Jeff Astrof has 100 days off. See how he spends them.

Day 68

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This is one of those moments when I need my wife to tell me, “you’re just tired”. Unfortunately, my wife is back at our cabin with our kids while I try to find the one wi-fi hotspot– warm spot at best– in the hotel lobby. For the country that invented the cell phone, they’re very stingy with sharing the technology. The truth is, I know I’m exhausted- I have been over-planning every day since I’ve been here. We had a driver today for 11 hours. Let me spell that out: ELEVEN HOURS. I haven’t worked a total of 11 hours in the past 70 days, and I hired Moshiko to drive my family around for 11 hours today. How freaking stupid am I?

Today we traded the assassin/spy/Adam Sandler’s supermodel cousin look-alike for Franny– the girl my wife and I both wish we were. If you didn’t know Franny’s name, you’d probably call her Franny until you found out that you were right. Franny is the girl you date right after college but you don’t marry because the timing isn’t right but you always wonder what happened. She’s a hippy, but not dirty, cute but not beautiful, high energy but not annoying, multi-lingual but not in the way where she says things like, “how do you say orange juice?” when she was born in Memphis. Franny was also great with our daughter. Great in the way that I wish I was.

There’s a vilage near here that dates back over 2,000 years, with preserved roads, baths, houses, synagogues, mosaics, the center of Israeli society after the Romans sacked Jerusalem. It’s an important piece of history and archaelogy which is precisely the reason we didn’t go there– or any of the other one million plus ancient sites nearby where we’re staying– but instead went to another Bible story recreation park. This one subsituted donkeys for camels, but the story was the same: the Jews were about to get their asses kicked so we had to wear polyester tunics, make our own cheese (or pita) and high-tail it down a well-worn path on an uncomfortable animal until we got to a clearing where we had pre-arranged sweet tea and dessert. Whereas the last one we did was in the desert, this was in the mountains, so the scenery was different. But the kids were the same: Caleb ran to milk the goat, Sasha was cautious. Caleb was first to grab his donkey, Sasha was cautious. And I was the same, too– frustrated.

Enter Franny. Without knowing any of our history, Franny had an incredible ease with our kids, especially Sasha. Instead of barking from across the Biblically-accurate goat paddock, “Just grab the damn teat!” she played games to try to get her to come out of her shell. Maybe it’s because Franny had no stakes in family dynamic, or maybe because she’s closer in age to Sasha than to me, or maybe it’s that Franny has her own freedom, the freedom that compelled her to get out of our touring van and hop onto the highway to hitchhike three hours home tonight, but whatever it was, I don’t have that with my kids– especially my girl. What I wouldn’t give to be able, without any frustration or anxiety, to say to my daughter, “Just put on the Biblical costume. Yeah, it’s silly, I feel silly too.” It’s a time of year where I’m supposed to celebrate freedom, but I get so locked up in a battle of wills– trying desperately to get my way, the right way– while convincing my kids that it comes from a place of love.

But I don’t think I’ll ever have that freedom. If I hopped out of a van to hitchhike or didn’t know where I was going to sleep that night, I’d be arrested. I hope someday to be able to find that spark that Franny had with my girl– but in the meantime, I’m happy that I’m going to be able to go back to my dry cabin and kiss my sleeping daughter on the head knowing that tomorrow, while Franny is wandering through the desert, my family and I will be hiking through an ancient village carved into thousand foot high cliffs. And by that I mean, going to a Bibilical-era olive press and milking sheep.


Written by 100daysoff

April 21, 2011 at 11:29 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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