The Perfect Storm

Friday was the perfect storm. On top of it being the first day of school in a new country for our second and third graders, orientation for gan, and erev our second shabbat at home, our lift was scheduled to be delivered. It was impossible for us to do everything- my husband and I had to divide and conquer to make it through the day. 

Our schedule was as follows. Older girls drop off at 8 AM. Apparently they needed to be in their classrooms and sitting down by that time, not just arriving at school. Simultaneously, the lift was scheduled to arrive at 8 AM. Our younger daughter had orientation at her gan from 10-11. Pick up the older girls by 11:50 AM.

I could not have done this without the help of my wonderful friend. She also made aliyah this summer and has children in both the school and gan that our children are attending. We do not have a car, and the school and gan are not close enough to walk or use public transportation on such a busy day. My friend offered to drive us.

At 7:15 AM, our two older daughters and I were waiting to be picked up for phase one of the day. We found the school, parked and lugged the heavy school books into the school I had been to once before on my pilot trip. I noted the cheerful but simple decor.  As soon as we walked in, I recognized the welcoming smile of the menahel. He gave the girls taffy and pointed us in the direction of the office. As new olim, we had not completed all the paperwork, so my friend and I sat down, with girls in tow, to try to figure out the Hebrew school forms. The girls were getting antsy to get into their classrooms, so we decided to walk the girls up to the classrooms and return without children to complete the payment forms.

When we got up the stairs, we quickly spotted the girls classrooms. We walked into third grade first. I can only imagine how my daughter felt, because I felt like a deer in headlights. There were some women talking and children already seated at desks. There was no indication of who the teacher was, so I asked a woman if she was the teacher. All the women laughed as if my question was outrageous. I smiled, and helped the girls (my daughter and my friend's daughter) find seats. As more children strolled in, I noticed that people were loading their school books into cubbies in the back of the classroom. We followed suit. The two girls were situated in their seats and still smiling, so I was ready to bring my other daughter to her classroom.

Our second grader also knows a few nice girls in her class, but when we arrived at her door, we recognized no one. We both took a deep breath and entered. I suggested that she sit in an open table and wait until someone she knows comes. We saw other girls taking stickers with their names on them and choosing cubbies. I immediately went up to the teacher in a panic. We did not bring any stickers. As a new olah, I did not understand the list and probably missed a lot of items. The teacher smiled and pointed to a pile of stickers. She had one for my daughter. At that moment, a nice girl said 'Hi!' to my daughter. An English speaker! It turns out, my daughter already met this sweet girl at a birthday party earlier in the week. The girl quickly invited my daughter to move next to her and assisted her with finding a cubby. It was then that I realized my daughter was in good hands. This amazing friend appeared just in time.

I checked into the first classroom once more, and then we left. I was home by 8:30AM. The moving crew had arrived and were waiting for the container. My plan was eat a quick breakfast, pack up the baby and meet my friend back at the street by 9 AM for phase two of our day. Since we were new, we wanted to meet the gan teacher a little bit earlier than orientation. The teacher was warm and inviting while simultaneously confident and strict. I could immediately tell that this would be a great place for my daughter to start learning Hebrew and make some new friends. It was a bit tricky balancing watching my baby crawl around the gan and also get the information I needed from the orientation, but our house was a danger zone, so I had no choice but to keep him with me. My daughter really enjoyed coloring and listening to a story read by the teacher. Despite it being in Hebrew, she was able to pick up on some the key ideas of the story.

Phase three entailed dropping the younger kids off at home and picking up the older ones. We barely had enough time, but we made it. As we sat on a bench waiting to see our girls' faces as they ran down the stairs after their first day of school, we both sighed. It had already been an emotional and busy day and it was only just the beginning. My friend's daughter came down first with a big grin on her face. I took in her expression and hoped that my daughters' would look the same way. I had doubts about how they would feel sitting in a classroom of mostly Hebrew speakers. When each of my daughters made it down the stairs, I read the mixture of emotions on their faces. My older one admitted that everything was different and it was frustrating to not know what the teacher was asking. My younger one was more optimistic and told me about a new game she learned at recess and how she understood the chumash lesson. We had all made it through the first day! It was a huge accomplishment in and of itself.

The girls had so much they wanted to share about the first day, but when we arrived at our home we were instantly aware of the chaos surrounding us. The movers had been busy unloading our container while we were out. There was no room to walk. When the movers finally left around 2:30PM, we had  a lot to do. Just getting to the stove to warm up soup was a project. We were in disaster mode. Our goal was to get the house semi livable for shabbat. We needed clear access to bathrooms, a place to sit and eat and beds to sleep on. Other than that, it would have to wait until after shabbat. The kids were not allowed to be inside while the movers were here for safety reasons. They enjoyed opening boxes of toys and playing in the backyard with their long lost toys. They had not seen or thought about some of these toys since May, so they seemed new and exciting.

I am exhausted just thinking about how crazy Friday was. By the time we lit candles and accepted shabbat, I was wiped out. It had been an emotional rollercoaster full of ups and downs. It had been a logistical puzzle. How could we get everyone to and from where they needed to be and be home for the lift at the same time. And so, the perfect storm of a day came to a close. I am so appreciative to my friend who chauffeured us around all day, and my sister who brought over shabbat food. We could not have done this day without them!