldn't let us go trick or treating. You can't win Satan on Halloween."

Words to live by, and I have ever since. "You can't win Satan on Halloween." Just like we do "Mayim Achronim" after eating a meal (Kabbalistically we say it's giving the Sitra Acher (the "Evil Inclination") something to enjoy to distract it from our simcha and kedusha), HALLOWEEN IS TO POPULAR CULTURE WHAT MAYIM ACHRONIM IS TO A SEUDA. 

May the Sitra Acher be satisfied and leave us all alone for five minutes, and may my Facebook Friends who NEED me to be an unwavering poster girl for their vision of Jewish America looks like all de-friend me before I have to de-friend them. And let us all say "Amen."

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In which I return to California after almost 7 years in Israel, because when the heart is in one place and the soul is in another, both the emotions and the body suffer.
Welcome to the chronicle of this phase of the long, strange, trippy story of my life ...