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Bewildering Stories

KJ Hannah Greenberg, Whistling for Salvation


Whistling for Salvation
Author: KJ Hannah Greenberg
Publisher: Seashell Books
Length: 255 pages
ISBN: 1091439982; 978-1091439986

This book is the fourth in my nonfiction series about life in Israel. Mostly, this volume contains personal anecdotes. The attached excerpt is a set of my brief musings on parenting my four children. Note: those kids are now grown and some of them are, themselves, parents.

Parenting’s Little Smiles

One sign of being a parent is lacking the time to finish a novel. Mothers and fathers of small children make do with reading short stories, essays, and poetry.

* * *

One night, after I was safely ensconced behind my office door, I could hear one of my younger children innocent query my beloved husband; “what’s thirteen million divided by one hundred and twenty-two?”

* * *

Toward the end of the school year, Missy Older set me straight by “teaching” me that, in Israel, multiple-choice tests are known as “American exams.”

* * *

I think that Older Dude deserves a new signification. Not only do his pants, shirts, coats, and just about all of his length-dependent garments no longer fit, but he is also already up to my eyebrows in height. Bli ayin hara! I’m glad that he’s getting bigger.

I’m sad that he has taken after his sisters, though, in worrying about telling me (as though I don’t notice) that he’s outgrown his shoes or his Shabbot clothes. I’m grateful to have to dole out shekelim because he’s growing.

I love, too, how low his voice is dropping. I await the day when Computer Cowboy will have to teach our child about grooming facial hair.

* * *

One of my daughters pointed out that, in her girls school, pants were not only permitted, but were, in fact, required (to be worn under skirts for physical education class).

I replied that I would make the stretch to accept them.

* * *

A few weeks ago, Younger Dude and I were in a waiting room. I gestured toward the heimishe magazines and said that he could look at anything he liked.

A playful grin lit his face. He turned his eyes toward the ceiling and said, “wow! I’ll examine the light bulb.”

* * *

The other day, I asked one of my teens, “where’s your little brother?”


“Are you sure?”

“That’s what he told me.”

* * *

Recently, Older Dude, in an attempt to divert my attention away from checking his and his siblings’ rooms and homework, insistently asked me, “when did you get your parenting permit?”

* * *

Missy Older’s school went on a three day trip. My darling “explained” to me that Israelis recognize that it is useless to try to contain the attention and energy of older girls during the weeks leading up to Purim. Hence, many high schools, hers included, intentionally scheduled their annual outings for Adar.

Good and well. Teens usually become tired, but happy after being exposed to: a little sun (Missy Older’s school camped for three days in the Negev), a little sleep (I refuse to believe that youth, en masse, actually rest in a normal fashion) and a little craziness (New World insurance companies would quake if their patrons tried Israeli-style tiyulim. Think: ravines without handrails, literal ladders for climbing cliff faces, hiking within shooting range of villagers not partial to Jews, and the like.

When I hear such details, I just smile and nod and hope that my children had fun. Tired and happy teens tend to sit still five minutes here and pay attention five minutes there, a laudable accomplishment by any school during Adar.

Yet, days after that trip, about which Missy Older had exclaimed over and again, my dear daughter came to me with a sad timbre in her voice. “Mom,” she moaned, not so much to complain of a sore limb or of her yet unwashed travel laundry, but to apprise me of her constitution. “Mom,” she whimpered, I’m still sneezing sand!”

* * *

Regardless of who does how much (bli ayin hara, my kids do a lot), somehow our home always gets ready before Pesach. Apart from the number of “treasures” we find, somehow there are always new stories to share about our cleaning adventures. In spite of the path we take in the weeks before the holiday, there is always much for which to be grateful.

So, mindful of potential child/parent bonding experiences, two months before we began Operation Cyclops; Continue Your Cleaning Long After Parents Seem Sensible, i.e. long after your mother seems to be “seeing straight,” my precocious older son exclaimed, while grinning fully and asking if he could receive a hug, “boys are bad, Mom, but Mothers are simply MORE evil.”

* * *

Some time ago, Older Dude received a most extraordinary gift from a friend; a live bullet. The well-meaning individual had found the projectile at an archeological dig and had thought that our son would enjoy a piece of Israel’s history.

Since Computer Cowboy and I didn’t, has v’shalom, want Older Dude to become a piece of Israel’s history, we gave that gift to a friend in the IDF, a youth who could properly dispose of it. In return, Older Dude was presented with an empty canister. Oy! It’s of small wonder that he served in infantry.

* * *

Sometimes, I talk with my kids about my writing. From time to time, I might even ask one of them for a reaction to a piece of work (albeit, Older Dude maintains that no “proper” Jewish mother writes speculative fiction.)

Accordingly, Missy Older and I recently had the following conversation about one of my creative nonfictions;

“There are a lot of big words in there.”

“I’m a big word person. I don’t force them. They just happen.”

“I understand Mom.”


“I’m a mess-creating person. I don’t force them. They just happen.”

* * *

Sometimes, there is harmony among the ranks, and, sometimes, siblings work peaceably together. During a snowfall, Older Dude actually uttered words of unity to Missy Older. At the height of a snowball fight, he ran into our home and sweetly shouted to his older sister, “we need you.”

Copyright © 2018 by KJ Hannah Greenberg

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