This morning we packed up our cabin to leave our home for the last week. I’m a very sentimental guy so I felt a sense of longing and notalgia as soon as we left. Maybe that’s why my daughter has such attachment issues. When Shawni and I remodeled our house before we moved in 12 years ago– coincidentally on the last day we could afford it, although it’s getting back there now– we excavated through decade after decade of tile, formica, tacky wall paper, etc. wondering who the people who lived there before us were, wishing they had left a clue. Before we sealed up the wall to our bathroom, we put a picture of us on the day we got engaged and on the back wrote our names and what we did for a living and that we hoped to build a family in this home. I sometimes joke that 50 years from now when that wall is opened up people will go, “Oh my God, the guy who killed his family lived in our house!” It’s not a joke that Shawni loves. Anyway, we left our own clue in our cabin as I was responsible for packing up and left my wife’s toiletry bag hanging in the bathroom– a discovery we made only minutes ago.
As we descended through moutons and valleys dotted by ruins, our driver told us a detailed history of every place that we hadn’t seen: Bible site after Bible site, Crusader fortress, Mamaluke Palace, Turkish ruin, British outpost– all places that are MUST SEES in Israel that we haven’t even come close to seeing on our third trip here with our kids. “Sure,” I thought, “the sight of the forthcoming Armageddon is important, but have you ridden a camel to fake Abraham’s tent and had instant coffee with him? I didn’t think so.” Three trips, not a single ruin. Even as we pointed out cool stuff that the kids learned in school, they were too engrossed in “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” playing on my wife’s iPad to even bother humoring us.
The reason we’re going to Herzyliya– Hebrew for “Santa Monica”– in the first place is because my daughter is even more nostalgic than I am and this is where we stayed the last time when we were here. After we checked in I asked the kids what they wanted to do. Their answer: stay in the room. NO! I didn’t spend all this money to travel half way around the world so you can sit in our hotel room! So instead, we left our hotel and hung out at the mall, something we’d have to travel a full 20 minutes to do back in LA. On the way back, my kids decided they wanted to go to the beach which is something that would take us 40 minutes to do at home. Both my wife and I were exhausted and I suggested a winner-take-all game of Rock Scissors Paper to decide who got to take the kids to the beach, and who got to relax in a hammock by the pool. The idea was quickly vetoed by my wife, and then in a heroic and not unselfish moment, I volunteered to take the kids to the beach while my relaxed in our room. I did it to earn “points” with my wife, points that unbeknownst to me were immediately cashed in when my wife had to change rooms and then find out that I didn’t pack her toiletry bag.
Meanwhile, on the beach, as my kids started building a sand castle, I took to an obstacle course set up along the boardwalk. I figured I would test what effect 13 days of carb-loading had on my body. The results were conclusive: I fell off the balance beam twice, and nearly dislocated my shoulder on the monkey bars before settling on the climbing wall where I nearly broke my foot. Thoroughly deterred, I decided to do my burpees on the beach as a pack of athletic boys played soccer nearby. As I threw myself onto the sand, one of the boys– 17 and zero percent body fat– started doing his own Burpees– but without the grunting and with a body that seemed to defy gravity. It was like a nature film; he was guarding his turf. As my kids built their sand castle to ward off imaginary enemies, I, too, began to fantasize about what would happen if this pack of boys came after me. In my earlier years, these fantasies ended with me going all “Officer and a Gentleman” on the perps, but now I pictured myself screaming “HELP!” in English, hoping that a passerby would understand.
The imaginary threat passed as the boys picked up their ball and left and I decided to help my kids build their castle. We decided to build a walled city– much like the ones we heard about but didn’t see, then imagined what would need to be in that city for the citizens to survive: water, farmland, a restaurant (we eat out a lot), and we built them all. We fortified the city against where the marauders would be coming from– the ocean which was roaring nearby. My daughter elaborately decorated the walls with the pink sea shells that decorate the beach by the millions while my son did what boys do– he started making bombs to destroy the city. I was immediately on board– the only reason to build anything is to destroy it. My daughter, of course, was not. She’s a girl and a sentimental girl at that. I tried to rationalize it for her, “oh, come on, Sasha, don’t be such a pill, it’s going to be destroyed anyway. Let’s at least have some fun.” The compromise was that I would take pictures of the walled city before we destroyed it.
And then, after the last picture was taken, the Babylonians attacked, followed by the Romans, the Crusaders, the Mamalukes, the Ottomans and the British until we finally got to see our ruins. And that was worth travelling halfway around the world to do.