Category Archives: Time machine

The Flag Day Refrain

When I was in third grade, I was given my biggest theatrical opportunity. I was cast as the American flag in our Flag Day play. My job was to stand draped in red, white, and blue and to sway for the approximate 90 minute length of the play. My mother, in the midst of an important study section, could not attend my play. My oma and opa, however, could.

True to their German Jewish roots, they arrived 20 minutes before the start of the performance. And because my oma was practically deaf, they took front row center seats. They proceeded to smile for the full 90 minutes, as I stood swaying in an imaginary wind gust.

Then it came time for the curtain call. My opa decided to trade in his inside voice for the loudest whistle he could muster. [ed. note: my grandfather was in a choir so he actually had quite a distinct and audible whistle.] Eight years old and tired of standing on stage, I quickly came back to life. His voice had inspired me; it had reminded I was loved, and by the most loyal grandparent a girl draped in a tri-color curtain could hope for.

It is this memory that came immediately to mind as I listened to my mother’s voice mail at 7:30 am, informing me that my opa had passed in his sleep. At 86 years old, he had finally decided his patriarchal duties were complete. My oma had died nearly a year before, and he no longer had any obligations to provide or protect.

Though I had hoped he’d live well into his nineties, perhaps even see me embrace matrimonial bliss, G-d had another plan. Or, as my opa used to say, “Man plans, and G-d laughs, so why bother planning at all?”

And yet my opa and I are planners. It’s what us German Jews do best. We take chaos, and we create a systematized, often alphabetized order. We live and breathe by our calendars– his paper, mine electronic. But this time I was unprepared. There was no google calendar invite to my opa‘s death. There was no friendly 24-hour notice reminder that the start of my 2015 would be rocked so significantly. There was just life, and then there wasn’t.

Over the next few days I will be working on living in the past. Pressing pause on planning my future, I will try to think back to those moments– like my Flag Day play curtain call– when my opa proved his love knew no bounds.

When in Doubt, Hug it Out.

I miss kindergarten. Apparently at age five I was quite a creative little creature of the night (I say night because I had a tendency towards sleepwalking and talking back in the day). My journal entries, should you be privy to them, reflected my inner idealist– who thought she was capable of developing into any inanimate object that she liked. For example, in the entry entitled “What I Am 100% Going To Be When My Mommy Is Not Buying Me Things,” I wrote my biggest aspiration was to become a coffee mug. Yes, an object which collects little drops of caffeinated bliss.

In another entry I wrote about a desire to be a fire escape. I noted how every significant conversation on the island of Manhattan actually transpires on a fire escape, and if I were said escape, I would know all the latest gossip without exerting additional effort. I think this foreshadowed my yenta proclivities.

But the entry, or object, that caught my attention most recently had little to do with my two loves– coffee and schmoozing– and much more to do with my greatest fear– the future. I wrote I wanted to be a time machine so that I could flee the present if it seemed too dreary and avoid the future, should it lack H & H bagels and lox (hey, these were legitimate concerns at age five).

Thoroughly researching the signs from this past weekend’s Rally to Restore Sanity, and I was struck by a sign of similar sentiment:

I think that kindergarten offers many valuable lessons, one of which is how to effectively cope with unfortunate circumstances. Or, in the case of America on Election Day, the possibility of an undesirable Republican-driven future. We may not be able to assume time machine stance, but we do not need to be complacent and accepting of an otherwise unacceptable situation.

This particular rally attendee noted the power of hugs. As the daughter of an affectionate mother, I was raised with one particularly strong belief: When in doubt, hug it out. As I entered my teenage and college years, the proverb evolved and became “Hugs, not drugs.” The message, however, remained the same. Instead of denying an unfavorable circumstance or attempting to numb the sensations associated with it, she wanted me to face my emotions; to explore my inner Yaffale.

Having just applied for Teach for America, I have been considering this very lesson– one, which, if given the opportunity to teach in a challenging inner city school, I will want to impart to my students. And one, that in my senior year tizzy, I have largely ignored. Johnny, the beloved Brit who visited me this Halloween weekend, noted my unusual degree of stress: “You were never like this in Oxford. I finally get to see the real Yaffa in her element, and well, she is just one big perpetual ball of stress.”

This stress results from a variety of factors.

1. I lack a time machine so when faced with impending graduate school, fellowship, and job applications, I have no escape. I cannot return to my second grade tea party or third grade sleepover. I must do the requisite work to achieve any rewarding outcome.

2. I lack a caffeine IV, which I am convinced is the only real solution to my problems. A constant supply of energy is just what this proverbial mountain climber needs.

3. I lack continual exposure to British students, who somehow manage to find the fine line between work and play, and apply said line to their collegiate lifestyles. Basically, I need Johnny to take up residence in my dorm, if I am to rediscover a balance ever again.

These factors, aside, I realized as Johnny described what he thought was the real me versus the playful, tiramisu cocktail-loving Oxford me that I was not pleased with his assessment. I still loved girly cocktails, but as Johnny noted, I never drank them anymore. I particularly loved party planning, a favorite English past time for me, but as of yet, I had not planned a single Wellesley event. In many ways, I had failed to Bring Oxford to Wellesley, a resolution of the Jewish New Year I had set for myself a few months prior.

And so loyal Green Straw readers, today I turn over a new leaf. I embark on the Rally to Restore Yaffa’s Sanity. If I can’t jet set into the past, I may just have to face my fears and frighten a few unsuspecting Wellesley women with some emotionally-driven hugs. The future may be uncertain, but at least, as of today, there are Starbucks Red Cups and wonderful friends to share the joy of their contents with. Cue Christmas music here.