It’s 12:24 AM. I am in Yeela’s room staring at the energies coming from the bend in the road. Doing exactly what the Ma-asah-lee ordered and listening to the mixer in the kitchen. To the novice reader this seems like a sentence which says very little about anything. After all who doesn’t believe in energies coming from around the corner once you tear down the fence? And what’s so special about a mixer in the kitchen? To the more learned reader the statement I just made should be perplexing to say the least. How could the mixer be working if Ima is in Israel? Could she have left it running? Is she back? Is it the energies from around the corner running the electric device? Did someone break into the house to cook for us? Maybe its not the mixer but someone is breaking into the house? Maybe its Elaine making an opening for more energies?

All of the above are easy answers. Anyone of them could have been true, but not this time. This time its much greater than anyone could have imagined. I would not have believed it if I had not seen it. Suma is putting together a cake or cookies or something. It’s been going on for quite some time but its importance only registered in the past few minutes. The emotions that swept over me inspired me to document the event, lest we lose the enormity of its significance like so many other things that one forgets and takes for granted later in life.

To the best of my recollection it started an hour and a half earlier when I was cleaning the kitchen as Suma and Tintin were giving me visual support. This was nothing out of the ordinary. After all children learn that work is a pillar of society’s economic fabric by watching their parents do it for the first twenty five years of their lives. At some point Suma turned away, picked up a cook book and sat down at the dining table. As she began to read I was somewhat disappointed that she had begun to adopt Osmo’s and Tintin’s reading techniques: reading books with a lot of pictures on every page – it covers more pages in a given amount of time, and you can claim more books in your reading list. I didn’t give it too much thought and moved on to my next work station – the washing machine.

The washing machine is the first part of a clothing-triathlon which consists of the washing machine , the dryer and the ironing board. Clothing triathlons are held quite often unless one of two things happen: Either clothes are changed only once a day if they are worn on the body or clothes are changed once every few days if they are worn on top of other clothes. Unfortunately clothes in our family tend to stick to each other. I learned this from the number of sweat shirts which were lined with T shirts which I found in the wash baskets. At first I tried to control the rate at which dirty laundry was accumulating by following my own principles and not changing underwear. After a few days I found that this did not have any affect on the overall problem. I was therefore left with no choice other than to start the triathlons.

I’ll get back to the clothing triathlons. Right now I would like to focus on the tumultuous events in the kitchen which has triggered this writing. I realized that I has first hand access to one of those instantaneous turning points which are so common in nature, but somehow blend away in the conveniences of modern day living. I was witnessing a mature cub left to fend for itself by its mother doing exactly that. Suma was ready to become independent. Knowing this, Ima was away. Being hungry with only me around Suma had to fend for herself. Being ready she took out a cookbook and began the modern version of an independent hunt for food. Nature teaches us that this is a one way street. Once a cub is independent it will not turn back. What this means from a practical perspective is that this cake or cookies or whatever it was to be has to take its course no matter what the outcome. Based on what I had seen these past few days I don’t think there is a lot to worry about.

We’ll know in a few hours and until then we can review some of the less significant lessons which never-the-less should not be forgotten. Put in the right context they could serve us all well as we prepare the rest of out offspring for independence.

The first important principle is that when all other food sources are exhausted you can break off another slab of rice from the mass that’s in the pot that’s always there in the refrigerator and eat that. The definition of ‘all else’ is far from trivial these days. The list includes but is not limited to: Burger King, Iris, Karl’s Junior, Ginjah and Danny, Tony Roma’s, Ronit and Yossi, Little Caesar’s, Togo, Subway, Chicken wings, pop tarts, ice cream, cheerios, toasted cheese beagles, chicken sandwiches and cinnamon buns. Did anyone mention vegetables? The list being as long as it is meant that there was no need to think about the rice for the first ten days that Ima was gone. And then it happened that the kids did not want another hamburger, and they did not want to eat out (or was it me), and they did not want to nuke another sandwich, and I was not sure whether the eggs were too old even for an omelet. So what on earth were they and me to eat?

Its phenomenal how fate produces the metaphors just when you need them, or is it the energies?… At first you don’t realize what the metaphor is telling you, but the message gets engrained in your mind all the same.  It just so happened that the issue of ‘Time for Kids’ which arrived the day before had an article about the icebergs the size of Rohde Island which were breaking off the Ross ice shelf in Antarctica. I happened to read the article (I read these things so that we can justify having Time for Kids) and all but forgot about it. The day after I found myself staring at the round continent of (r)ice at the bottom of the (world)/pot and thinking whether I should break off another slab to feed myself (the kids could still have melaoach)… ‘The poetic beauty of the metaphor cannot be for nothing’ I told myself. Ima would have thrown this out ten days ago, but what are ten days to something which was kept at the frigid bottom of the refrigerator? The scientists said that it was very good ice that was breaking off the continent… Driven by the prospect of scientific discovery I took a tea spoon and began hacking at the (r)ice. Slowly, slowly it began to give way and a small pile of grains began to accumulate next to the parent slab. Every now and then I would empty the grains into a corning bowl, careful not to lose the mother slab in the process. If the main slab fell to the floor it would most likely have disintegrated into thousands of grains, and blended with everything that we had on the floor (the maid was fired two months ago) would not have been edible. At least not within the bounds of the experiment I was willing to conduct in the name of poetic beauty.

After a few minutes of hacking I had a ‘sufficient’ serving. I defined ‘sufficient’ as fulfilling three criteria: scientific, survival and hope… First of all it had to be a quantity which beyond all doubt would have negative effects on me had the rice been spoiled (the scientific part). Secondly it had to be enough to qualify as a meal should the kids finish all the melaoach (survival). Finally there should not have been too much of it so I could eat something I liked if the kids did not finish the melaoach (hope).

I nuked the rice for quite some time in the Microwave – just to be on the safe side and sat down to eat it. It had a pretty bland taste – very much like warm dry ice. I kept eating. It was a pure exercise in survival. On one hand this is not something that one would do in their house in the middle of a modern town with all the modern amenities for acquiring and processing food. On the other hand I simply could not have let such a metaphor go to waste. As I was munching the grains of dried (r)ice, I couldn’t help but think about the fact that its was rice that had sustained the majority of the populations on the planet since the days of early civilization. I was sharing the experiences of the people who had build the great wall of China and the Taj-Mahal or did the latter eat melaoach?

At the end of it all it could be that I had somewhat overloaded the meaning of the article with metaphoric meaning, but the lesson was there all the same. Rice can be eaten when its two weeks old. It doesn’t make for the greatest of meals but its edible. In fact I don’t think that rice in and of itself tastes at all no matter how young or old it is. Given that it lasts forever in its uncooked form, you can simply keep a bag at home and it will serve you well during leaner times. There is the minor detail of knowing how to cook it, but Suma knows where the cookbook is so there is nothing to worry about. All of these are important reassuring facts that are nice to keep in the back of one’s mind. I obviously kept the rest of the rice slab should Ima allow me to continue the experiment next week.

There are two more lessons which I would like to share: First of all kids can take care of themselves, they just don’t see a reason to volunteer this information to anyone, as it can put them on the road to independence long before their parents would urge them to do so. Secondly the un-moldy half of a tomato looks like a regular tomato when cut into a salad.

And this is how I came to know these things.

As I was eating my ancient rice Suma was cutting a young salad out of cucumbers and  tomatoes and a grandfather onion. The cucumbers came seethed in plastic which keeps them fresh for durations which can exceed the half life of uncooked rice.  The tomatoes were from an era which most likely preceded the (r)ice age and had no such protection. I don’t recall shopping for tomatoes and the location in which they were found at the bottom of the refrigerator was somewhat of a testimony to their age. The theory about the tomatoes’ age was further substantiated by spots of mold which some of them had in spite of the cold temperatures in which they were kept…

Suma was very methodical about inspecting each vegetable and the parts of it which she was willing to use. In parallel to sorting and cutting the salad Suma was making melaoach in the frying pan behind her. Tintin was wondering around drooling waiting for his spoils. Osmo was out on the town. Hungry as he seemed to be, Tintin did not dignify my rice with the slightest of glances. His perception of the food chain options were obviously farther extended than mine. I kept a keen eye on things waiting to see either a finger cut, the frying pan catch fire or have the smoke alarm go off. None of the above happened. Suma was cutting off the parts of the tomatoes which had mold on them and using the rest to prepare Tintin’s salad. ‘Tintin you have to have vegetables’. ‘Should I raise the issue of the mold?’ I asked myself. I decided against it. After all not only was she cutting off the moldy pieces, we were in a survival exercise.

To my utter amazement I realized that Suma had mastered Ima’s production-chain cooking habits and was going about it as if it were second nature to her. Within minutes she had Tintin happily munching his melaoach, and continued to make the salad while she set another piece of melaoach on the frying pan for herself. ‘I wonder how she’ll handle the salt part when dressing the salad’ I asked myself. ‘Bushy, how do you make the dressing?’ was my answer. I was elated – the child had realized through a process of observation that Ima’s way of dressing a salad was not to be imitated. Not having seen it done right the child still needed guidance. I showed her the old fashioned way of mixing lemon juice, olive oil, pepper and a LITTLE salt in a cup prior to pouring it into the salad (by premixing one achieves a more uniform distribution of the salt)… Not that I mentioned that to Suma. Not only would it have been unethical to pass judgment without Ima being there to defend her methods of dressing salads, it was redundant as well. The child had obviously drawn her own conclusions, having stumbled on salt deposits in previous salads…

Suma completed the salad and her melaoach and sat down to eat. She made sure that Tintin had his share of salad before she let him go about his business. Tintin was very kind to leave a piece of his melaoach behind. I wolfed it down with some of the salad and brought the rice lesson to a tasty end. A day later I would still feel fine. So the age of rice does not seem to matter.

All this flashed through my mind as I heard the mixer in the kitchen.

It’s now 14:49 and Suma has long since finished baking and left to get a hair cut. Before she left she discredited her work stating that ‘the cookies look like shit’. I was saddened by her lack of sense of accomplishment, but felt that I should let it pass. If what I was seeing was indeed true, then this might have been the equivalent of a sloppy first hunt – but a kill was made and that was a cornerstone event. I waited until Suma was out of the house and rushed to see the cookies. She was right – they looked like shit but only because they were brown. Other than that they were prefect. I tasted the one she had tasted and left for dead – it was very good, although I could see why she was so critical of herself. The cookies could have been rounder… Still concerned I tried the dreaded acid test – could I lift one from the tray without it disintegrating? Gingerly I half lifted half twisted one. I was surprised how easily it came off the tray without leaving so much as a crumb stuck to the pan. ‘WOW’ I thought to myself. It’s easier than lifting a shoe off the floor – and yet they never lift their shoes…

I almost missed the fact that the kitchen in which the cookies were made was  completely clean. I quickly looked into the dish washer – sure enough there were the mixer heads. ‘So she can clean a kitchen too’, ‘Where did she learn how to do that?’. What I found a bit puzzling was the fact that I did not see any bowl in which the dough would have had to be mixed. Could it be that the cookies were prepared directly in the sink? The details were of little importance. A full cycle of creating food from scratch had taken place and the manufacturing facilities had been returned to their starting condition, ready to be used again. I had a fully accomplished master-of-the-house taking care of things.

Staring at the cookie, amazed by its integrity is spite of the forces of physics which threaten to crumble it to dust it all came together for me. The kids could take care of themselves, however they only applied their skills where and when THEY deemed it was necessary… That’s why I’m eating old rice and doing clothing triathlons, while they dress up clean and eat melaoach and home baked cookies.

Let’s view this in light of some more of the evidence.

I recalled that Osmo has done a clothes triathlon a week ago. He actually ran the washing machine, moved the clothes to the drier, ran that and then setup the ironing board. I was made aware of all of this since the ironing board is located right behind where I sit to watch for energies so I couldn’t help but notice Osmo with the iron in his hand working on one of his sweat shirts. ‘Is that a clean sweat shirt Osmo?’ I asked. ‘Sure, I just washed it’. I found it hard to envision Osmo washing a piece of clothing in the sink so I responded by asking ‘how did you wash it?’ ‘In the machine’. ‘You can run the machine?’. ‘Sure, Ima taught me’. ‘And is it dry?’. ‘Yeah, I put it in the dryer’. This was becoming more than I could absorb but I still had to make sure that things were under control: ‘Did you make sure that there were no white garments in the machine with the colored clothes?’. Osmo, seemed confused. The look on his face caused pictures of lightly colored used-to-be-white underwear to flash before my eyes, however before I could query further Osmo assured me that there was nothing to worry about: ‘I only washed these two sweat shirts’…

I think this was one of those ubiquitous occasions where a ‘Batar Abu Gidi’ was appropriate. Here I was after years and years of indoctrination that a washing machine was an essential home appliance that one should use effectively so as to conserve energy and prolong its life therefore one should operate it when its full to capacity… But all of this was totally beside the point. Osmo needed clean clothes, Ima was not available to cater to his needs so he took care of himself. And now, based on the same logic he was trying to iron a sweat shirt. I could see that he was struggling. I recalled from the scant few experiences that I have had with ironing in my life that ironing when not done with coals was not as all that hard. Fortunately Ima happened to be on the phone and pointed out that irons unlike kettles leave the little red light on so you will know that they were hot. The little red light was not on when Osmo was ironing… After we plugged the cord into the wall things became a lot easier. Osmo took care of himself, but only to the extent that he had to. When he found out that I could iron it was all over. He let nature take its course which was to let the only available parent take care of washing, drying and ironing. By the way you need a hot iron to unlatch the top of the cinnamon buns icing top after it has been left with the icing side on the kitchen counter. The icing clings like cement but can be softened with heat…

The same principles seemed to work for putting clean clothes where they belong. They all know that they are the ones that put things back in the closets, unless of course they can pick them up on a need-be basis from Yeela’s bed… They’ll clear that only if they need an extra place to sleep. With Ima’s side of the our bed being vacant and all the space in the family room, that’s not likely to become a necessity any time soon.

As I reflect on things in the newly discovered perspective of this only-when-needed independence more and more things seem to support this finding. For example I vividly recall the hours after I dropped Ima off at the air port. I remember them vividly because I had three burned fingers to remember them by. I burned my fingers fumbling with the toaster-griller making melted cheese sandwiches for the boys lest they go hungry. I had tried to apply more pressure on the sandwiches by grabbing the front lids of the toaster not realizing that the bottom hot plate lining was facing forward at the edge… I did not give much thought to the fact that Tintin would show up every now and then, masterfully raise the upper hot plate, check the status of the beagles inside and lay it back down as if he were closing a book. ‘If only he opened books the way he opened that dangerous toaster’… I thought to myself as I dubbed my fingers in Aluvera.  The kid could operate the griller much better than I could. The next day he cooked chicken wings for Jonathan so Jonathan wouldn’t have to go home hungry. ‘I wonder if they’ll use the Aluvera when they run out of hair gel?’…

As I try to put all of this in perspective I believe that all in all this does not change anything, at least not until Ima gets back. We would need to make one more major push for food unless we go for the chicken at the bottom of the other refrigerator. Furthermore I think the brunt of the clothing triathlons is behind me. We should all be good for another six or seven days. If not I’ll do one or two more W.D.I. (wash-dry-iron) rounds. I don’t care so much for washing and drying but I can’t stand the ironing part. Its so damn hard to get one side ironed while not ruining what you just ironed on the other side of the garment. Maybe I’ll ask Tintin to show me how its done…

We would need to clean the house before Ima gets back. This will not be easy but I still have two full days to figure out how to position this a necessity to the kids so that they can show me how that’s done.

Finally from what I have learned so far there is not a shred of hope that they will ever feed the dog…

Daniel Turns Twelve

It’s not that we didn’t know it was coming. In fact we knew about it twelve years in advance, yet somehow there was some apprehension in the air. Some weird stressful feeling that does not usually accompany birthdays. Perhaps it was just me being more attentive and more involved than usual, and as a result sensing more of the subtleties that underlie the orchestrating of a birthday party.

Given that Daniel was born on February 3rd 1991 it was time for him to turn twelve on February 3rd 2003. With that a given all arrangement for the commemoration of the event would obviously have to take place prior to the day of the celebration. There was relatively little going on during the weeks prior to the birthday. I was aware of a low-key search for a site to celebrate at, which resulted in the selection of Durshire 739. The ice rink at Valco Moll came in a close second but the timing was bad: the place can only be rented for parties from 22:00. Knowing what I know now this would not have been a problem, however at the time it seemed a ludicrous idea to expose the children to the nightlife of Sunnyvale, which as we know belongs to the bugs after 21:00.

‘Osmo, why don’t we have the party at home?’. Asked Ima. ‘We’ll have cake and music…’. ‘And…’ I thought to myself, but then settled down assuming the twelve year olds can handle a dance party for a couple of hours. ‘OK’ Osmo agreed and with that completed his contribution to the event. Being the birthday boy that was perfectly normal behavior. We were therefore delighted when Osmo volunteered to print ‘a few’ invitations so that he could hand them to ‘his friends’. He prepared a template stating the date and time and address but without driving directions and printed a few copies… ‘How many copies can you possibly print on our printer?’ It’s going to be a nice cozy evening at home with a few of his friends.

I don’t know exactly how the invitations got handed out and to whom. Based on what followed I can only speculate. One theory is that some of them were posted on bulletin boards at various schools and community centers. Another theory is that they were anonymous and therefore were handed out as free passes from one person to another. All you needed was to make a copy of the invitation and you were eligible to share our residence for an evening.

At first there were no warning signs of the gathering storm. Then there were the one or two phone calls asking for directions which came from Wilma and Steve’s mother who both knew exactly where we live but wanted to make sure that it was indeed at our house. ‘Why would they want to verify such an obvious thing?’. I know responsible American parents who need to fill in a log of their children’s whereabouts days in advance, however this should have been a routine matter which does not require confirmations to these families. Somehow I put this behind me until we met Wilma at the basket ball game a week prior to the party. ‘When Benny told me that Brandon and Tom and Mike and Gonzo (which turned out to be a girl) and Duane and Bill and Matt and Duncan and Phillip and Alon and Jeff and Jennifer and Allison (not the one that eats at Mary’s every Thanksgiving) and Yoav and Hulk and Bulk and Lump and …’ I was no longer following the names right but I did get the message. Benny had most-likely shared some of the realities as to who else had mentioned that they would be coming to the party with his mother. When she heard the list she became concerned that something was terribly wrong with the invitations. ‘Perhaps his invitation got confused with the Homestead-Fremont football game?’.

Sensing some logistical short circuit that might cause the party to lack adequate quantities of essentials such as food, drink and accommodation we decided to ask Osmo how many people he thought were coming to the party. ‘About forty, why?’. ‘Oh, that’s what we thought you invited, just wanted to make sure’.

So a week before the party we received this rude awakening that the perceived number of guests had mushroomed while transitioning from perception to reality. Knowing the facts a week in advance was enough of an early warning. ‘We’ll order double the Pizzas – they’re only five dollars each on Mondays’ Ima said. If the pizzas were not a problem what else would you possibly need for a party?

The phone calls continued throughout the week, at a rate which matched expectations. If we were expecting forty people then five calls a day asking for directions is not out of the ordinary given that driving directions were not included with the invitations. I was quite at peace with everything until the call that came to apologize for having to pickup whoever-his-her-name was early. ‘Why that’s not a problem’, ‘OK so I’ll be there at eight’… ‘Eight was EARLY?’. I could feel my knees sagging and the knots in my stomach as I lay back the ear piece. ‘When is the party supposed to start?’ I asked trying to make it sound as innocent as could be. ‘At five thirty, why?’ ‘Because this lady just called to say that she would have to pick up her child a little early…’. ‘Did she say when she was coming?’ ‘Eight’. ‘That’s fine, the party ends at eight thirty.’.

So there it was. This thing had a time dimension attached to it as well. We would have forty kids for three hours. That’s twelve hundred twelve-year-olds minutes. The irony of it all was that such a large number is simply impossible to comprehend. It’s the ‘penny wise dollar stupid’ problem applied to time and children. We can all grasp what it means to have to entertain three kids for half and our (90 child minutes). However we simply cannot extrapolate the figures to comprehend what it would be like when the number grows to forty kids for three hours. ‘They’ll be fine, all we need is something for them to eat before the pizza’ Ima said.

On Saturday morning things began to sink in. A few critical hours were lost to Tin-tin’s basket ball game and driving him to camp with FOUR of his friends. Perhaps the lord was trying to give us one more chance to come to our senses. Nothing of the sort happened. We dropped the youngsters off without giving their complaints about the ONE HOUR ride a second thought. The lord however would not let us wander that easily. He summoned us to where Osmo and THREE of HIS friends were sitting on the fence watching someone else working. ‘Osmo, how are you?’ we asked cheerfully. ‘Bored, can I come home with you?’. Still it didn’t register. Lunch time came and all was forgotten. We would not be given any more signs as to what was coming. From here on history would take its course and lessons would be learned in retrospect.

‘I have to spend the next two days shopping’ Ima said as we drove back from the camp to civilization. ‘I have some presents to buy for the family in Israel and a few more things for Osmo’s party’. Was I getting soft or was I caught between a rock and a hard place? I think it was the first of the two options – needless to say that I was happy to join Ima through all of this. At the end of the first day the family in Israel was all taken care of and I learned how to say ‘A-ber-c-ro-m-bie and Fitch’, ‘Yeah, that’s it – Abercrombie and Fitch’. There was absolutely zero progress as far as the looming party was concerned.

Looking back we were playing the script of the perfect storm. Running into a twelve hundred twelve year old minute party with nothing but pizza. To complete the irony we went to see the movie ‘adaptation’ that evening. It’s a movie about a screen play writer who wants to tell a story about an orchid and struggles for months for a way to make it movie worthy. In the end a set of ridiculously incredible events provide for a true Hollywood like ending to his efforts, making his story ridiculous but movie worthy. ‘I really liked the way everything adapts to the absurd that movie making enforces’ I said as we were driving home. ‘It was an excellent movie’ Ima agreed. The devil must have died laughing… ‘Pizza for twelve year old for three hours?’ ‘How are you going to make that movie worthy?’.

‘Tomorrow we can start out by climbing our hill and then we can shop for the party.’ ‘There are a few more things that we need to decorate the room’. Hades must have spewed some lava somewhere on the planet when he heard that one. ‘So now balloons were supplementing the pizza?’. We slept well that night…

In the morning we climbed the hill. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. One of those clear chilly mornings without a cloud in the sky and the air is completely clear. Aside from the soothing beauty of the moment it also tends to lower the probability that one would consider the negative aspects of being stuck at home with nothing to do ‘when its such a beautiful DAY outside’… The party would be at night and there would be no place to go. By this time we were far beyond the point of no return.

Ima had things planned out down to the last balloon. A quick stop at Target to pick up makeup for Yeela and a CD (as in ONE) for Osmo ‘so there will be music at his party’. That seemed reasonable. ‘In the age of the boom-box and proliferation of CD’s he probably has all the music he needs’. From Target to ‘Deedums’ (Because Target opens before Deedums) to pick up a few things, a quickie to the Price Club for cake and a ‘few more things for Israel’ and back home to decorate the room for the party…

By 15:00 we were done. Balloons were hanging down from the ceiling and the walls all around the family room. A plastic sheet of moons and stars stretched across the ceiling, and colored stripes of paper were strung across the dining room. The traditional ‘Happy Birthday’ banner was strung along the walls and the cake was in the refrigerator. ‘What will they drink?’ I asked quite content with myself that this was our only remaining problem. ‘I’ll pick up some bottles at Safeway, nothing to worry about’ said captain Ahab.

Somewhere in all of this I think I was counting on two would be fantasies that put my worries to rest. I somehow recalled that when we were twelve we took care of our own parties and everything was fine provided that there was a house, a record player and records. Given that they had all this in the modern day and age versions I felt that we had taken care of the essentials. ‘Worst case, we always have Suma’s ingenuity to come up with something to entertain the gang’. ‘Not only a plan, but a backup plan as well’. Boy, was I proud of us.

Suma, Osmo and Tin-tin came back from camp that evening. I was glad to hear that the boys has a good time, at least for the most part. When I tried to talk to Suma I found it difficult to hear her speak. The house was relatively quite and my good ear was close to her so something else was wrong. SUMA HAD NO VOICE!!! If anyone had any doubts about what would happen to the fishing boat when their fax failed to receive the warning about the storm of the century, here it was in our version: the voice that could save the party was gone. But why would we need to save the party?

On Monday afternoon I could tell that Mother was getting a little nervous when she asked me to come home an hour before the party. Getting to be old and soft I was happy to leave work early and head back to make sure that everything was ready for our eldest son’s twelfth birthday party.

The first three people arrived almost on time. The look on Tin-tin’s face indicated that something was wrong. The size of the people was larger than Osmo’s. The amount of facial hair indicated that these people-boys were larger because they were significantly older than Osmo as well. How much older was quite irrelevant – the fact was that this size and age was beyond the operational envelope that we had set up to handle. In layman’s terms the first thirty foot wave had hit our fishing boat. There was no turning back now – we had to deal with events as they unraveled. ‘This isn’t the first humongous gathering of people at our house, we can handle this’.

Looking out the window I could see Tom Brittle on the other side of the street with someone larger than he was. They were standing opposite the house apparently waiting for more people to arrive. As Tin-tin stared in horror at the gathering of bigger and bigger people, I noticed that most of the parents were dropping the kids of and scurrying off without coming in to say hello. ‘Funny, normally they come and introduce themselves’ I thought to myself. I was still drained from bonding with the Hebrew Day School staff, so I didn’t mind not having to go thorough the ‘glad to meet you’ routine over and over again. My joy turned to apprehension when one of the parents did walk up to the door. It was an older lady who used walking sticks to help her along. ‘You are very brave’ was the only thing she said to me when she turned around and walked back to her car, the gathering kids letting her through. Seeing how she looked I dared not think whether she had anything concrete to convey other than the deep sadness in her eyes as she scanned the living room as though for the first and last time…

The lady seemed to fade into the drive way as a group of what would biologically qualify as girls stormed in the door. Tin-tin turned from worried to desperate. You didn’t need to be a four-child parent to understand what had just walked in the door. These were not the girls that you see in the Tsofim, not even the worst of them. These were hardcore street material and they were after our son and anything that resembled him.

The flow of hoodlums continued for thirty minutes. Every now and then a short clean young kid whom we know would walk in with a sheepish smile, but there were so few of them. Even Brandon looked like a darling young man as he galumphed through the door waiving his body as he went. By six o’clock the magnitude of what we had gotten into was well upon us. Ima did the only sensible thing to do and that was spend the next fifteen minutes trying to call Yeela and have her talk to Osmo who was nothing more than an innocent bystander in his own party.

From my perch next to Ilana’s statue-of-liberty wannabe I could see droves of people wandering from Osmo’s room and back to living room and the yard as though waiting for something to happen. I could tell that there was some up-beat music playing in the background but it seemed to have no affect on the behavior of the people. Every now and then I could see one of them stop, listen, move a limb in a manner that attempted to match the rhythm of the music and then move on. It turns out that music in-and-of itself does nothing for youngsters these days. It has to either have to come out of the mouth of a live singers with some leather upholstery providing minimal cover to their bodies, or be generated by large electronic equipment controlled by an individual known as a DJ. The music itself is totally irrelevant if the setting for a what appears like a religious sacrifice is not right.

Thinking back I believe I was partially surprised but not really disturbed by the fact that they were not really doing anything other than wondering through the house forming clans and dispersing them as their hormones directed them to seek other relationships. Suma was amused, Tin-tin was horrified, Ima was on the phone, Tweety was on the floor in the living room not minding a thing and I was on my perch watching time go by.

Apparently Ima was not completely disconnected when talking to Yeela. ‘We need the pizza and movies from Block Buster’ Ima said hanging up the phone. To my amazement I felt surprise but none of my uncooperative resistance to please nonconstructive young people. It was only six fifteen and with so much time left what could we possible gain by bringing the pizza so early? The movies somehow didn’t seem as if they would do anything to calm the moving herds. Perhaps they would help the kids we knew more closely, but all the new comers would have probably fallen asleep in an ‘R’ rated movie let alone the ‘PG-13s’ which we would have to bring. However experience taught me that at times like these it was best to focus on the task at hand. Perhaps with movies we could contain twenty of them and hope that the others would find something to do with themselves.

‘Get nine pizzas and three movies’. I did not feel the slightest inclination to rebel against these seemingly ludicrous numbers. ‘What the hell’ I thought to myself, ‘bigger problems need bigger hammers’. Being the experienced shopper that I am I double checked the price of the pizzas and wrote out a thirty two dollar check for nine five dollar pizzas… The poor fool at Little Caesar’s has no one to help him with the math, all of his friends were at our place. Block Buster was even easier – I picked a movie with Martin and De-Vito, another with Eddy Murphy and De-Nero and one with De-girl who want to play basket ball in the NBA. I paid our usual late charge for some movie which we never saw and drove home. On the way I stopped at Gadi’s to pick up a digital camera so that someone would believe us that all this ever happened.

Ima was waiting for me at the door as I walked up the driveway balancing nine pizza boxes. I could tell she has been counting the minutes waiting for my return and not out of pure love. When I set the pizzas down on the living room table some red headed org detached himself from one of the passing packs and walked towards the pizzas. ‘THAT’S A LOT OF PIZZAS’ he said in his gentle voice. For a minute I contemplated whether it was worth while trying to see if he could count to nine, but decided against it. I would later find out that his name was ‘B’ which most likely was a simplification of a birth-given name and as such did not say much for counting abilities.

B’s bellow caused the herds to stop and sniff. The scent of the pizzas had caught their attention at a time when they normally begin the hunt… Before my unbelieving eyes Ima grabbed two pizzas and a pair of scissors to defend herself and took the pizzas to the dining room table past the sniffing flocks. ‘The things that a mother would do to defend her young’ I thought to myself. Ima was risking herself to move B away from Tintin.

‘The camera’ I told myself, ‘turn on the camera’. ‘If these kids are what I think they are they know the implications of being caught on film’. Torn between the danger of being rushed by the mob before I could turn the camera on and not willing to let Ima walk with fish bait into the sharks’ pool I quickly turned the camera on and started taking pictures with the flask blinking wildly. It worked! They slowly turned away from the camera to the dining room table and started tearing at the pizza. Ima would grab two pizzas at a time and I would blind them with the camera as Ima would sneak between them  and place the pizzas amongst them. I was somewhat relieved to see little guys like Benny and Yoav sitting in dark corners munching happily at scraps they had managed to grab for themselves. TinTin was also mingling and munching somehow sensing that well fed apes did not pose any significant danger to the likes of him. Still one could tell that he would not let his guard down.

Seeing that the feeding frenzy would buy us too little time, and knowing that her voice was gone Suma called for reinforcements. Within fifteen minutes Nir and Omer showed up. I was relieved to see guys their size whom I knew could read and write and were not there to relieve themselves of any primordial physical desires. Suma, Nir and Omer calmly stared at what seemed to be a Martian landscape dotted with beings wondering in the eerie lights of the disco lamp and stated that a game of RAPE was all that was needed to adapt the evening to the needs to the participants and turn it into a memorable smashing success.

For those of us who grew up in a completely different era the very notion of using the term ‘rape’ in the context of a game was quite revolting. The name being as bad as it was, seeing the enthused reaction of the mob was all the more troubling. However the feeling that we had somehow wore the brunt of the storm was beginning to settle in. After all we had controlled them through their bonding, boredom, wandering and feeding. We were almost two hours into the frenzy without anything major happening, not even a pregnancy. Seeing this renewed our confidence and we were willing to take on new challenges.

The game of rape is a simple form of forcing a boy upon a girl or visa versa with the intent of having them kiss each other or avoid kissing each other. This all happens in the center of a circle. One representative of a sex in the middle of the circle and two representatives, one from each sex have to either kiss or prevent from kissing the one in the center of the circle. In order to determine who the two that go after the one in the center are the organizer calls their names. It was then that I learned that the boys were called after the letters of the alphabet (we already met B) and the girls had numbers. ‘That’s a good way to avoid witnesses being able to recite names’ I thought to myself. All of a sudden there was a whole new meaning to the term ‘K8’. From now on it means that the boy called ‘K’ and the girl called ‘8’ have to pounce on each other and the person in the middle of the circle to kiss someone or not.

Osmo handled himself quite well during the game. Being as big as he is he actually managed to compete successfully with the girls… Tintin hung around the coliseum for one or two rounds just to get the feel of the hyena pack and then crawled back to the living room. Brandon was ecstatic. Yoav had a blast. Benny was somewhat timid and Alon was flat out horrified. Ima sat on a chair next to the dining room table and couldn’t stop laughing. I was there with the camera and flash in case someone’s testosterone got the best of them. Nir and Omer took turns at five minute shifts reading from a random list of ciphers activating pairs of gladiators as they did. Suma was there to maintain a less macho setting which was important to keep things from boiling over.

The game lasted for over an hour! I think ‘J’ didn’t get to go and neither did ‘3’ but I really didn’t care. I was nearing eight thirty and the last thing I needed was for some parent to wonder in and see what was going on.  The movies were not an option but we still had the cake. Ima set it on the table and called the mobs to light the candles. Surprisingly there are traditions which even they respect. They gathered quietly around the table. Someone lit the candles with their lighters… Osmo blew them out and every one sang happy birthday as the first parents started walking in. I could tell from their looks that they could not believe their eyes. Somehow they were expecting what they had just missed and seeing what they had not expected.

By NINE THIRTY the last of the Mohicans has departed, even Vashti went home and by ten thirty the house was back in order. Ima still took a few hours to explain to Osmo that these girls were not right for him. Through the stupor of sleep I think it was all over by midnight.

What a lovely party it was. Happy birthday Osmo and many happy returns.

Someone up there had their last laugh and we were humbled by the experience.