Holocaust Day, my children, & my mind’s eye.

Auschwitz_TrainOccasionally, on Holocaust Day or some other, random day, I will look at my children, and see them on a train.

See them starved. See their clothes in shreds. See them with blank eyes and sores on their faces, their hair matted, all joy, all light, gone.

My mind doesn’t allow me to go far down these paths (a fact for which I am eternally grateful), but it peeks down the path, toward the incomprehensible at the other end, and then I recoil in pain and tears.

If for no other reason that I know that I am not, really, seeing anything.

My mind providing me, unbidden, with an image it imagines to be something like Jewish children at the time of the Holocaust is simply me overlaying a hundred thousand photographs on top of my beautiful children’s faces. It’s nothing like actually seeing it. It’s not being a mother, probably even hungrier than the child, for having eschewed as much food as she could for as long as she could, in favor of her babies, her clothes also rags, an understanding (that the child can’t match) of the enormity of the darkness that surrounds them, has invaded their homes and their families and their very skin, looking at her 11 year old boy and seven year old daughter and knowing — knowing — that they will die.

Knowing that they will die horrific, meaningless deaths, deaths that she cannot in any way stop. The moment of wondering: Would it be better to find some way to kill them myself, to save them what awaits?

But who knew what awaited? And yet surely, many mothers and fathers found themselves hoping to find the inner strength to kill their own children, before the evil could overcome them.

I chose this faith, I chose this people. If I had been in Europe during those nightmare years, I may have been given a choice to walk away.

But my husband — whose four grandparents saw the writing on the wall in 1933 and left Germany to its devils, thus allowing the best man I’ve ever known to come into my life one night in December 1991, as we danced to loud music and laughed with friends, a week after I’d become a Jew — my husband would not have been given that choice.

My children would not have been given that choice.

I want to believe that I would not have left them, for any reason, but I know that the particular barbarism of the Nazis created circumstances in which people did things that were unimaginable, unspeakable, things for which they could never forgive themselves. I cling to the idea that I would have managed, at least, to stand with my chosen people, with my babies, and die with them.

Last night, we lit a yahrzeit candle together and made kaddish.

Today it burns on my stove, surrounded by pots and pans, in a kitchen with a freezer too full with shopping, at one end of a house that has never been cold. I scrub at the little bit of dried egg stuck on my burner, wash the dishes as a surprise for my husband, and when my son calls to say that he’s forgotten his folder, I get in the car and bring it to school, a note tucked inside to tell him I love him.

Because I can do these things, I do them, with gratitude and with a sort of stunned awe that I get to do them at all.

If my babies had been there, they would have died.

Yes, honey. I’ll bring you your folder.

*

Reupped from Holocaust Day 2011.

Barbie’s a real doll!

barbie

The doll on the left is, of course, Barbie, freak of plastic. The doll on the right was created by artist Nickolay Lamm using CDC figures to create a 3-D printed model of an average American 19 year old woman.

It’s been referred to as “normal” Barbie, and I’m not sure how I feel about that, nor how I feel about CDC “averages” — “normal” can be a very problematic word, and as a social scientist I can assure you that “average” is often useless.

And yet, having said that — more of this please! It’s remarkable how initially odd the “average” doll looks (or, at least it did to me!), and then how absolutely right.

More pictures of Lamm’s process and a link to his blog after the jump.

(more…)

More than just a princess – RAWR!

Via Bust magazine, this:

*

(I can’t wait to show this to the girl!)

For more on Goldie Blox, click here.

Tales of an 11 year old papergirl.

(I was, of course, a girl. And on a bike. But just try to find that statue).

(I was, of course, a girl. And on a bike. But just try to find that statue).

Chicago got its first real snow of the season this morning, so I think it’s just the right day for this…. An ode to print media, young girls, and small towns.

*****

I used to deliver newspapers.

First it was the Chicago Daily News, then, when that venerable afternoon institution folded, the Chicago Tribune. I was about 11, 12-ish (the age my boy is now, and I occasionally ask him why he hasn’t yet found gainful employ), though I’m not sure of the exact stop and start dates.

I had a paper-girl’s bike with a huge metal basket in front and metal panniers on the sides; if I didn’t remove the papers evenly as I went along, the bike would topple over, newspaper sections slithering out and sliding across lawns. Sometimes it would topple over anyway.

I always placed each individual paper carefully between the storm and front doors; if a person’s storm was locked, I would find some other safe place to tuck it. By the end of my route, my hands would be blackened by the newsprint, a particular kind of smeary black that dries the skin and transfers itself onto everything you might subsequently touch.

I hated it.

Not just the filthy hands, but the whole experience — oh my God, I hated delivering newspapers.

I remember promising myself that I would never allow my own children to do it, because if they did, I would occasionally get saddled with the task, and I was not going to ever deliver papers again — and this from a girl growing up in a house where the mom only ever took over your job if you were literally unable to do it. It was, after all, my job — unlike some newspaper pansies, my mom didn’t throw me in the station wagon to get it done of a morning.

That was the worst of it, really. The mornings.

I didn’t like the afternoon Daily News route — it was lonely and boring, and kind of embarrassing, if you ran across someone from school, or some damn friendly adult that you knew. I would talk to myself, make up stories, essentially play make-believe at an age when I think most kids weren’t doing that anymore. It was on my paper route that I was Magna Woman, a superhero whose power came from a mysteriously exotic (if cheap) ring that I had purchased at the Field Museum on a field trip.

But the morning route — oh good God, that was just a whole other level of misery. For a child in the Midwest, it not only meant god-awful alarm-clock setting, it also mostly meant Dark.

Even if dawn arrived while I was out, I started my day in pitch black, a lighting scheme that at the time still frightened me. I seem to recall having to talk myself down daily from some inchoate fear.

And the cold. Oh God, I was always cold! I don’t have a single memory of not being cold on my morning route — and surely there were spring and summer mornings, as well. But they don’t remain. Just the cold, and the dark, and the lonely streets, and the whirligig mind of an imaginative 11 year old. Twelve year old.

One day it was about like it is as of this writing (the high for Chicago: 8, the actual temperature: 2, and the windchill? -20), and when I got to the Currens’ house, I found a note. “Emily – Ring the bell. There’s hot cocoa waiting.”

The Currens were my grandparents’ good friends, lovely people who I was always happy to see myself whenever I happened to helping out at one of my grandmother’s famous and well-loved grown-up parties. I would walk around in my best outfit with trays of crackers, and some people would look me in the 11 year old eyes, and some people wouldn’t. Some people would know the right way to be friendly, and some people wouldn’t. The Currens were always in the first group.

But it’s my sense that the Currens would have made hot cocoa for anyone who happened to arrive with a folded newspaper in sub-zero weather — they were that kind of people. When I think of them, pretty much all I see are belted robes, broad smiles, and eyes like welcome signs.

I sat, I drank, and Mr. Curren took me around on the rest of my route (here the grandparent connection might have played a role). If memory serves, they did this for me one other time, as well, each time saying “Oh, you’re welcome, Emily! Any time!”

And I know they meant it, because the one time I knocked in spite of there not being a note, in spite of the fact that it was a balmy 17 degrees or maybe 23, they wiped the sleep from their eyes and put the pot on the stove. They were good people, the Currens.

God I hated that route. But there remains within me a powerful sense of pride that I did it, that I was good at it, and that I later got a chance to actually write for the paper that I had delivered. For the girl with the topple-over bike, that was quite a heady thing.

And the Currens gave me cocoa and smiles on days like today, in the middle of coldest, darkest winter.

“The best video on human sexuality ever” – my 13 year old son.

There I was dozing on the couch (as one does) when I heard my 8th grader, sitting one room away at his computer, say the words “that was the best video on teenage sexuality I’ve ever seen.”

Now, it turns out he’d actually said “human sexuality,” but either way, those are words that will perk your ears right up.

I lifted my head as much as I could, yelled a muffled “Send me the link!” and — irresponsible mother that I am — fell back into a doze. But then! The very first thing I did when I arose from my slumber was to click on that link (responsibility!).

Now, I will admit, the instant I saw that the video in question had been made by Hank Green — of the VlogBrothers, Crash Course, DFTBA Records, and General Awesomeness — any concern I might have had was (and I mean this) instantly erased. The Green brothers have already taught the boy (and me) any number of wonderful things, and I have real confidence that anything either one of them might say about human sexuality is something that I can get 100% behind. Truly.

But you know: Still. If one’s boy is watching videos about human sexuality, one should watch said videos. Moreover, and not incidentally, now I was interested. What, in fact, had Hank Green said?

Well, as it turns out: Only everything. Only everything that anybody should ever say or hear about human sexuality, whether teenage or otherwise. Only everything, and in three minutes, forty-nine seconds, no less. Watch, and marvel.

And then maybe share it around, because honest to Pete. These are words that everyone on earth needs to hear. Especially these ones:

But what’s really important is that we trust ourselves and we understand ourselves, and we love and respect ourselves, and we grant that same understanding and respect to the people around us.

Thanks, Hank!

Holocaust Day, my children, & my mind’s eye.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Auschwitz_Train.jpgOccasionally, on Holocaust Day or some other, random day, I will look at my children, and see them on a train.

See them starved. See their clothes in shreds. See them with blank eyes and sores on their faces, their hair matted, all joy, all light, gone.

My mind doesn’t allow me to go far down these paths (a fact for which I am eternally grateful), but it peeks down the path, toward the incomprehensible at the other end, and then I recoil in pain and tears.

If for no other reason that I know that I am not, really, seeing anything.

My mind providing me, unbidden, with an image it imagines to be something like Jewish children at the time of the Holocaust is simply me overlaying a hundred thousand photographs on top of my beautiful children’s faces. It’s nothing like actually seeing it. It’s not being a mother, probably even hungrier than the child, for having eschewed as much food as she could for as long as she could, in favor of her babies, her clothes also rags, an understanding (that the child can’t match) of the enormity of the darkness that surrounds them, has invaded their homes and their families and their very skin, looking at her 11 year old boy and seven year old daughter and knowing — knowing — that they will die.

Knowing that they will die horrific, meaningless deaths, deaths that she cannot in any way stop. The moment of wondering: Would it be better to find some way to kill them myself, to save them what awaits?

But who knew what awaited? And yet surely, many mothers and fathers found themselves hoping to find the inner strength to kill their own children, before the evil could overcome them.

I chose this faith, I chose this people. If I had been in Europe during those nightmare years, I may have been given a choice to walk away.

But my husband — whose four grandparents saw the writing on the wall in 1933 and left Germany to its devils, thus allowing the best man I’ve ever known to come into my life one night in December 1991, as we danced to loud music and laughed with friends, a week after I’d become a Jew — my husband would not have been given that choice.

My children would not have been given that choice.

I want to believe that I would not have left them, for any reason, but I know that the particular barbarism of the Nazis created circumstances in which people did things that were unimaginable, unspeakable, things for which they could never forgive themselves. I cling to the idea that I would have managed, at least, to stand with my chosen people, with my babies, and die with them.

Last night, we lit a yahrzeit candle together and made kaddish.

Today it burns on my stove, surrounded by drying pots and pans, in a kitchen with a freezer too full with shopping, at one end of a house that has never been cold. I scrub at the little bit of dried egg stuck on my burner, wash the dishes as a surprise for my husband, and when my son calls to say that he’s forgotten his folder, I get in the car and bring it to school, a note tucked inside to tell him I love him.

Because I can do these things, I do them, with gratitude and with a sort of stunned awe that I get to do them at all.

If my babies had been there, they would have died.

Yes, honey. I’ll bring you your folder.

**************************************

I first ran this piece last year, but I have a hard time revisiting these ideas, though they are often in my heart, so I decided to re-up the post. Last night, just after we lit our candle, my now-8 year old daughter proceeded to stomp around the house, being a dragon. It’s a good thing to be a little Jewish girl being a dragon on Holocaust Day.

Barenaked Ladies: Also Canadian, also crazy.

‘Cause I’m awesome that way, I recently posted not one but two videos of a singing, dancing Canadian lobster puppet. Now I bring to you more Canadian wonder, via my Twitter pal @dvnix: Barenaked Ladies singing “Crazy ABCs.”

Leading to the only reasonable query: English – what’s up with that?

(Plus, bonus – nomination for best line in a pop song ever: “…tortillas” … “Nice rhyme.”)

When you gotta go, you gotta go – a Canadian musical interlude.

On Friday, I posted a clip of Billy Bragg singing to a dancing Canadian lobster. (Nova Scotian, to be more precise). I allowed as how I would like to know more about this dancing lobster fella and Canadian kids’ TV in general, and an obliging commenter over to the Angry Black Lady Chronicles helped me out – check out her knowledge and prodigious Google-fu here. Bottom line for our purposes? Dude’s name is “Captain Claw.”

You might well imagine that armed with this information, I proceeded to the YouTube. Whereupon I found the following piece of sheer delight: Captain Claw singing the undeniably catchy “When You’ve Got to Go” song.

*

I know, right? Score one for Canada, baby!

And here’s the other thing: While I am coming to learn that Canada is not always and forever the bastion of compassion and sanity that American Democrats tend to believe it to always and forever be (see: Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews and his contention that if you don’t like unlimited governmental electronic snooping you’re “with the child pornographers“; see also: Fraudulent election day robocalls intended to discourage voter turnout), I do find it very hard to believe that any American producer of children’s television would ever be allowed to depict a character peeing his bed. Which, let’s face it, is a genuine concern of actual children the world over.

 So score two.

Plus, bonus: Dancing, singing shrimp.

Score three.

On Too $hort and apologies.

So a couple of weeks ago, this rapper I’d never heard of before he really pissed me off — really pissed me off.

In a video shot for the online presence of XXL Magazine, rapper Too $hort said:

When you get to late middle school, early high school and you start feeling a certain way about the girls. I’m gonna tell you a couple tricks… A lot of the boys are going to be running around trying to get kisses from the girls. We’re going way past that. I’m taking you to the hole….[Push her] up against the wall or [pull] her up against you while you lean on the wall. Take your finger and put a little spit on it and you stick your finger in her underwear and you rub it on there and watch what happens.

So. Here we have a grown man of some renown advising pre-teen and teenaged boys to sexually assault girls. Which, you know: Awesome.

Initially, Too $hort appeared to apologize on Twitter, if with a certain lack of understanding, explaining that he’d been “in character” and had gotten carried away, but he changed tack fairly quickly, essentially lashing out at those who took the video as anything other than a joke.

Which, you know: Awesome. (And hence my reference to him here).

HOWEVER.

In the meantime, having been swamped with responses, reactions, stories and no little anger, Too $hort (nee Todd Shaw) gave an interview to Dream Hampton, a writer with Ebony and one of the women involved in WeAreThe44% (a reference to statistics that show that 44% of American girls are assaulted before their 18th birthday). This time, here was what Too $hort  said:

I just wanted to reach out because I had been truly disturbed by this whole thing as far as me putting this out there like that. I’m not trying to make this go away or trying to make this right or anything. I understand completely….

When I taped the XXL video, my goal was that this was some kind of comedy piece. So I am sitting there and the thing that I am saying is actually reminiscent of when we as little boys were being bad and (what) we were doing something or learning or practicing. But now I’m understanding that it’s actually it’s a form of sexual assault. And it’s crazy that I’m just now understanding this.

I’m not going to lie to you…my eyes are opening just from reading the comments, the stuff that is coming from people. They say stuff like, “Does he get it?” I’m reading it and I am starting to get it.

….I hate that this had to come out like this but I really feel blessed. I feel like I am going to kick in and kick back a lot positive energy in something that I have been kicking out a lot of negative energy in a lot of years…I am not expecting anyone to say “I forgive you” or anything in that nature. It may not be the biggest mistake in my life, but it was a major mistake, looking at the camera and saying those words.

We have this tendency to not allow for change, to not believe in it. The one, worst, most terrible thing that a person ever said or did? That’s it. That’s who that person is, now and forever more, amen.

But this interview (as well as the one Too $hort later gave to allhiphop.com) shows the sheer, self-destructive stupidity of that. People can listen. People can learn new ideas. People can change.

And if we don’t allow them to do so, if we don’t believe them, if we reduce people to their worst moments — we fail in our own path. And we fail those we would hope to protect.

As a woman who has suffered her own share of passing, casual, low-level assaults and harassments, as the mother of a girl, as the friend and loved one of women who have been assaulted and raped at all stages of life, and as a former rape crisis counselor, I am very clear on what we need to stop rape: We need men.

Women and girls can learn, to a certain degree, to protect ourselves, but bottom line, the people doing the raping are the ones who have to stop. And they will not do so until enough men come along like Too $hort who say “Hold on. I didn’t get it before, but now I do. I’m sorry.”

I’m grateful beyond measure to the women who organized on this issue, to Dream Hampton for conducting the interview and using it as an opportunity to tell yet more truth (read the whole thing here), and to Too $hort, for apologizing and meaning it. Sometimes there’s no way out but through — I’m grateful that he’s decided to push on through.

h/t my internet buddy thewayoftheid

Once a little girl, always a little girl.

This is what I wanted to look like and who I wanted to be when I was growing up. Down to the last curl. (Maybe my eyes would have been a little more sea-gray. But yeah. Otherwise).

I’m guessing the kids will want to go see this, but that doesn’t really matter – I’ll be there on June 22, either way.

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