Good Books and a Green Purse This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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When I was eight years old I sat in a yellow and fuchsia yurt, drawing with a fat beeswax crayon made specially in Germany for me (or so I was told). My mom's childhood copy of Nancy Drew and the Mystery of the Old Clock, with its musty pages, sat at my feet. I clutched a green messenger bag that I pictured Nancy Drew using. My mom had bought it for me on an emergency cat-food run to Target the night before. The sun shone on its green surface, giving it an unearthly, radioactive hue. The air was cold and smelled of wet sheep, and all around me children were screaming in English, Spanish, Japanese, German, or Elvish. And I was alone.
I was wearing a purple sweater that had holes in each cuff where I had rubbed the wool thin. A tensely fought battle of consumerism and popularity was being waged outside as competing friend groups strove to create the finest mud bakeries in all of Altadena. The bakeries were competing for a “Michelin star.” Waldorf was an affluent – though quirky – private school after all. My skills as a mud baker were apparently not up to par, so I was only hired as a part-time employee. But it was okay; I had a book and a green detective bag.
Perhaps it was that night, or weeks later. Whatever the date, it was raining. A fierce wind came in gusts and torrents, whipping through the fruit trees in my garden, purloining oranges, lemons, and peaches. I sat by the hearth in my living room, drawing castles and mermaids, waiting. I was sleepy but watchful. My eyes scrutinized the front door as I added a pink flower here and a green bird there. The door opened. Exotic, damp, unrecognizable smells, the chink of costume jewelry, and the guttural trill of Hebrew bombarded our quaint living room. My grandmother had arrived. I thought she was a god.
Her hair stood, literally stood, on top of her head in an orange rectangular mass: a vestigial structure of her glory days. She wore five scarves – five – wrapped around her neck and the back of her head. My dad followed her in.
She stood there grinning, her arms outstretched. We sat down on the couch and in what even I could tell was an American accent, she read me a book in Hebrew, about Jerusalem. The book had 3-D glasses and 3-D photos. When she was done, I examined the book closely, then carefully tucked it away in my green messenger bag.
I should add something. Her husband was a Russian Jew. After they got married, she asked him to not be Jewish anymore, and for whatever reason he obliged. Apparently she didn't want to attract attention in their small suburb of Stockton, California. But when her husband died, riddled with guilt and self-hatred, she moved to Jerusalem and became a Jew herself.
Years later, I stood in Paris, staring at a green purse in a department store window. It was made of supple leather, and the pastel-colored afternoon light made it glow. I was with my classmates, but I'd never felt so alone.
I'd saved all my money to be able to buy something in Paris, but I didn't know what to get. My mom was with my dad in Philadelphia, getting treatment for a rare cancer. The purse looked as if it could carry at least two books. My mom would love the rich, dark green color. I went into the store and bought the purse. Paranoid, of what I cannot say, I protected it for the remainder of the trip. When I got home, I gave my mom the green purse just before she left for Philadelphia again. As she walked out of our front door, I thought I caught a glimpse of Nancy Drew and the Mystery of the Old Clock in her green purse alongside a copy of An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood.
Neither I nor anyone else could say what would happen. Maybe I'd become a baker, maybe I'd move to the Middle East. As I watched my mom go, it seemed that with all the uncertainty in life, it was not only right but necessary to have good books and a green purse.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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luvmeforme said...
Jan. 8, 2014 at 3:49 pm
wow thats good i didnt look away from the screen for one moment afraid i would miss something.. you should keep the good work up
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