The hurricane that caused much devastation and misery left us largely undisturbed. Our paid childminder wasn't able to make it in from Brooklyn, but my office was closed, so I could stay home to take care of the kids, who had been struck and stricken by a gastrointestinal ailment.
We never lost power or water. Had we, we would have had to leave the city. The gastrointestinal ailment that had struck or stricken the children required a lot of water for clean up.
It was repulsive.
Our luxury gym was crammed with angry people from downtown who were suffering from lack of power and water. Every electrical outlet was being used to recharge computers and smartphones; every shower stall was being used for basic daily washing. I empathized, of course, but the catch was that the typical patron of my luxury gym was an awful, entitled person, so instead of evoking pity or sympathy, the displaced downtown gym-goers, who angrily complained about the one-towel policy and who slammed their lockers with rage after pulling on their designer clothing, made me feel sad that this tragedy wasn't bringing people together the way one hoped that tragedies would bring people together. The only upside of tragedies was compassion towards equally-afflicted strangers. But the tragedy hadn't afflicted everyone equally, so I supposed this inequality was the cause of the fury. It was understandable -- I hadn't enjoyed the times in my life when I had had to go without power or hot water -- like in Sarajevo after the war -- although admittedly it had been before the era of smartphones and the constant need for electricity.
Our children recovered.
They started to pull a bit of their own weight.
Annual events occurred.
Operation Pillar of Cloud (מבצע עמוד ענן) began.
I had been waiting for Israel to respond to the increasing barrage of rocket fire from Gaza (غزة/עזה/Γάζα). Earlier in the summer during our visit to Israel, I had been nervous about an excursion to other parts of the Philistine Pentapolis, owing to all of the rockets. I, along with others who had been paying attention, was and were waiting for an Israeli response.
But when it came, I knew that there was no real way for Israel to win the public-relations war in the rest of the world. Hamas (حماس -- an acronym that also meant "enthusiasm") would win the public-relations battle if the Israelis killed thousands of Gazans and would also win if the Israelis killed no one.
As prophesied, the West was outraged by Israel's actions, claiming that the rockets fired by Hamas were either just little homemade firecrackers or legitimate resistance against illegal and racist oppression and blockade. Many of my left-wing friends posted angry comments on social-networking internet sites, and changed their profile photos to those of children killed or mutilated during the Israeli attacks. But the internet had become more sophisticated, so it was easy to find the source of the image, and it was almost always a child killed or mutilated in the civil war in Syria (سوريا), not in Gaza. I couldn't restrain myself from correcting people. Often they just left up the photo without changing the incorrect description.
Of course, some children did die in Gaza as a result of Israeli air-strikes. Since I had become a father myself, it was impossible to look at any grieving parent in a detached manner.
I got into a protracted discussion with people at my church, since most were overwhelmingly anti-Israel, and some were outraged that the Episcopal Church of the United States of America hadn't signed up to boycott, divest from, and demand sanctions against Israel until it withdrew from all of the territory it conquered in 1967 and granted Israeli citizenship to the five million descendants of those who had been expelled or fled from the Land that now constituted the State of Israel, thereby ending its status as a Jewish national home. Many were upset that so few Israelis had died in Hamas attacks.
Finally, there was a bombing of a city bus in Tel Aviv (תל אביב) by a Palestinian Arab citizen of Israel. A ceasefire was negotiated.
Hamas declared victory.
I looked into the internet for the Arab response. It was usually "ههههههههههههههه".
We had decided to go to the movies to see the latest installment of the saga of a fictional British Secret Service agent. I took a break from posting war information on a social-networking website to write: "In spite of the troubles in the Middle East, my thoughts are currently with the fact that I will never have a body like [the actor who played the fictional British Secret Service agent, who was my age]."
A former housemate of mine from Fire Island, who was vehemently anti-Israel in spite of or because of being nominally Jewish then commented: "This is the end of our friendship, [on the internet] and otherwise. That someone who works for a progressive organization would post something so frivolous when people are suffering is unconscionable to me."
I was nonplussed. I pointed out that he had not been monitoring my postings for frivolity while over three times the number of casualties of the entire history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1948 had been killed in Syria during the preceding year.
Asaph had arranged for an Israeli photographer to take photos in Central Park for members of the New York County Twins Association, an unincorporated entity with which we occasionally engaged. We had the last appointment, owing to a steep discount. Our daughter fell asleep on the way there, and, once awakened, would not smile. We eventually gave up and placed the kids on the ground to interact with the leaves. As temporary city children, they were leaf-deprived.
We had arranged to go visit friends in South Orange, New Jersey, for the Thanksgiving meal. Luckily, it was a nice day. We arrived very early, owing to my paranoia about the train trip. I hated taking the kids on the subway and worried about what the regional train would be like as people abandoned the large parade in Manhattan.
I gritted my teeth into a fake smile, hoping it would make me feel less stressed.
"What's wrong with you?" asked Asaph. "You're being a real jerk."
"Nothing is wrong," I smiled, strenuously.
It ended up being fine.
Our hosts, their two exchange students (a Pole and a German), and our hosts' siblings and siblings' spouses were all very busy preparing the meal, so we just stayed in the living room trying to keep our kids away from choking hazards. There was a large, rambunctious dog that was quite friendly, although it would accidentally nip at us in its zeal. Our daughter was terrified; I had never seen her scared before. Our son ignored the dog and kept searching for things to put in his mouth.
We came to the realization that we would have to leave before the meal was served in order to catch the train home to get the kids fed and in bed at an hour that wouldn't make our lives miserable.
Resigned, we took the kids to a park.
They loved it. Our daughter laughed and laughed in an atypical manner. I was shocked but gladdened.
Back at our friends' house, our son bit a clementine. It was recommended not to give citrus fruits to children under 12-months-old, owing to the acidity.
I had learned all of the Israeli children's songs. There weren't so many.
The next day I wanted to go on an arduous errand to many city and state offices in order to get a certified copy of our marriage certificate with an apostille. I assumed that many of these offices would not be ideal for visitation by stroller.
Asaph insisted on coming with me and bringing the kids, because he liked it when we did things together. I repressed my feelings.
We walked by a well-intentioned but unfortunately-named street.
"That's a pretty shitty address," said a friend, later. New York had many honorary street names that no one used, like Thelonious Monk Circle and Golda Meir Square (although I was sure that the days of the latter were numbered). The numerical street system made navigation easier, even though it was dull. My feelings about the numerical grid system had softened when I visited Kyoto (京都) with my parents in 2002 and I saw that that ancient city also was built on a grid. If it was good enough for Kyoto, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, it was good enough for New York, I reasoned.
The workers at the Marriage Bureau were very harried and abrupt, but Asaph managed to engage them in conversation. It was a popular day for weddings. The unsmiling guards in the New York Supreme Court, however, were not very happy about Asaph and the stroller. They made him remove every object for inspection and magno-measurement. I had almost finished getting the needed certification by the time he arrived in the basement office where non-English speakers were continually reprimanded for approaching counters in the incorrect order, owing to purposefully misleading signage.
A female worker with disturbing tattoos and overly casual attire approached the children to coo at them. I remembered the time that I had seen the actress Julianna Margulies with her inappropriately young and hunky husband and then-baby on the subway in Brooklyn, and how a quasi-homeless man had been making funny faces and noises for her child and how she just smiled and smiled in a fake way that masked her obvious alarm.
I did the same.
The people in the New York Secretary of State's office were quite nice, but when I left Asaph alone with the children for a minute, he decided to let them crawl on the floor.
"We are not that kind!" I screamed. I was furious.
We made it back home.
The next day we went for a walk in the frigid cold to take the kids to friends who also had twins in the same way we had twins. I insisted on no stroller.
They had a tiny dog. Our daughter showed no fear.
They made their children's infant formula with chamomile tea and brown sugar. I felt a twinge of inferiority.
We received gifts from Israel. I brought a copy to my Hebrew class to show the intentionally incorrect pluralization.
I began the process of changing my last name. I had wanted us to pick a new, Hebrew last name, like Agvaniah (עגבנייה), since I thought it would suit our ambiguously ethnic children better. But Asaph had strong feelings.
I wasn't crazy about hyphenated names, except for Finzi-Contini. And maybe Garmisch-Partenkirchen. And perhaps La Motte-Picquet – Grenelle.
Our kids began to appreciate their music class a bit more.
In spite of global warming, we dressed our children in thicker clothing.
Our view of the Hudson appeared to be threatened.
I thought that it would be interesting if we worshipped the Hudson like a god, like the ancient Romans and the current Hindus did with some of their rivers. But then we probably wouldn't have been able to afford our apartment.
Our children continued to develop.
Our son suddenly got a lot of teeth, but our daughter only had two.
I wondered what was taking so long.
I still spent too much money on frivolities and vanities. I needed to save for the children.
We prepared for the minor holiday.
Our paid childminder spent a night so that we could go sleep undisturbed at the house of a friend. He had prepared his room for us.
He had left items on the bed that he thought we could use.
Really? I thought.
We were chatting with our host and his then-boyfriend in his living room when I realized that it was already ten o'clock in the evening. I abruptly excused myself and ran into the bedroom.
I slept for 10 hours.
Asaph and I walked around the East Village to find a place for brunch. I hadn't had brunch in years!
The East Village seemed like another country.
I thought I saw the name of God in my cappuccino. It was so fun to be away from the babies!
Asaph enjoyed the decadent and sinful luxury of reading words off of paper.
The restaurant had a Moroccan theme, but I didn't eat anything Maghrebian. I needed a break from the Middle East and North Africa region. One could only take so much.
We went to a kosher bakery to buy doughnuts for our holiday party. The owner was an old, central-castingish orthodox man. The doughnuts were quite expensive, since Asaph bought several boxes. The owner started tying the boxes together.
"You want I should make you a handle?" said the man.
Our event was a great success, although Asaph gave away too many of the potato pancakes purchased for the party to parting participants.
The kids kept getting into dangerous trouble.
The holidays ended.
We received new videos from Israel for the children.
There was one animated song about dancing potatoes and tomatoes that was delightful, but it had obviously been translated from English, since those words didn't rhyme in Hebrew.
Later I read that this television channel for babies had been created by an Israeli, but she had moved to London to start the international version, which was completely separate from its original Israeli company, presumably to prevent boycotts and sanctions and to trick Arabs and Europeans into watching a Jewish product. Ha! I thought.
I tried some cooking for the kids. It didn't go over very well.
Our daughter would throw food back at me if she didn't like it. If she was done with a bottle or a cup of water, she would fling in to the ground with great gusto.
Our son was a usually more well-behaved.
I realized that I needed to do something about my weight. I remembered the paleolithic era.
But we couldn't afford to eat that way at home, so I had to endure huge plates of tahini-covered rice every night.
It was easier to ignore Christmas -- as I had agreed in my marriage contract -- when most people in New York wouldn't even utter the word.
A friend of Asaph's from Israel came over to meet the babies. She reminded me of the actress and former model and Israeli emigrant Ayelet Zurer (איילת זורר).
Asaph and I had arranged to take a day-long first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation class.
I was dreading it. Our instructors were pleasant enough, although it was clear that becoming a first-aid instructor was a good career choice for a nerdy and slightly overweight person who wanted to tell people what to do.
"You were a medic in the army, right?" I whispered to Asaph.
There were some awkward moments.
"I was in an apartment building where a kid got shot in the head and we couldn't get [mobile phone] reception in the lobby and we ended up putting him in a [taxicab] to go to the hospital, but he died anyway. What could we have done differently?" asked one participant.
Later that night we had a visit from Faruq!
"Your son looks like a Fayum mummy portrait!" he said.
"Please don't use the word mummy around the children," I said.
He was a little shocked by how much water I used when bathing the twins, as well as by all of the Judaica in the apartment, but otherwise we had a pleasant reunion.
The next day we took more walks with the kids to do shopping for my family.
Also, Asaph was forcing me to violate my marital contract by demanding [Saturnalia] presents himself.
I was dreading our flight to Ohio to see my surviving family. I hated flying with the children so very, very much, but I loved seeing my father's family.
My only love sprung from my only hate! I thought.
The morning arrived. Our daughter shared my sentiments.
The flight was as good as it could have been, yet it was still awful. There was a lot of confusion about which seats could accommodate lap infants. This knowledge was only known to the flight attendants, so you couldn't predict where you would sit beforehand, and we were reseated a few times. (We had known that we couldn't sit together.) I spent the entire time trying to keep our son from screaming or throwing things at the passenger next to me on the small plane. I used videos with the sound turned off and freeze-dried yogurt pellets. He fell asleep in my arms 15 minutes before the landing.
We arrived at my father's house without incident.
On Christmas Day we took a walk.
It was in the park where I had gone on countless runs while visting my parents. We took the outer loop trail because it was paved, and one could hear the sound of traffic on the freeway. Asaph didn't think it was very nice.
We had gone to this park to look at deer and turkeys in the past. None were evident on this visit.
Our son eventually fell asleep. Our daughter had been asleep from the beginning of the walk.
"Hey, they got new drinking fountains!" I remarked.
No one cared.
We drove into the featureless hinterlands for Christmas dinner with my brother and my sister-in-law's family. Or was it my sister's-in-law family?
Our kids didn't know what to think of the whole scene.
My brother and his wife had an Advent wreath. I had wanted an Advent wreath for many, many years, but had never had one. And it was now too late.
I overheard my sister-in-law's mother (or was it my sister's-in-law mother?) say to my oldest nephew, "We light the white candle at Christmas because Jesus is the light of the world." I cringed and looked over at Asaph, who didn't seem to have heard. My brother was unbaptized, and, as far as I knew, so was my younger nephew. But they had all started to attend a Roman church. I wondered if they knew that surrogacy was considered "gravely immoral" by the Romans. My brother was anti-religion, I had thought. Who knew anymore? The world was a weirder and weirder place.
Several uninformed questions about Judaism were asked. This is my new life, I thought.
The Christmas meal was chicken tikka and samosas. I devoured mine with great gusto. We gave store-brand peach yogurt to the children, about which I felt guilty. Our daughter entertained everyone with her new word: חגדאחגדאחגדאחגדאחגדא.
We drove back to my father's house. He had decorated it only minimally. There was a wreath on the door with Zionist lighting.
Inside there was an old ceramic Christmas tree. I remembered when my mother had bought it; we had both been very excited about it.
That was back when I loved Christmas.
It snowed during the night and next morning.
I couldn't tell if the children noticed. I took them to the window to make them look out.
I wanted them to be filled with joy and wonder.
It didn't really appear to be the case.
I made them an egg in a microwave oven.
Despite the snow, my father wanted me to go down with him to the cemetery where the my mother's headstone had finally been erected. It had taken over a year to coordinate, design, and produce. I left Asaph with the children.
I was satisfied with it. It was quite large, because of a complicated combination of cemetery regulations and my preferred proportions.
We went down again the next day for a slightly more formal presentation of the stone to our relatives. We tried to melt some of the ice out of the magpie depicted at the top.
The magpie was a symbol of bad luck or an omen of death in the British Isles, but that was of course not why I had chosen it.
Relatives came back to my dad's house afterwards. My nephew read to our daughter.
I always liked seeing my Lutheran aunt and cousins.
It was an odd gathering, since it was not held on the anniversary of anything related to my mother's death, but it was intended as a kind of commemoration. But people were more interested in holding our children and talking about other things.
I felt bad that I had not been able to arrange the gravestone more quickly.
I saw that my father had a new, dual-flush toilet.
I was a huge waster of water. I rationalized this by arguing, without any real knowledge, that it didn't make sense to conserve water in non-arid climates when there was no current drought. But my father's house had a very small hot-water heater, so long showers were impossible anyway.
I could have spent most of the day showering, if that had been an option.
The next day we went down to the State University.
It was quite cold.
We were there to visit a small display in the library that included some items related to my mother's dance work.
The library had been renovated. I had worried about taking the stroller, since I imagined many cramped stairwells. But there were large and fancy elevators.
There were different alphabets and other systems of transcription etched into metal plates placed on the floor.
I noticed some extra letters that I assumed were Persian or something else.
I thought of Faruq.
Some I couldn't figure out.
The librarian had specifically asked my dad and us to come down. She showed us some dance notation on one of the metal plates.
She led us around the exhibit. There were some programs from dance concerts, and the video of my mother's dance company's production of "Peter and the Wolf". The librarian was very nice; it seemed the exhibit got few visitors.
We walked past a math or computer-science building, looking for a gift shop where we could by State University-themed clothing for the children.
The university was not in session, so there were no students milling around, other than the occasional foreign graduate student.
The kids were bored.
Asaph forced me to request my father's faculty discount when purchasing a shirt.
We tried to go to the overpriced restaurant that had played such a pivotal role during my mother's final days in the hospice, but it was too crowded. Asaph was upset.
We went shopping at a discount strip mall. It was somewhat depressing. Most of the girls clothes were horrific. I resolved that I would dress our daughter like a boy when there were no clothes available to allow me to dress her as Amish. She fell asleep in my arms. I carried her from discount store to discount store. Asaph put our son on the ground at one point, where he immediately put a virus-coated toy in his mouth.
"No!" I screamed.
The next morning it had snowed again, somewhat heavily, but I knew that Asaph would never forgive if we didn't take the kids to the overpriced restaurant, so we set out.
The kids were happy.
This trip would cause them to miss their naptime, but I knew that it was a small price to pay.
My Lutheran uncle and aunt, who lived nearby, came to the restaurant, which by then was filled with customers. Our daughter decided to take her nap anyway.
After over and hour, I started to feel guilty about all of the people waiting for a table, so I suggested that we walk to my Lutheran aunt-and-uncle's house nearby.
It was snowy, but not slippery.
They lived next-door to a right-wing gun fanatic.
Their house proved to be too baby-unfriendly, despite the fact that my Lutheran uncle and aunt were very baby-friendly themselves. But there were too many sharp things and chokeable objects.
We went back to my father's pedestrian-unfriendly neighborhood.
My mother's absence had rendered it charmless.
We went to stroll around a shopping mall that had supposedly been targeted for destruction by Somali al-Qaidah (القاعدة) terrorists.
I remembered how I had wandered the malls of Columbus (Ohio) as an adolescent. They had seemed charged with sexual energy.
They certainly didn't seem that way now.
There were many Israelis from lower economic strata working at kiosks selling counterfeit cosmetics probably not really made from Dead Sea (البحر_الميت) ingredients.
We pitied them.
An Israeli gave Asaph a sample electronic massage, but Asaph remained in disguise and didn't reveal his true identity. One of these Israelis would never have wasted his time on another Israeli, who wouldn't have bought anything.
We flew back to Newark, New Jersey. We were reseated a few times. Our son slept in my arms for the entire flight. That part was wonderful.
We had hired our Israeli babysitter to come that day so that we could sleep a bit after the exhaustion of the week in Ohio. We were sad because she was moving back to Israel. Usually Israelis didn't do that, I thought. Once they went down, they stayed down.
The apartment smelled awful: the diaper pail had not been emptied before we left. And we had had guests staying there!
We had had a cleaning person of unknown ethnicity clean the place before the guests arrived, but she had never had to deal with the diaper pail before, owing to our paid childminder's fastidiousness.
Asaph's cousin arrived on the Feast of Saint Sylvester to meet the kids.
He was a young person, so of course he had parties to attend.
We were in bed long before midnight. I wondered what Asaph's cousin was doing at that moment.
A respiratory infection that had been brewing inside got worse. I headed to the doctor after the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus.
New York was really foreign to me at that point, outside of my small theater of operations.
Choking on phlegm, I took the kids for a walk.
How different things were! I thought, looking at myself.
We discreetly celebrated a Christian holiday with a visit from friends with children.
I remembered the many wild and crazy twelfth nights of my youth and blushed at my exploits. I didn't even recognize myself!
Thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges, I thought.