They were not always close as little girls—that three year gap put the younger, Debra, at a social disadvantage with Sari. When Debra, with pinwheel eyes and theatrical exuberance, entered the esteemed Shaker Heights High School, Sari was already a senior and a celestial presence in the theater department. And she had quiet management of the artistic scene in a progressive, multicultural environment that nonetheless held fast to adolescent cliques and cruelties.
I can’t change the nations. But I know that I need not change either of my two daughters.
Her mother and I were truly enthralled when Debra won the Science Fair during one of those years—an unexpectedly delicious moment in a family of pastoral inclinations and social studies. But Sari was characteristically indifferent and beyond cool. The three year gap was most acutely felt when Debra matriculated into Skidmore College exactly when Sari was already a master actor, writer, and producer in the esteemed school’s high-flung theater community.
Never mind that Debra polished off her college degree in three quick years, including a semester in London and has since completed (in one year) a Master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Chicago. Sari has excelled in a various aspects of hard work and societal commitment, and, after several brave years of theatrical endeavor in New York City, is now happily ensconced as a Food Studies graduate student at NYU. She is 31, Debra is 28, and they are both healthy and razor-edge smart.
Both of these eclectic, funny, well-read, and warmly social young women have survived their parents’ divorce, and a myriad of upheavals, relocations, and romances that they have turned over in favor of wisdom and perspective. They are decidedly likable, egalitarian, physically attractive women who have come to unaffectedly appreciate their complementary talents. Sari, her wry humor and oval-faced comeliness still shining, genuinely honors and expresses pride—even on Facebook—in Debra’s emerging success as an international journalist based in Tel Aviv.
Years and years ago, as the first gulf war blasted on our television screen at home, Debra came to talk to me in the middle of the night. “Daddy, when will the war end?” asked my deeply affected 8-year old. We talked about war and nations and humanity’s flaws. Moments later, the 11-year old Sari entered and, also in a quiet but earnest tone, asked me: “Daddy, when…can I get my own phone?”
Recently: I laughed inside, with bittersweet feelings and yet gratitude, when my Sari called me last week from New York and was deeply concerned about something: “Dad, do you think Debra is okay over there in Israel? I’m so worried about her. What do you think is going to happen with Iran?” We talked about war, nations, humanity’s flaws, and some practical options. I believe that Sari got some comfort and assurance from us just sharing thoughts.
Well, I don’t know what will happen now—who does in such a world? I can’t change the nations. But I know that I need not change either of my two daughters.
Ben Kamin’s next book, ‘ROOM 306: The National Story of the Lorraine Motel,’ will be launched at the National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, on April 4.