Me and my Unique Family
Isidora Goodwein , author
IT BEGAN WITH AN UNTHINKABLE AND HORRIFYING EXPLOSION. BUT THE REAL STORY DIDN’T START UNTIL THERE WAS A BLAST OF POWERFUL EMOTION, PASSION AND CONVULSIVE LAUGHTER. Anna, Rachel and Limor’s favorite past time, in summer, when there is no school, is to explore downtown Tel-Aviv without the knowledge of their parents, and without the knowledge of Gina, the housekeeper and baby sitter. One morning in August, the girls, come to the conclusion that they have had enough of Tel-Aviv. Tel-Aviv is too boring, so they instantaneously decide to board a bus to go to Jerusalem. It is mid-day, and they are hot and hungry so they decided to simmer down in one of the restaurants along King David street. Inside the restaurant, Rachel learns that they don’t have enough money to buy a big lunch, so Rachel sends Limor and Anna to a nearby Kiosk to wait for her, while she goes to the washroom. In the Kiosk Anna and Limor sit and eat falafel while waiting for Rachel to come out from the restaurant. They are halfway through their lunch when the restaurant explodes into rubble. The loud sound quakes the ground. There is white and black smoke coming out of the shattered eatery. Anna runs toward the collapsed restaurant. Despite blinding tears, she frantically digs removing pieces of rubble, plywood, broken glass and anything she can move with her little hands to save her best friend. Jerusalem is in chaos and in the middle of this shocking situation among police, paramedics and on-lookers are Anna, Limor and Rachel. Surviving and witnessing the explosion is tough and confusing for Anna. The first two weeks of school in September without her two best friends is even tougher. But for Anna, the world starts to explode and crumble down when her mother decides to send her to live with her grandparents in the Philippines—the grandparents whom Anna has only seen in photographs. Her mother Kristina’s financial difficulties, fear of war and single parenthood are some of the reasons why she’s taking the heart-breaking decision of separation. Anna will be ten years old next month so her mother is hoping Anna is big enough to understand. Her mother tells Anna that she will be living in a big house nestled amongst seventeen hectares of coconut farms—contrary to the one-bedroom apartment that they are renting in Bat-Yam. Her mother promises Anna, that she will have her own computer, her own cell phone and a Nintendo 64—cool things that Anna has been longing to have. But these luxuries don’t deter Anna from clinging to her mother’s skirt while boarding the plane to Manila. ‘No Forever,’ is a magic phrase that her mother has to tell Anna. It’s more than a set of words. It’s a promise between Anna and her mother Kristina, that means everything will be temporary, and they will see each other again. It is the only promise that makes Anna say the final goodbye to the only family she has known—her mother. At Ninoy International Airport in Manila, Anna is picked up and whisked away by a strange man whom Anna did not recognize from any of the pictures her mother had shown her the previous day. Anna lives with Armando and Lucy—an unknown couple to Anna. They live in a tiny hut in a small village of Unisan in southern Philippines, far away from her grandparents. This village is where she learns to go to the washroom in the bushes; where she learns to eat with no cutlery. And in this village is where she learns the bitter meaning of the words, ‘illegitimate child.’ Her grandfather secretly arranged to give her away, to live with other family because she is an illegitimate child. As days turn into weeks and weeks turns into months, with no T.V., no electricity and no books in hand, Anna explores the vast tropical jungle which back in Israel she could only see on TV’s National Geographic. But Anna’s most challenging test of all is how to fit in, how to fit in, in a school environment where Gap and Nike are unknown. How to fit in, in the community where she is the only white person, and above all how to fit in, in a new household of seven bouncy school boys. Luckily to Anna, she knows the answer to all of the above. Baseball. Everybody in the household plays baseball. She works hard in order to learn and play baseball well. She works hard in order to fit in. Armando and Lucy (her adopted parents) watch enthusiastically how she plays and they know she is a star in the making. The fans rise to their feet whenever she is batting. And then, Mr. Abagon, the chairman of Unisan Little League Baseball Committee and the owner of the opposing team abruptly yanks Anna off the field for just one reason. --“She is a girl, and there is no room for a girl in baseball.” “No Forever,” is the phrase that Anna repeats to herself when Kristina comes back from Israel and takes Anna to live with her in British Columbia, Canada. “No Forever,” is the promise Anna keeps to herself and to Martin, Alex, Luige, Popon, Philip, Markus and Nathaniel—the seven boys, where she learns that being different doesn’t make any difference in baseball.