כרטיס לידה נעמה

We all installed WhatsApp to assure we stayed connected in case Facebook, Skype, G-mail and phone services failed. We were waiting for the baby dispersed in pairs hundreds and thousands miles apart. Tal called to let me know that Yeela was in labor, asking if we should let Imma know. Yeela was two weeks early, and Imma would be leaving for the airport in a few hours. I thought it would better to wait, who knew how long it would take, but Imma smelled a rat when Yeela didn’t answer her phone. They spoke a lot those days. Imma worked around the radio silence by contacting Elad – the only honest man in the chain – who spilled the beans. I have never met a person so honest. Imma multi-tasked her way through the check-in and security, switching between her iPad and her iPhone, the checking attendants and TSA personal. Imma checked on the cervical dilation.

“How many centimeters?”

“Eight.”

“Boarding rows fifty and higher.”

Imma shuffled by a couple to her window seat, letting everyone around her know that her daughter was having a baby.

“The cabin door is now closed, please make sure your…”

“Ten centimeters”

Imma switched off only her iPad as the stewardess moved along. The Israeli couple sitting next to her wanted in on the scoop and promised to sound the alarm when a flight attendant was coming up or down the aisle. The plane turned on to the taxiway and stopped.

“We are cleared for takeoff after the plane ahead of us; please make sure all electronic devices are turned off.”

Imma crouched lower in her seat; the couple next to her was perched like worried owls looking at the surrounding passengers, concerned about a passenger across the aisle that kept shaking his head angrily. Imma looked through the window. She could see the plane on the runway beginning its take off. “The head is out” Imma informed her bodyguards. “Keep listening,” they replied, determined to see the delivery through. The plane moved forward and turned on to the runway. The FAA required two minutes between planes. Sixty seconds between contractions.

“Push!”

The plane’s engines roared, the baby cried, “Maxal-Tov’s” sounded from all around, quite a few people were following. Imma turned off her phone, bribed the would-be snitch across the aisle with a chocolate bar to keep his mouth shut, asked her minutemen to stand down, and fell asleep, dreaming how we would have our newly extended family over for Passover.

Creative Writing Graduation

Dear Class of 2011,

I must say that I was quite surprised when the instructor called to ask if I would be willing to write the graduations speech this year.

‘To what do I owe the honor’, I asked.

I could sense the instructor hesitating. ‘Considering your writing, Yiftah, this is an opportunity of a lifetime.’

I held on to the phone while I pulled up a chair.

‘Can we make it look as if I volunteered?’ I asked.

‘Your shame is safe with me.’

Knowing that the bar was set low was somewhat comforting, still I had my concerns.

‘What would you like me to talk about?’ I asked in a weary voice, hoping that denial would win over despair.

‘Try to leave the audience with a memorable message.’

The instructor hung up, leaving me to weigh in on my prospects. The fact that the guidelines were meager was only part of the problem. This is not a common graduation. Most of you have jobs, some of you do not descend from Stanford Alumni and every naive youth has an astute elder looking over their shoulder. The wealth of life experience embodied in this group – as I have come to know it through your writing – is so vast. As writers you have the privilege to choose your audience and annoy the rest of humanity, but by accepting to address you tonight I have forfeited that privilege. How could I possibly conjure a single succinct message, fine-tuned to appeal to such diversity?

To make matters worse, I am a private and reclusive man, who since elementary school has systematically avoided attending my graduations except for driving school which concluded with little fanfare. I had no idea what needs to be said on an occasion such as this. Yet I was touched by the fact that driving school focused on the journey rather than the destination. The messages were memorable, and at the same time untainted by false hope, practical but not condescending, free of antagonism and bonding.

In the same spirit, rather than impose my opinions on you, I have chosen to share a few ideas and let the dice fall as they may.

 

What better a dice than a George Washington quarter? What better opposites than ‘heads’ and ‘tails’ incongruently juxtaposed against each other, so near and yet so far. Must a coin always fall on one of two sides, one which wishes well and the other bodes ill omens? Why do we pit young against old, poor against rich, vegans vs. meat eaters? Where is the middle class? Can there be three way coins?

Of course there can.

A quarter is 24.26 millimeter in diameter, and 1.75 millimeter wide, if we stacked 14 of them we would have a cylinder which fell on one of three sides with even probability. We would have middle ground. All of a sudden we could have turtle people between cat and dog people and midlife would no longer be a crisis. Perhaps, if you allow me, I would like to hypothesize what could have been had Joshua used a Dodecahedron to allocate homesteads in the Holy Land. Perhaps there is a story there. Think of how much richer writing could be if the term ‘flip of a coin’ meant more than binary choices? How much more colorful the world you write about could be.

Always look for the bright side – now that you can have as many as you want. If you have children you no longer have to ground them. Thanks to Facebook they have grounded themselves. Do not spend your time sorting through their socks. You can prove by induction that all socks have the same color. I would give you the proof, but my time is running short. I have no idea whether this can help with writing, but perhaps some of you would like to investigate further.

Tonight, when the speeches die down, and the food has been eaten, when we have concluded the handshakes that forge lasting relationships and the forceful hugs which immediately break them, please take a few more moments to celebrate the beauty around you, as it expresses itself in architecture and art. When you leave the building turn to your left and walk to the entrance of the quad. Enjoy the beauty of the masonry, the soft colors of the stones in the moonlight. Walk up the path towards the church. Notice the monument honoring the Burghers of Calais on your left. What a wonderful saga of selfless devotion and sacrifice, honored forever by their bronze sculptures. Turn and walk back and to your left, following the path to the museum and the garden of sculptures on its south side. Walk from the gates of hell, to the Thinker. Stop to appreciate the unlimited depth of human imagination. Enjoy the moment, contemplate the beauty, listen to your feet treading on the gravel paths, listen to the growing silence of the night, smell the autumn leaves, taste the air, good scenes engage all senses, think of the creative powers vested in you, free your emotions, embrace your freedom to think and do your best to remember where it is that you left your car.