Magic Lamp and My Very Own Own Genie, Alissa

It's 4:12 PM Friday, April 10, 2015. When I awoke this morning I just sat on the edge of my bed with my eyes closed. I wanted nothing more than to sleep. So I found a place for myself lying down and stayed there until 2 PM, when I got up. I had breakfast and continued watching MASH episodes. The last was about a little boy who'd been wounded and the MASH unit couldn't find his parents or even the village he'd been from. Long story short, Trapper was going to adopt him. Meanwhile each of the main characters had their fair time interacting with him lovingly. The little boy was so cute, you could just eat him up. As might be expected, his Korean mother shows up near the end of the episode and takes the little boy with her. Mixed feelings were had by all, but especially by Trapper, who was heartsick, feeling like he had lost his adopted child, while he was also being happy that the boy was reunited with his mother. This story would make anyone teary-eyed, but it left me weeping. I thought about the grandchildren I wish for, desire, hope for and dream of, but may not have, or at least not before I am too old to appreciate them the way I want to.

Weeping also for my niece, Alissa who died in February, 2015. It's still so raw, tragic and sad.  I wrote a eulogy for Lissy and in it included an explanation about  a small silver painted pot she had given me for my 60th birthday, 3 years ago. It always reminded me of a Genie's Lamp. I think Lissy would have liked that connotation.The pot has a removable top and around it's rim, the words DREAM, HOPE, WISH, and DESIRE. Inside the pot were several little scrolls of paper neatly tied with little silver ribbons, on which I was to write a wish, desire, dream and hope. And so I did back in October, 2011. 

Today I opened it up and took out all of the little scrolled and tied papers, unrolled them and on 3, wrote a new hope, wish and desire. On one I wrote, that I HOPE, despite my cynicism, there is in fact, an afterlife and that Alissa is finally at peace, tranquility and maybe even bliss. I further hope that all four of her grandparents souls have their arms wrapped lovingly around her. On another I wrote, I WISH that I will have grandchildren from Rachel and Jeremy whom I can read too, play with, love and cherish, before I get too old to appreciate it. On the third, I wrote a more selfish DESIRE, that I will always have enough money when I need it. There were a few of the originals that continued to be relevant and yet unfulfilled, so I just left them tied and in the magic pot. Magic lamps are the natural habitats of genies, who are magical creatures that grant wishes to people, when the lamp is rubbed and the genie comes out. I have my own personal magic lamp and my very own genie. 



Sherril Smoger-Kessous, of Bloomfield, NJ, went to Israel at the impressionable age of 16, with a teen-tour called The  National Bar Mitzvah Club. (National Bar Mitzvah Club  = boys and girls age 16 .
7 week program enables Bar and Bat Mitzvah boys and girls to accumulate funds and prepare them-selves to participate in a specially designed trip at age 16. Includes lectures, trips to archeological and biblical sites, and a brief European stopover. Members of the Bar Mitzvah Club are oriented for the trip during the three year period through educational materials. Kashruth and Sabbath observed. Fee $850.). 

The trip was a pivotal exerience in my life, in that Israel made a deep impression on me, which would stay with me for the rest of my life, and, as importantly, Eileen, a fellow traveller from San Antonio, Texas, also made a deep impression on me, as throughout that summer, we developed  a profound friendship. Eileen and I remained friends for a few years beyond the summer of 1968, but unfortunately lost touch sometime during our college years. I made some attempts through the years to find Eileen, but was not successful. Then in the beginning of the year, 2015, 47 years after we met, a connection was finally made, albeit, in a round-about way, via Facebook. 

This blog post is a tribute of sorts to that summer of '68 in Israel, the friendship that developed and the following year when we reunited at each others houses. Unfortunately, I cannot find the pictures from my visit to Texas. Fortunately, I do have them from when Eileen came to visit me in Bloomfield during the winter of 1968 or '69.  She had the good fortune to come when we had a major snow storm. We had a reunion party with some of our trip-mates from NJ. And we had more time to bond as friends. 

Eileen and Barbara Woolf. friend, from the trip.

Then in the summer of '69, I went to visit Eileen in San Antonio. It was a momentous summer all around. Not only did we have another wonderful get-together, but also Apollo 11 was launched and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made their famous walk on the moon on July 20, 1969, "One small step for man. One giant step for mankind". 

Then from August 15-18, 1969, the most famous rock concert and festival, Woodstock, took place on Max Yasgur's 600 acre dairy farm in the town of Bethel, NY. 

Eileen and I did not get to Woodstock, but I believe we did
watch the moon-walk together. We also travelled to Dallas to see another kid from our trip and to Houston. 

So, without further ado, here are the photos from The National Bar Mitzvah Tour, summer of 1968...

We stayed in what had been a hospital in Jerusalem, called, Bikur Cholim, but for some reason, I remember calling it Ze'ev. The only connection to that name that I could find was that the architect of some bronze doors in the hospital was Zeev Raban. What I cannot presently figure out is why we were able to stay there because as far as I could find, the hopital functioned as one throughout it's long history. In any case, we would return there as a home base after each "tiyul" (trip) we made. 

Our home base in Jerusalem:  Bikur Cholim Hospital, or as I remember it, Ze'ev Hospital. . 

Eileen in black Bedoin dress, Sherril in white at Ze'ev Hospital, our home base in Jerusalem. . The dresses and the pipes purchased in the "Old City" of Jerusalem, the Arab Quarter.

Mike with flowers in his hair, next to sign: "Do Not Smoke the Grass". 

Yerushalayim Shel Zehav: Jerusalem of Gold.

Tiyul in the Negev Desert

Eileen smack in the middle. Sherril sitting in first row on the ground, 2nd from right. I remeber Bunny and Stuart sitting on either side of me,

New Jersey Group planting trees for Jewish National Fund 

He is either smoking a joint or blowing on a harmonica. You' choose. 

Our Fearless Leaders

Peter, Paul and Mary? No, Randy, Mike and Eileen.

Sherril leaving Zev and Israel, thus the solemn expression.

Trip ended with a few days in Paris, not too shabby!.

Airport in Paris. On our way home.

Now for Eileen's visit to my house in Bloomfield the winter after our trip to Israel. I remember that visit as being So Much Fun!

Eileen and me preparing to play outside in the winter wonderland..

My brother, Michael and Eileen and Snowman Masterpiece

Not sure why I am hugging the snowman, but I think I still have those gloves.

"My tree" "No, My tree!" May the best girl win.

Snowball Fight on left and Snowman is protecting my father's renault on right.

Having fun yet?

Eileen making a Snow-Angel.

Sherril kicking up a storm.

Back inside the cozy house at 987 Broad Street, Bloomfield, NJ, where you can find Sherril and Eileen being playful. 

Me making fish face!

Eileen making fish face!
Eileen faking sleep. 

Sherril faking sleep. 

                 Take note of my bedroom ceiling. Pretty cool, ay? Eileen seems to be contemplating it.

Looks like we are about to go out to dinner with my family.

 Eileen with Jo-Ann, my sister. 

A girl from Texas can't be too far from her 10 gallon hat!

 Down time.

Sisters! Sisters! Never were there such devoted sisters!

Dressed to the T's, Eileen and Me.

Deep in conversation. Note the white princess phone on the table. 

Eileen and I made decoupage pocketbooks. They were so cool. It probably went with all the other stuff up in the attic when my mother moved out of the house. ):

Note the guitar case next to me. I still have that Gibson guitar and same case 47 years hence!

Coy AND Playful.

So sweet!

We had a small reunion with a few kids from the National Bar Mitzvah club and a few friends of mine. 

Jeff Friedman (laughing next to Eileen), a friend of mine. Then Mitch from the trip and the guy on the other side of Eileen, may have been from the trip and the blond guy was a friend of Jeff's. 

Those were the days when playing TWISTER was all the rage and play it we did. 

 FUN! FUN! FUN! till my daddy took my T-bird away. 

Then came the sad day that Eileen had to go home. 

         A trip, a visit and a friend I will always remember!