The Scamp’s 500th Post

This post brought to you by a moment that I never thought would happen. When I started this blog 8 years ago, I never really thought about how many posts I would write, or how much of my life I would end up sharing with the world. This became my diary, my therapist, my love letter to Scotland and to my wanderlust.

It took a long time to get from 400 to 500. Number 400 was written in 2016. A lot has happened in the last four years….most of it not captured on these pages. The PhD killed my love of writing, and to be honest, there wasn’t a lot of fun and positivity to write about it. Even now that the PhD is done, I’m still not sure there is a lot of good in my life right now to write about.

I always want the milestone posts to be something special, something big. I didn’t have anything really big to share until about a month ago.

On March 9, 2020, just two days after my thirty-something birthday, I got adopted.

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I really debated whether or not I was going to share this. I have family that are not going to understand and probably  not be happy with my choice, and to be honest, I am still a bit uncomfortable with the idea of having to explain such a personal choice.

But in the spirit of the 500th post, I’ll give it my best shot.

I’ve been joking about being adopted since I was a kid. I always wanted to move from the back of the alphabet to the front. Because my biological father is still alive, my mom always said she thought that would be disrespectful to him as long as we were in contact with him. I haven’t had contact with him in almost 10 years. I have no desire to change that.

I shelved the idea and went on to build a name for myself as a Wilder. That’s always been my name. I get jokes, got a job interview solely because that was my surname, and funny looks when I introduce myself. There is nothing wrong with the last name Wilder.

I just didn’t want it to be my last name anymore.

For the last few years, when I think of the Wilders, I do not think of family. Every year that passed since I have been back in Edinburgh has just solidified that feeling. The last straw was this past summer when the Wilder’s all gathered in California, and the only reason I knew was from pictures posted on social media. Not once did anyone try to contact me, or ask my siblings about where I was or what I was doing. It was like I had been completely erased from the family….which is impressive since I am an identical twin.

That’s when I really thought about what it meant to be family and to be part of a family. A family supports you, a family makes you feel safe, makes you feel like you belong. A family is more than just blood.

I’ve called Rick Davis my dad since I was 18 and it was easier to introduce my parents to my friends while I was at uni. But the truth is, he’s been my dad for much longer than that. He’s the one who went to all the school plays, the swim meets, the graduations. He’s the one who helped me buy my first car and taught me how to check the oil, change a tire and not get scammed in a deal. He’s the one who met boyfriends, let me cry in the backyard with him when I got expelled, told my mom that it was okay for me to move to Scotland, and has funded my wanderlust. He’s always rolled his eyes when I get a new tattoo. He’s always treated me like his kid.   He’s always offered his support, always looked out for me, and always made me feel like I belonged somewhere.

He’s my dad (and now when I say I am his favourite daughter, it is true in more ways than one).

We’ve both had it pretty rough the last couple of years. Me with the PhD journey and the lack of feeling like I belonged anywhere and him dealing with the loss of my brother and my grandpa. I felt like we both needed something good. So a few months before Christmas I found an attorney that specialises in adult adoptions and then ambushed my dad on a Wednesday with a video chat. It wasn’t one of those viral videos that you see floating around social media, no big surprise or big speech. I didn’t let my mum say anything publically for months (and I know it is killing you, so you can tell people now mum). I wasn’t even going to tell anyone other than my brother and sister. I didn’t want to have to explain myself to anyone. I’m still not sure that I do. People in Scotland know, but not many people outside of my little bubble here know, and I am not sure there is anyone outside of this bubble that even wants to know.

When I was in California for Christmas, we met with the lawyer, filled out all of the paperwork, and waited for a court date. The judge didn’t allow technology, and I had to have a lawyer stand-in for me, and the whole thing lasted for three minutes, but I am finally a Davis.

I even have a new birth certificate to prove it.

That was the unexpected part of the adoption. A completely new birth certificate. My new place in my chosen family complete. I am now a Davis….although professionally I am a Wilder-Davis because I started my career as a Wilder and already published under that name. The cool thing is everything was official before I turned in the thesis edits, so my hyphenated name is on the front page.

And hopefully, in a few short weeks, everyone can officially call me Dr Davis.

The Scamp Gets Ready for Pesach

Before I get into the fun that I am having preparing for Passover, I want it to be known that this is post 499 of The Adventures of a Scamp Abroad. I always have a big post planned for the different milestones, and my 500th post will be no different.

Now on to the matters at hand. Sundown tonight marks the start of one of my favourite holidays, Pesach (also known as Passover). I love Passover for the same reason I love Thanksgiving, it is the holiday where everyone comes together as a family to celebrate.

But what is Passover you might ask? The good people at chabad.org have put together a really nice explanation of the holiday.

The eight-day festival of Passover is celebrated in the early spring, from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan, April 8 – April 16, 2020. Passover (Pesach) commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. Pesach is observed by avoiding leaven, and highlighted by the Seder meals that include four cups of wine, eating matzah and bitter herbs, and retelling the story of the Exodus.

In Hebrew it is known as Pesach (which means “to pass over”), because G‑d passed over the Jewish homes when killing the Egyptian firstborn on the very first Passover eve.

The Passover Story in a Nutshell

After many decades of slavery to the Egyptian pharaohs, during which time the Israelites were subjected to backbreaking labor and unbearable horrors, G‑d saw the people’s distress and sent Moses to Pharaoh with a message: “Send forth My people, so that they may serve Me.” But despite numerous warnings, Pharaoh refused to heed G‑d’s command. G‑d then sent upon Egypt ten devastating plagues, afflicting them and destroying everything from their livestock to their crops.

At the stroke of midnight of 15 Nissan in the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE), G‑d visited the last of the ten plagues on the Egyptians, killing all their firstborn. While doing so, G‑d spared the children of Israel, “passing over” their homes—hence the name of the holiday. Pharaoh’s resistance was broken, and he virtually chased his former slaves out of the land. The Israelites left in such a hurry, in fact, that the bread they baked as provisions for the way did not have time to rise. Six hundred thousand adult males, plus many more women and children, left Egypt on that day and began the trek to Mount Sinai and their birth as G‑d’s chosen people.

The holiday is celebrated with a seder. This is a retelling of the Jews exodus from Egypt and a time for both young and old to come together and think about their history. That history is in the Haggadah, or central reading for the seder. As My Jewish Learning states

The script for this central ritual of Passover is the Haggadah (literally, “telling”). It contains questions and answers, stories, show and tell, song, food as reward and symbol, pathos, and suspense. The creation of this script took place over hundreds of years at the beginning of the Common Era. There is evidence that parts of the seder were in a fixed format by the time of the Mishnah (second to third century CE). Midrashim were added and the current traditional version was fixed soon after.

There is a seder plate that represents the various themes of the Haggadah (I’ve provided a link to a nifty little video to explain the significance).

The Seder Plate

Just for fun, My Jewish Learning has also put together a list of vocabulary to help everyone at their first seder. They are:

Passover Greetings (in alphabetical order)

A zissen Pesach — Have a sweet Passover! (Yiddish)

Chag aviv sameach — Have a happy spring holiday! (Hebrew)


Chag kasher sameach — Have a happy and kosher holiday! (Hebrew)

Chag sameach — Have a happy holiday! (Hebrew)

Moadim l’simcha — May your times be joyous! (Hebrew, said only during the Hol Hamoed, or intermediate, days of the holiday)

Passover Vocabulary (in alphabetical order)

Afikomen —From a Greek word meaning “dessert.” A piece of matzah that is hidden during the course of the seder , found after dinner, and eaten as dessert at the end of the seder meal.

Arba Kosot — Hebrew for “four cups.” In this case, it refers to the four cups of wine drunk at the Passover seder.

Barekh— The 12th step of the Passover seder, in which Birkat Hamazon, the grace after meals is said.

Beitzah — Hebrew for “egg.” A roasted or hard-boiled egg is placed on the seder plate to symbolize rebirth.

Chad Gadya —Aramaic for “one goat,” this is the last of the songs sung at the conclusion of the seder and tells the story of the little goat a father bought for a pittance. Listen to the song below. Find lyrics here.

Chag Ha Aviv — Hebrew for “The Spring Holiday.” One of the alternate names for Passover.

Dayenu — Hebrew for “enough for us,” this is the name of a song sung at the Passover seder that tells of all the miracles God performed for the Israelites. Listen to it and see the transliteration in this video below.

 

Gebrochts — Yiddish for “broken,” this refers to matzah that has absorbed liquid. It is customary among some Orthodox Ashkenazi Jews to avoid gebrochts as an extra stringency on Passover.

Haggadah — Hebrew for “telling” or “recounting.” A Haggadah is a book that is used to tell the story of the Exodus at the seder. There are many versions available ranging from very traditional to nontraditional, and you can also make your own.

Hallel — The 13th step of the Passover seder, in which psalms of praise are sung.

Hametz — Bread or any food that has been leavened or contains a leavening agent, hametz is prohibited on Passover.

Haroset — A sweet mixture of nuts, wine, and apples on the seder plate that symbolizes the mortar used by slaves in Egypt.

Hol HaMoed — The intermediate days of the holiday, between the first two days of holiday, and the last two days of holiday.

Kaddesh —  The first step of the Passover seder, in which a blessing over a glass is recited.

Karpas — The third step of the Passover seder, in which a piece of greenery such as parsley is dipped into salt water and then eaten.

Kitniyot — Hebrew for legumes, the term here also includes corn and rice. These items were prohibited for use on Passover by some Ashkenazic rabbis in the medieval period, but many Sephardic Jews (and increasingly Conservative Jews) do allow them on Passover.

Korekh — The ninth step in the Passover seder, in which bitter herbs are eaten together with a piece of matzah.

Maggid — The fifth and most substantial step of the Passover seder, in which the story of the Exodus is recounted.

Maror — Bitter herbs. The eighth step in the Passover seder, in which the herbs (usually horseradish), symbolizing the bitterness of life under Egyptian rule, are eaten.

Matzah — Unleavened bread. According to the Bible the Israelites ate matzah right before they left Egypt. Today matzah is eaten during Passover to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt.

Motzi Matzah — The seventh step in the Passover seder, in which a piece of matzah is eaten.

Nirtzah — The 14th and final step of the Passover seder, in which the night is concluded by saying “Next year in Jerusalem.”

Pesach —Hebrew for “pass over.” Cooked meat that, according to the Bible, was eaten by the Israelites just before they left Egypt.

Rahtza — The sixth step of the Passover seder, in which the hands are washed for a second time, and a blessing is recited.

Seder — Hebrew for “order.” The Passover ritual where family and friends gather on the first one or two nights of Passover to retell the story of the Exodus. The story is told in a particular order, with specific rituals.

Shir Hashirim — The Song of Songs, the text read in synagogue during the Shabbat of Passover.

Shulhan Orekh— The 10th step in the Passover seder, in which the meal is served. Pass the matzah balls!

Tzafun — The 11th step of the Passover seder, in which the afikoman is found and eaten as dessert.

Urchatz — The second step of the Passover seder, in which the hands are washed but no blessing is recited.

Yahatz — The fourth step of the Passover seder in which a piece of matzah is broken in half.

Zeroa — Shank bone. The bone is placed on the seder plate and recalls the blood on the doorposts and the terror and the anticipation of the night of the plague of the first born.

In my family, Passover is always celebrated at my Great Aunt’s house with a big seder and something fun to tie the kids in. The last one I went to had a play before dinner, and a few years ago we had plastic plagues that we all threw at each other during the readings. I miss these traditions when being so far away, and in a country that is not exactly Jewish friendly, but I have not let it stop me from trying to celebrate in my own way.

This year is extra strange given that we are on lockdown and can’t get together even if we wanted to. I’ve got most of the supplies that I need (although there is no matzah at any of the stores I am allowed to go to, and I can’t really be out and about all day trying to hunt it down…I do have some flat crackers though as a stand-in. Same with the Haroset, but I have a sweet jam that should do the trick). Tomorrow I’ll use my electronic version of the Haggadah, stretch out on my couch and have some unlevean bread and some sweet macaroons for dessert.

Hopefully next year I won’t be in lockdown so I can be better prepared with the food options for the seder, and maybe I can talk some of my friends here into attending. So until then, chag sameach everyone and find a fun way to celebrate!

References 

The Passover (Pesach) Seder

https://www.chabad.org/holidays/passover/pesach_cdo/aid/871715/jewish/What-Is-Passover-Pesach.htm

Must-Know Passover Terms

The Scamp in Isolation

I have been practicing social distancing for the last 5 years. It is an unfortunate by-product of my PhD experience and horrible taste in men.  Two months before the official lockdown I had really started to isolate myself so that I could finish the rewrite and get it in on time.

I was supposed to leave for China to represent the office, and then come back to a new life where I could see my friends more often, take up a hobby that did not involve schoolwork, and finally be free of Napier.

I was going to be a new Kim.

Instead, I have basically been in quarantine since March 17th. My compromised immune system means I am potentially at a higher risk for infection, and I figured with my luck, I’d catch everything you could including Covid19 when my body finally relaxed after the rewrite was complete. I did not leave my place for a week because of a cold, and then for fear of the lackadaisical attitude of the people where I live about staying inside. I finally got to the point last week where I was willing to risk germs for my government-approved exercise outside once a day.

But it is just making me angry. No one here takes it seriously. People are working in their allotments, hanging out in the parks, and walking, jogging and cycling way too close to each other. I’m ready to scream. I’m also mourning the cancellation of my upcoming trip to Mallorca, and what will probably be the cancellation of my family’s trip here in July for my graduation ( the ceremony which has also been canceled).

I’m also lonely. I spend all but about 30 minutes at the start of my day with only myself for company….and I am not good company. That’s not entirely true. My family and friends have been amazing. I get calls and videos and photos all the time. I also have very considerate colleagues who check-in when they notice me looking a little down on the video chats in the morning.

I have been trying to work out and do things that keep my brain occupied, but with the warm weather taunting me, and cabin fever getting the best of me, I cannot wait for things to settle back into a normal where people are not getting sick and we can all go outside again.

Because I hate being a downer, I just want to say that I admire all of the nurses, doctors, pharmacy workers, and grocery store workers who are coming to work every day without complaint and demonstrating a courage and bravery that I can only hope to emulate one day. I have several friends in the US that are total badasses, and several former students here in Scotland that I could not be more proud of. It is nice to know that there is still some good in the world.