In Season 2 of “Orange is the New Black”, the central character, Piper returns to the federal jail after obtaining a 48-hour furlough to visit her dying grandmother. When she returns to prison, she remarks on the strange ways of the world outside of jail:
“You know what was so weird? Eating off of plates that weren't plastic. They felt so heavy.”
While not comparing my life to a felony inmate serving time in prison, I do find myself making similarly odd observations about the world while our son, Danny, is away at Camp Ramah, California, having a wonderful time with his aide, counselors, and bunkmates in their amazing Tikvah special needs program. His aide tells me that Danny is practically living in the pool and even eating plenty of food, which is unusual for him since he’s a very picky eater.
Without having to devote a big chunk of my brainpower to thinking about his daily schedule, medications, and babysitting needs, new and different thoughts are bouncing around in my head, from the most mundane to the complex.
I think back on certain childhood friends and wonder where they are now. I feel my mother’s passing more strongly, and laugh aloud thinking of some of her pet phrases such as calling my adolescent outfits that revealed too much “looking like a cheap chippy.”
At home, every imperfection comes into sharp focus. How is it that I didn’t notice the ugly Day-Glo green paint from the 60s peeking out from the baby blue paint in our home office? Why have I never arranged the clothes in my closet in any organized manner? And looking out at our already brownish front-yard, how are we all going to be able to conserve enough water to get though another year with scant rain in Southern California?
I realize that without our son around, we just blend in with the crowd. When we take Danny to the Hollywood Bowl, we can use his disabled placard to park and take a little golf cart up the hill, where the ushers working in the disabled access area warmly greet us, recognizing him from the year before. Without him, we are just two more middle-aged adults puffing up the hill, schlepping along heavy Trader Joe’s bags filled with food and not getting much more than a half smile from the staff.
And although I’ve tried to avoid getting sucked into listening to the endless talking heads dissecting the war between Israel and Hamas, I think often about friends and family in Israel, and what it would be like to be there now, living with the “red alerts” of the incoming rockets, while trying to go about everyday life. I wake up every morning, hoping to hear that a cease-fire has gone in effect. I take the time to read what an American-Israeli college friend, Michael Swack, wrote on his Facebook wall, “Palestinian civilian deaths are tragic! Hamas has not accepted a single ceasefire proposed so far. If their leadership were really concerned about its own people, instead of parading death and destruction on CNN and BBC, it would accept a cease-fire and immediately stop showering rockets on Israeli civilians. It is just that simple.”