Author of Breasts Don't Lie

Posts tagged ‘family’

Trumpatized – Canada Is Not The Answer

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I have been finding snatches of time in the day to cry since the election. A friend called it being Trumpatized. A great term combining Trump and traumatized, the cause of the trauma and the condition it is triggering. My reaction, disbelief and grief and anger over the election, has to find little crevasses in the day. Last Wednesday, I cried through Kathleen’s yoga class. I am pretty sure I was not alone. I cry between sessions and in sessions with some of my clients as they tell how they have been triggered back to memories of traumatic events from their past.

Right or wrong, whether you voted for him or not, Trump has reawakened many people’s past memories, snakes of violence jerked out of hibernation., and caused people to wonder about the moral development of the country. I can’t answer these questions.

I can give you some ideas for comfort through this time –

  • Get enough sleep – not too much and not too little. Your neurotransmitter level will thank you.
  • Eat warm and easy-to-digest foods – carbohydrates are helpful, soups, stews, chilis, tea.
  • Stay away from too much caffeine – it will further agitate you.
  • Keep your alcohol level to a minimum – flashbacks and memories seep in when guards are down and alcohol lowers the brain’s guardrails.
  • Be active – it will help you keep things in balance, regulate your nervous system, and get you out of your house (where I am likely to brood …)
  • Dress warm – it will calm your body so it doesn’t feel under siege.
  • Respect other people’s property – march and protest but this is not a time to riot nor recreate Kristallnacht.
  • Cry, find places and people who can accept your response.
  • If you can’t get out of bed or still feel numb, see a therapist. It’s okay to get some help.
  • Try not to re-Trumpatize yourself with on-going news shows and articles.
  • Turn off your blue screens one hour before bedtime to give your brain a chance to settle down. This decreases the frequency of nightmares and allows for more restful sleep.

(Holiday meals are not the time to bring up your differences. Everyone has someone dear to them who voted in a way opposite to you. Don’t spoil this time.)

Here’s the kicker – you need to do something. As I see it, we have three options –

  • Do nothing – that will keep you at war with yourself – only so many ostriches tolerated in this world.
  • Work to promote your beliefs – join a group, start a group, volunteer for a group.
  • Accept the results with grace – promote coming together with as calm a presence as you can.

You can do one or some combination of the three. But do something – the first option leads to feeling impotent which leads to violence against yourself and others. (Oh, and please don’t move to Canada.)

The choice is yours.

 

Airport Nightmares

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I will admit to being scared – I am acutely frightened these days of my status as an immigrant but in truth, I have felt this way since childhood.

When I was six, my mother took her two daughters from our home in Scotland to meet our ship captain father in Alabama. We flew into a New York airport with our British passports and went through customs/immigration screenings with everyone else but this time we were pulled out of the lineup. We were made to follow two people down a hallway into a larger room with a curtained off area on one side. I remember looking at my mother who had gone pale under her tan. We had made this transatlantic trip a few times to meet my father in the US without having to undergo this process. She nodded to me. “Take that baby’s hand,” she said. Like the good daughter I was brought up to be, I grabbed my four-year old sister’s hand. Mother and children were separated into two cubicles.

“Strip to your underpants,” a man said to us.

I remember helping my sister off with her dress. She was too small to undo the buttons.  Her hair snagged on a button causing her to cry when I tried to pull the dress over her head. She kept crying as I took off her shoes and socks. She looked tiny huddled into the corner of the shelf acting as a seat even to my almost as tiny six-year old self. I pulled off my tartan trousers and my top, unbuttoned my school shoes, to sit next to her. Eventually, I cried too.

There was a shuffling sound so I peeked through the curtain into the room. More people had entered, mainly men.

“Mrs. Young, come out here,” a man called out.

My mother came out of her cubicle.

Vicky, my sister, called out, “Mama? Mama?”

Mom turned around. Her face was paler still. She motioned for me to pull Vicky back into the cubicle. She was wearing her bra and panties. Under the bright lights before a group sitting in chairs. I heard them laughing. Settling my sister, I sneaked back to look through the curtains.

“Take everything off,” said the man. I watched my mother strip in front of these men and women, probably US Customs and Immigration agents. I do not know what other indignities my mother had to endure. Vicky was screaming at this point and I was so scared I wondered if I was going to die. At the time, I didn’t understand what was happening and who these people were but I knew mean when I saw it.

Clutching my sister to me, I heard a man say, “Get the kids.” Mom came into the cubicle and one at a time she paraded us in front of the people. She was still naked. Vicky pulled against Mom’s hand trying to escape, I guess, until Mom picked her up. There was a defiance in my mother’s gesture. I pushed her hand away, wiping my face clean with my top, to walk out on my own. My brain has a snapshot of the group sitting, uninterested, talking among themselves, oblivious to my terror.

Shaking and crying, the three of us were allowed to dress and leave the airport.

We never talked about this. Nightmares of being naked in a confined cage surrounded by giants plagued me into my thirties and have restarted.

When I was 18, I applied for American citizenship. To accept a scholarship to college and to never have to go through this again.

I have written this as I remember the event, devoid of most emotion and description. Because a part of my six-year old self did die that day. I hate New York and I hate airports, and I hope no other six or four or thirty-three-year old ever has to go through this.

Celebrating the Mishaps, Part 2

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It happened again – the family curse of nearby candles setting unexpected fires.

Around the winter solstice, a few of us gals get together for a night out at an area restaurant to catch up, celebrate our achievements (I like to make lists), and bemoan the catastrophes of the past 12 months (usually the larger list). This is our second year at the same restaurant. After last year’s noisy brouhaha, they put us in an inconspicuous booth way, way back. Near the restrooms. But it did not faze us.

In honor of whatever holiday we celebrate, I like to get little goofy presents for us. People need presents. One year it was an assortment of earrings. This year’s gifts were a gaggle of socks. Everyone needs warm socks, don’t we? Well maybe not in this December’s hot and humid weather.

I wrapped the gifts in pretty tissue paper and tied them up with bows and shiny glass balls. Arriving at the restaurant before the others, I tucked the table’s teensy-weensy candle out of the way. Memories of when my mother set the synagogue’s carpet on fire and of this year’s flaming Chanukah card incident have made me vigilant. With a carefree smile, I arranged the presents across the table. The table looked festive. My friends sat down. They smiled. We began our frolicking.

Into our second round of drinks, either the restaurant grew warmer or the heat from our frolicking bent one section of tissue paper.

Into the candle. The teensy-weensy candle. The corner of tissue paper caught fire. Wide-eyed with surprise at the tissue paper’s betrayal, I looked over the flames at my friend. Her eyes were large. Nonchalantly, I tried to pat it out. (All I had was wine to throw on the fire – I had a vague recollection that this would not be good, or work.)

I patted and poof. The fire spread to another present. Immediately, the table looked on fire. Flames erupted towards the ceiling. I heard a slight crackling. All eyes were glued to our table. I looked to our waitperson for help. He was young, instantly almost a child young, with a stunned, ‘I-have-never-seen-this, they-didn’t-train-me-for-this,’ look on his face. The restaurant was mesmerized as the flames reached higher. My mouth fell open. The waitperson swore in French. Nonchalance pranced out the door.

Luckily, an older, more experienced waitperson came over, scooped up the Socks Flambé, and tossed them on the tile floor. In a second, the flames were out.

In the watchful, quiet restaurant, we blinked. Our pupils returned to normal size.

“Can we have another round?” I asked the waiter.

“Surely,” he said putting our candle on another table. That table’s patrons posthaste blew out our candle. The waitperson picked up the crispy tissue gifts from the floor. With a smirk, he placed them on the table. “That’ll make a good review on Yelp.” I nodded mouth still open.

“We need to leave him a good tip,” said one friend.

“Yessirree,” I said nodding my head like the bobble heads found on a car’s dashboard. They nodded in return.

The festivities resumed. The flame-tinged socks were met with giggles. We left an excellent tip.

“Let’s do this again soon,” we promised each other.

“Yeah but without the fire,” I said. More head nodding.

Safe in my home with an unlit fireplace, I swore to myself, “I am done setting fires.” The cat meowed her approval but I think I heard the faint laughter of my mother.

Celebrating the Mishaps

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I was lighting the candles for the last night of Chanukah, The Festival of Lights, when this memory plunked into my consciousness. Plunked with such Maccabean might that I dropped the candle setting a Chanukah card on fire. Unfortunately for my neighbors, the flaming card set off the smoke detector. A saner head than mine pulled the glass of wine out of my hand before I fully reenacted the family saga of celebratory mishaps.

“Hah, I am my mother’s daughter. There is a genetic memory of Yes you are repeating what your mother did and probably her mother and her mother’s mother before her …

On the remembered Friday night, Mom, beautiful and hard to forget with her bright red hair and twinkling blue eyes, was wearing a powder blue dress, probably highly flammable. It was the seventies. I wore a hair band. The family had been to IHOP for dinner (a Friday night tradition) and we were ready to pray in temple (Jewish synagogue). Mom was lighting the Sabbath candles on the Bimah (synagogue stage) when the event happened.

It had been a good night with minimal fighting among the siblings. No one was expecting what happened next. I was sitting in the last row of seats with my sister and brother. No major faux pas had occurred like the time my sister let one rip in the middle of a sermon or the time my brother fell asleep tumbling out of the row into the center aisle with a soul-shaking clunk or the time I tripped in Mom’s borrowed heels inadvertently performing the Heimlich anti-choking maneuver to hurl scrambled eggs and pancakes over the entire row. You get the idea. Mine is a long line of the etiquette challenged.

Back to my memory, Mom was standing on the Bimah about to light the last candle on the Shabbat menorah (think ornate candelabra) when her sleeve caught fire on an already flaming candle. Trying to pat it out with a certain je ne sais quoi, she knocked the candle out of her hand. The lit candle sailed end over end to pole vault over the waist high gate separating the people on the Bimah from the rabble. The flaming missile arced towards the new burgundy carpet. Not quite shag. Flammable. Near the audience (congregation).

A little curl of smoke started up towards the ceiling. Mom’s eyes got very wide. The periwinkle blue polyester of her dress smoldered. My sister nudged me in the ribs. I sat up straight. Paid attention. My little brother snorted.

The curl ate the nylon carpet in a zigzag pattern turning into a flame zipping around the Bimah. I thought, Ah, a burnt sacrifice. Mom was yelling, “Oops, please somebody do something,” in her perfect British boarding school voice used only in situations of I am in so much shit or You are in so much shit.

The President of the temple rushed down from the Bimah into the fire. He stamped and stamped. The head of the religious school came over to spit on the fire. The fire continued despite the stamping and spitting. My mother threw the ceremonial wine on the spiritual fire. Poof. The President’s tie caught on fire. By my count, two people and one carpet were on fire. One woman was out of spit. I sucked in my gut trying not to laugh too conspicuously. With a unified Oy Vey, people in the front pews hastily moved towards the back of the sanctuary.

At the point when it looked like either the fire department or a miracle was called for, the Rabbi pulled a fire extinguisher from under the podium. With a few oaths unseemly for a spiritual leader, he jumped over the gate and sprayed the fire into submission. The Rabbi turned to the congregation.

“Please be seated. Let us continue with our service on page … “ he said motioning my mother off the Bimah where she was never asked to perform another thing, read another line, or get anywhere near an open flame on synagogue grounds.

Then the sprinklers turned on.

The three of us kids sat in awe, sweat-producing awe, of yet another Young family fuck-up. We were doubled over with laughter. And a little embarrassment as the Jewish community’s wrath rained down upon us.

This year, with all its tragedies, I hope your holidays are full of laughter and light.

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