Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Connections and Disconnections

A few days ago our family DSL line was disconnected for no reason that we, or the Internet provider, could figure out. DH’s polite phone call to the service center was answered with an equally polite admission of some technical mishap, but sorry-can’t-fix-it. A technician will have to come to the house, and oh, so sorry, the earliest will be a week from now. By the time I’ll post this our connection would have been restored. But I wanted to record this moment. Besides, what else does a writer do?

The experience of a super-wired household losing connectivity is both stressful and illuminating. In the grand scheme this is not even a dot, no dot com either. But holding a flashlight and surveying the situation revealed this picture.
Us: two teenagers, one tech-savvy adult, one writer, and a temperamental fluffy cat.
Two teens- flailing, trying to figure out how to do their homework. This is not an excuse. Who knew that high-schools and colleges now assign homework online, and some of it can only be done on the Internet.
DH- feeling not only disconnected, but disrespected. Getting a ‘good deal’ from an Internet provider that turns out to mean lousy service can do this even to the most polite and accommodating. Muttering to self a lot.
Writer- I find myself wondering if there’s a story in this. At least a blog post (this!) for sure. Wondering how many people think I am mad at them or plain cold for not answering their Emails.
Fluffy Cat- she’s faring the worst, absorbing all those irritated-but-holding-it-in vibrations. That is a cat specialty- to sense her humans’ condition.
Something knocked on the door of my memory house. I recall my early childhood in Israel before anyone on our block had a telephone. I’m not that ancient. Most Israelis did not have private phones until the sixties, and even then, the country was wired slowly.
How did we do things then?
Earliest memory: We were the first to have our own telephone, and neighbors lined up at our door to use it. They brought coins to cover our cost, and my mother waved their offerings. What are neighbors for? Everyone wanted to make a call even though there were few who could receive their calls. For a couple of years there was an almost steady line at our apartment door. It was a neighborhood meeting. A block party that went on and on.
This memory, surely distorted by time and glossed over by a polishing cloth of sentimentality, made me wonder: were we less connected then?

Sunday, October 16, 2011


My son, taking a linguistics course in college, is enjoying it immensely. But as he shared tidbits from his professor’s wisdom, this old joke popped into my mind.

A linguistics professor was lecturing to his English class one day. "In English," he said, "a double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language where a double positive can form a negative."

A voice from the back of the room piped up, "Yeah, right."

This made me think of the subtlety of voice. For writers it isn’t the every dotted ‘i’ which is the meat of writing. Editors were created for a reason. It is the elusive quality, that thing called ‘voice.’

The little story above^ jars me from the world of academic analysis to where real writing makes an appearance.

Yeah, right. Tell me about it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Who's That?

I’ve heard that no one ever sees themselves as others see them. There’s no way to prove this, but is seems intuitive enough.
So when my then thirteen-year-old daughter looked at me intently, then at a piece of paper, scribbled and fussed and, finally, handed me what she thought was a portrait of me, I was baffled at the image.

Who’s that? ME?

The image hung on the inside of my closet. I didn’t recognize it as myself, but I loved the gesture.

On those days when my daughter was in a less than friendly mood, I would look at the smiling image she had made. I noticed that her mother is portrayed with intensely green eyes, (I wish) and wearing adorable earrings. I liked the person inside my closet, even if she was not me.

That red haired person cheered me up on many grey days. She’s neat one, her. Always smiling. And look at those teeth. They haven’t yellowed with age, or from too much coffee. In fact, I might like to have coffee and chat with her. Bet she’s got a fun story or two.

And now she’s out of the closet.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Rabbi and the Donkey

My father came to refer to my picture book texts as ‘Rabbi & Donkey’ stories. I have never written a picture book with a Rabbi in it, and while my father was alive and reading my stories, none had talking animals.

‘Rabbi  & Donkey’ was my father’s code-name for all picture books. He liked my longer books better. It was our inside joke.

So for Yom Kippur the year before he passed away, I wrote, just for him, my first and only Rabbi and Donkey story.

Yom Kippur this year is fast approaching. I want to share with you my gift to my father. It is as short as it is goofy, and he liked it.

The Rabbi and the Donkey

By Mirka M. G. Breen

   A Rabbi was walking on a beautiful sunny day to Yom Kippur services, when he saw a donkey on the side of the road. The donkey was looking decidedly gloomy.

“Why such a long face?” said the Rabbi to the donkey.

 “I’m a donkey, that’s the way my face is,” answered the donkey.

“Don’t be such a smart ass," said the Rabbi. “I’m just trying to help.”

“I can’t help being an ass,” said the donkey.

The rabbi scratched his beard, then his face lit up. “None of us can help being what we are. No atonement for that. But we can help what we do, and for that we must atone. Thank you, Donkey! You just gave the Yom Kippur sermon,” he said.

 “And you just gave me a reason to be gloomy,” said the donkey. “I always dreamt I would be a race horse when I grew up.”
{Written on Yom Kippur 5769, especially for Abraham Golek}