I see unattainable luxuries. My kids see a reflection of their lives
t’s almost bedtime, and I’m sprawled on the couch. My two youngest are squashed next to me; we’re about to begin our weekly magazine-reading ritual.
First, we flick through the Mishpacha Jr. All that really interests the little ones are the Dov and Dina stories and the photos people send in of their kids posing proudly next to a Lego or Magna-Tile project. Sometimes, we go on to copy the things the magazine-kids made, but this week, no one wants to.
“Now Mummy’s magazine,” two-year-old Avigail says.
We read this magazine for the ads. Ads I would usually flick past, glazed-eyed, take on their own dimensions when seen through a child’s eyes.
“But why is that boy sitting on the moon?” four-year-old Aharon asks, confused by a Bonei Olam ad. “We can’t sit on the moon!”
I’ve stopped trying to explain the concept of artistic license and Photoshop. I just say, in Israeli-toddler-speak, “It’s k’ilu.” It’s make-believe, pretend.
“Like I’m k’ilu going to be Aharon HaKohein for Purim.” Aharon nods, on board with the idea.
We come to a spread featuring a gleaming kitchen with accessories I’ve never come across in real life.
“That’s a kitchen.” I preempt the inevitable question and prepare to turn the page.
“But what that?” Avigail points to a few sparkling golden rods arranged with geometric precision above one of the kitchen’s counters. Small crystal balls throw off a million sparkles at the end of the golden rods.
I squint. “I think those are lights,” I say, uncertain.
Avigail’s bouncing up and down. “We got them!” she shouts, pointing at our kitchen. “We got them lights in the kitchen!”
I allow my gaze to wander after her eager pointer finger. My eyes travel over the finger-painted kitchen walls, the chocolate milk stain I couldn’t quite scrub away, the oven with only two working knobs. They move over to my spare second-hand freezer with the bag-of-plastic-bags stacked on top, and then the fridge covered in various layers of artwork.
I look at the small, non-descript beige tiles lining my counter and the missing cabinet-door handles. My eyes flit upwards to the ceiling, at the one bare squiggle of lightbulb illuminating the small room. The socket dangles slightly unevenly from the ceiling.
“Mmm,” I say to Avigail. “Mmm-hmm. We also have light in the kitchen.”
Aharon turns the magazine page.
Before us lies a landscaped garden, blossoms in bright colors lining the edge of a manicured green lawn. A swimming pool glistens in the distance, the light from the pool playing off the white deck-chairs at the water’s edge. A pergola offers cooling shade over a rattan garden-dining set, the whole scene reflected artfully in the dining set’s glass tabletop.
“A garden!” shouts Aharon.
I know what’s coming before she says it. “We have a garden!” shouts Avigail, waving her arms excitedly at our porch-door.
It’s almost dark; shkiah has come and gone. But it’s not too dark to peer into the yard and see the faint outline of last year’s umbrella, broken arms reaching pathetically up to the sky. Why did we keep it? I think it was reincarnated as a dolly’s boat for a little while… and then forgotten in the garden.
It’s not too dark to see the taped-up foam around the edge of the sagging trampoline and the turned-up edges of the fake grass mats — turned up to enable a little boy’s diligent digging in the earth.
“Mmm,” I say. “Mmm-hmm. We also have a garden.”
Avigail is excited to see the ad for the intricate silver Shabbos candlesticks. “Mmm-hmm,” I say. “We also have candlesticks, rrrright.” My small, in-need-of-a-polish pair flicker merrily in my kitchen, surrounded by mismatched glass candle-holders, all giving off their little flames at different heights and angles.
Avigail rejoices when she spots a miserable looking baby in a velour affair that amounts to no more than a diaper — in mid-winter. “Baby’s got clothes! Baby’s got a hat! I’ve also got clothes! I also got a hat with a pom-pom!”
I hug her closer. “That’s right,” I agree, without mentioning that the only reason she has a pom-pom hat is because she inherited it from her older sister.
Aharon spots the custom-made swing set and climbing frame first. “We’ve got that!” he shouts.
I think of our sagging trampoline. “Er, do we?” I ask. Does he mean the fence separating our garden from the neighbor’s? I know that it’s used as a climbing frame by all the building’s children, but…
“Not in our house. We have that same one in our park up the road!”
He’s right. There really is a little swing set in the park. I nod in agreement.
Our page turning has reached one of the many Deluxe Yom Tov Getaway ads. I wonder how the kids are going to get out of this; they’ve never seen the Alps, or anything like it, in their lifetimes.
Avigail is undeterred. She looks at the snow-covered glaciers with sunrise bursting out behind the peaks, coloring the whole advertisement in a golden hue.
“We got mountains!” she shouts.
“Yes!” Aharon joins in, jumping up and pointing beyond the porch door. “We got mountains, over there!”
I look past our low Jerusalem-stone garden wall. Beyond lies the hilly expanse of the Gush. The last of the sun’s blood-red rays are fading over the distant hills, on which faraway lights twinkle over shadowy earth.
Avigail sits back and sighs contentedly. We’ve reached the end of the magazine.
“We got it all,” she says, satisfied.
“Yes,” I agree, holding them close. “We have.”
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 794)
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