The New Normal / by Susie Lubell

Five sparkly new gas masks
Five shiny new gas masks hanging off my stroller.

Some nights I'll be sitting on our couch watching reruns of Seinfeld and eating a bowl of Fruity Pebbles and it feels like I'm back in California. We live in a nice house. I drive a Mazda 5. My kids have playdates. Organic free range eggs are a fortune. It's all the same as it was. And then I remember that my daughter goes to ballet lessons in a bomb shelter. Someone checks my bag whenever I enter a large building, like the mall. My kids have lice. My housekeeper is a Jewish man. I buy my fruits and vegetables in the West Bank. My seven year old has a cell phone. And I pay $8 a gallon for gas.

Not normal.

Last week I met a friend and her three kids in Ramle, a town outside of Tel Aviv known for its poverty and excellent kabob restaurants, to exchange our old gas masks for new ones. It was the first day of Passover vacation so I packed all the kids in the car and we drove to an elementary school downtown where a squadron of adorable soldiers took my two outdated masks and issued five shiny new ones. Everyone was friendly and professional and efficient. Someone from the BBC even interviewed me. When asked how I felt as a newcomer getting gas masks for my children, I was honest. I told the guy I had no intention of using these things. They will go into a closet until the next recall, a decade from now. And then we hustled our six kids back into our cars, drove to a nearby playground, worked up an appetite and then drove downtown to Halil where we snarfed down two plates of kabobs, a plate of fries, hummus, pita, pickles and malabi for dessert. Mmmmmm.

And so it goes. I shift back and forth between there and here, feeling used to it all and feeling shocked by it all, letting go of what I knew as normal and embracing what is now the new normal.

Gas mask lesson
Gas mask tutorial

Playground in Ramle
Playground in Ramle

Parking lot near Halil restaurant, Ramle
My daughter stepped out into this parking lot and asked, are we in India?

Cutest ten month old ever