Paul McCartney and Me
By Sherri Mandell
In August2002, ayear after my 13 year old son, Koby was murdered by terrorists, I traveled fromIsraeltoNew Yorkwith my seven year old son Gavi to visit my family. I never thought I would put the murder of my son in a complex sentence. I was sure it would always stay a simple declarative sentence, independent, unconnected– a lament, a cry, a searing howl. Nothing could be attached to it, nor could it be subordinate to any thing. I never imagined that it could be combined with the everyday. But today, ten years later, the murder, the trauma and the pain have become part of my life, woven into the most mundane events.
But that summer, I traveled fromIsraeltoNew Yorkto stay at my sisters.Nancyis six years older than me, a lawyer and writer who lives inManhattan. She bought a house inEast Hamptonin the townie section when you could still buy affordable houses there.
I was hoping that this trip to my sister’s home would give me some rest, and nurture my soul, my need for the beauty of nature as an antidote to the horror of my son’s murder and our terrible grief. The three mile morning walk to Louse Pond with its maple trees hovering over the streets I hoped would refresh me.
I live in the desert inIsraeland there is no rain during the summer at all.
I had arrived the previous day atKennedyAirport. Gavi was a perfect travel companion, easily pleased by the all-night selection of movies on the screen facing us from the screen on the back of the seat on El Al.
The next day, we were still tired. But we wanted to be in the ocean, one of the most beautiful in the world. My sister parked the car in the crowded parking lot and we plodded on the hot sand and walked a little ways and threw our beach blankets down, with the customary weighting down of the blanket on four corners with our sandals. Gavi and I hurried into the water and began boogie boarding. The air was hot, the water perfectly cool, a perfect contrast in temperature. It’s true we have beautiful beaches inIsrael, but not with that crisp difference in temperature, the water with its slight bite of chill, the air warm. Also since I am fromLong Island, I appreciate the color of theAtlantic: dark green with algae streaming by like ribbons. And the squawk of the gulls wheeling above, searching for food. Also, the waves are somehow more orderly inNew York. InIsrael, they arrive from 5 directions at once, inNew Yorkthey were powerful but their power was easier to evaluate.
The waves were not wild so I taught Gavi how to ride with the boogie board, surfing on our bellies. We stayed where the water was shallow. Only once was I knocked down, the waves pressing me down. But Gavi is a good swimmer and he was fine. I kept close watch on him, terrified of losing him to a wave.
We came back to the blankets with the wind knocked out of us. When I closed my eyes, I could feel the earth spinning.
But Gavi wanted a drink and my sister wanted ice cream. She was sitting on a beach chair, thumbing through pages of the novel she was writing. I was hoping she would say that she would go to the kiosk but she said that she was too tired.
My head was whirling, from the flight the previous day, from grief that still stalked me, and from playing in the water for half an hour. But my son was thirsty so we trudged slowly up the hot beach past the miles of sunbathers. I was wearing a sun hat, with a very large brim and a black stripe, and a large white linen shirt and white beach pants. I was feeling very irritated, cranky and tired. My sister also wanted ice cream. I still had no taste for sweets. Why couldn’t she have taken him and given me a break?
Gavi and I walked about 10 minutes on the hot sand and climbed the white wooden steps to the refreshment stand. Then we waited in line with a bunch of children and teenagers for another 10 minutes. After we ordered, we had to wait again. I felt anxious and cranky. We sat on the terrace of the refreshment stand and looked at all of the people on the beach, the American flag rippling in the warm breeze. I felt like this picture of happiness did not include my family, that we had been thrust from the normalcy of ordinary happiness. Finally our name was called and we received our drinks and ice creams. I balanced the cardboard lid with our huge overfilled ice teas and lemonades and ice cream and we made our way back to our umbrella. I was even more tired and cranky; my feet were scorching from the hot sand. I just wanted to get back to my blanket and rest.