Some days with my kids are great, and some days suck.
Like today, when the rooster living in the Muslim Quarter — as loud and obnoxious as the one who lives two houses away in our village — wakes me up with his crowing when it’s still dark, and an asshole mosquito is all like, “Catch me if you can, suckah,” while I’m trying to go back to sleep, but by the time I smash him dead against the wall the call of the muezzin ripples across the Old City, and by the time I finally fall back asleep, the alarm clock’s beeping, but then the kids don’t want to wake up.
And when they do, it’s a WWF-style wrestling match to get them into clean underwear, shorts, and t-shirts, and their too-tight sandals pinch too-pudgy feet that have somehow (overnight it seems) grown too big, and, well, crap, I don’t have enough in the bank to buy new ones at least till next paycheck, which is eight days away.
And my daughter is scratching her head, which means the lice are back, and there are no clean pairs of Spiderman underwear to take to preschool for my son, and the milk tastes funny, and the Cheerios were left open so they’re stale, and we’re out of toilet paper, and “Mama! It’s Number 2!!!” and the kids can’t find that one special doll hidden in the mass graveyard of stuffed animals on the floor, and then it’s an epic fight because they want the same doll, because, of course.
Yeah, it’s been a long day, and it isn’t even 8:00 a.m.
And you know what? I miss my mom.
I dreamed about her last night, and I can’t remember what it was, but all I know is it made me sad, and I just miss her.
My kids are grouchy, too. They’re dragging their feet, and even though it’s only morning, it’s hot out, and we’re sweating, and they’re thirsty and they’re hungry, and “Mama, my toenail hurts” and “Mama, you never buy us chocolate milk,” and I turn around and snarl, “What do you want from me?”
My daughter tosses her head and storms in front of me toward the gate when we see Abdullah. His hair is glossy black, “dense black,” even the sideburns, so it must be date night. Maybe that’s why he’s in a good mood.
“Good morning! Good morning!” he says to us. “How are you?” he asks my kids by name.
My kids shuffle their feet and ignore him, and this is where I start to lose it, because “Kids, when someone you know asks how you are, you look them in the eye and answer them and make sure you always add ‘and how are you?’ because no child of mine will act like a selfish asshole who doesn’t treat others with the same dignity and respect given to them.”
Abdullah bends down to their level and he looks my daughter and my son in the eyes.
“How old are you today?” he asks.
“You know that already,” my son says. “I’m seven, and she’s eight.”
“No,” Abdullah asks. “How old are you really?” He smiles and rocks back on his heels, and my kids shift their weight from one foot to the other.
“Three,” my son answers.
“Two,” my daughter answers.
“Well, that explains it,” Abdullah answers. “And it’s hard to be two and three on a hot day like today.”
My kids smile.
He turns to me, wags his finger and winks. “And you, Mama? How old are you?”
“No . . .” he says long and drawn with a twinkle in his eye. “Just like your son and daughter aren’t seven and eight today, I don’t think you’re really thirty-five today. How old are you really?”
“Fine. I’m six.”
“Well, I think the best thing to do when you’re two and three and six is have ice cream on a hot day.”
“But . . .” I interrupt, because it’s still morning, and we have to catch the light rail back to the bus, and we have a long walk ahead of us, and it’s hot, and suddenly, I am very, very tired, and oof, the walk seems like it’ll take forever, and I’m six years old!
But by the time I opened my mouth to answer, Abdullah had bought us three cups of sorbet and a bottle of water, which is exactly what my mother would have done for us if she were alive, and suddenly, I’m six in a good way, but still a grownup, happy and giddy — my mother’s daughter, and my children’s mother — and having a great morning with my kids.
THE TIMES OF ISRAEL PRESENTS:
Join Sarah Tuttle-Singer for more stories at the Israeli launch of her book “Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered.”
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The Jerusalem Press Club
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