Being back in America isn’t strange, as I feared it might be. The cars seem enormous (and the parking spaces even moreso), but non-stop AM radio news and English-only signage don’t feel unusual. As I explained to someone yesterday, although I am Israeli—feeling Israeli waxes and wanes—America was my home base for 34 years. I can’t forget it, even if I wanted to!
I do wonder what Americans think of us, though. I have realized that my kids are more Israeli than American—language aside. They’re loud and boisterous (though rarely thoroughly obnoxious, and polite and respectful when we demand it). They expect that many adults they don’t know—flight attendants, cashiers, fellow plane passengers—will interact with them because that is what they have become accustomed to.
They have achieved certain levels of independence. They go to the bathroom alone at semi-public venues, like the pool. They run to the end of the block without hesitation.
They range away from us to play; we let them, as long as they’re in sight. Vaguely. Ish. When they tussled at the Atlanta airport and AM banged his head, other adults looked around frantically for us. Many Israeli parents would have tended to him first, before looking for his keeper.
I don’t look at this as toughening up for the army, but rather just allowing them to spread their wings. Israel is a pretty safe place to do this. Kids are everywhere and are well integrated into society’s fabric. The cashier at the grocery store is happy to talk to them, probably because packing up my groceries is my job, not hers. I can send them into the makolet to buy a bag of milk, knowing that they’ll be fine, they’ll learn about money, and they’ll learn how to look at expiration dates on dairy products. And if they do that errand “for me” then I can order my takeaway coffee without a constant barrage of “Can I have one?” at the ruggelach counter.
As with other aspects of aliyah and the post-aliyah integration, the kids are leading us. We, the adults, could easily slip back into America without much thought—except for happy exclamations over the low price of school supplies—but the kids are already stepping away from it. They have absorbed the attitudes and expectations as much as the language.
I will continue to struggle with my half-half life. They will not.