Those words, “I have as many friends as the world stands still”. Then tears accompanied the words said next: “that means zero”.
My poetic middle daughter who just turned six has a way of saying things. She could’ve said: “as many friends as we have bananas growing in our back yard”. Or: “as many friends as I speak Arabic”. But she didn’t. She used words that are more important to her than anything else. She used a planet.
Not so long ago my middle daughter wanted to become an astronaut when she grows up. Until she realized that astronauts are only chosen from scientists and doctors. Then she decided she wanted to be a vet first. And even though the pink phase has kicked in heavily, stars and planets are still more important to her than princesses and castles.
When the earth does not turn it means a very important nothing. It means a none more heavy then a milky way. It means a Zero as in Zero Kelvin.
When we left home half a year ago, she had a few good friends. But when five year olds are friends, they are friends because they do tricks together on the jungle gym. They are friends because they dress up together, play tag together and fight together.
Skype is horrible on a jungle gym. Facetime doesn’t pull it off while dressing up. And Hangouts are coolest at twice her age. So slowly but surely the few good friends of before have found other lions to play circus with. Different mermaids and knights, different buddies and pals.
How about the locals? Aren’t kids finding new friends wherever they go? Not so much. The playgrounds closest to our house are solely in use by Haredi, ultra orthodox Jews. For a future astronaut, boys are perfect playmates but here, boys will only play with other boys. The girls tend to get a bit too warm with their long dresses and tights to run around wildly. And a fight is most fun when you at least understand each other’s lingo. Playing with Arab kids is hard when there are few to be found and other expat kids all go to school during the day.
As many friends as the world stands still. Every time I thought about her saying that this morning, tears welled up in my eyes. I asked her: wouldn’t you rather go to school here? Not if schools don’t have animals like home. Would you like to go to day camp? Only to the eleven day horse back riding camp that is too expensive to back out off after a couple of days.
Maybe my little astronaut is training to be the perfect candidate to inhabit a far away planet years from now. Maybe I am setting her up for a life of social struggles. Maybe the family will prove to be her core. I do not know. All I can hope for is that she will always be able to find refuge in poetry.
And she is not that far from the truth anyway. The world, here, in Israel at war, has stopped turning for many.