Moon Spots – a Serial. You determine how the story will go on.

Chapter 1: Who is Gorbacheva?

“Gorbacheva! Gorbacheva!” I heard him calling out excitedly. I couldn’t believe he was calling me by that name. We agreed that in the company of people who aren’t family, he should never call that! “Is your dad calling someone?” Asked Yuval, a friend from 6th grade 2 – we were working together on a school project. “Yes,” I replied, trying not to sound upset. I wore an indifferent expression and continued writing in my notebook, but deep down I prayed, please, don’t let him come here. I don’t want him to come here and embarrass me. “Who is Gorbacheva?” asked Yuval. “Nothing, never mind”, I replied. And there it happened, three knocks on the door of my room and… He opened the door. The smell of pancakes filled the corridor and infiltrated the room. Dad walked in, holding a spatula and a table cloth, opened his mouth wide, and I saw his surprised look when he noticed Yuval next to me. Dad froze in his place, looking like someone paused a movie to go to the bathroom. It was a funny sight, but I was too angry and frightened to laugh. Dad standing there, mouth open in a wide smile, hand on his hip, one leg crossed backwards and… Time is frozen. Only his eyes moving from Yuval to me, from me to Yuval – scanning the room and assessing the situation – yes, dad realized he was seconds away from a major blunder. But how to fix it, how? A few seconds go by that feel like forever, with dad stuck motionless with smile smeared on his face, and then, it’s like someone pressed PLAY again. “Hi, Yuval, I didn’t know you were both here. Noga, have you by any chance seen Gorbacheva?” There, he is starting to fix it! “No,” I replied. “So who is Gorbacheva?” Asked Yuval for the second time. “It’s, uhmm…. Our dog,” I replied and fixed dad with an angry look. “Cool, I didn’t know you had a dog, Noga. You never talk about her.” Thinking quick, I come up with a story: “She’s not ours, she belongs to our aunt and uncle, we’re just taking care of her for now…” Dad gets the hint, and to save me from having to lie to my friend any further, he invites us to have some pancakes. On the way there, dad sneaked me a look saying “I almost screwed up and I’m sorry, but did you see how well I fixed it?!” and I returned a look saying “Somehow, dad, somehow – you’re OK.” Yes, dad and I talk with our eyes. We understand each other.

Dad’s pancakes were scrumptious and fluffy as usual. We were all focused on enjoying our meal, until Yuval interrupted the tasty pleasantness to ask an obvious question: “It’s strange that Gorbacheva didn’t show up to interfere with your dinner. Mango, our dog, is always charging at the table when we eat.” My brain cells started warming up to come up with a reasonable answer, but I failed to find one and decided to go for another pancake. Dad realized the ball was in his court, and quickly said, “Oh, she already ate, Gorbacheva. Now she probably found a place to nap. Noga?” Dad turned to me and changed the subject, “You remember that mommy has the event at the institute this evening? She asked us not to be late.” I remained quiet for a few seconds. I had completely forgotten about mom’s event at the institute. My mother works at the Weizmann Institute of Science. She was chosen to take part in a special new project the institute is running with a few more important scientists, and tonight is a night of celebration with the families, and… Lots of boring speeches.
“There’ll be food, too,” dad said, looking at me and realizing immediately what I was thinking. “OK, so I’m coming too…” (As if I have a choice.)

It was exactly 7 in the evening. Mom and dad taught me that being punctual is respectful. Dad called to mom from the door of the foyer, “Talya!” Mom’s severe expression melted away, she stoped the conversation she was having, gave us a big smile and rushed towards us. Mom looked very tired – that makes sense, because she’s been at the institute for 48 hours straight. She hugged me tight and whispered in my ear, “Gorbacheva, sweetie, I missed you. I’m so happy you came.” I felt my heart warming up and my feet becoming lighter. I love how my mom hugs me, especially if we haven’t seen each other in a while. Then she kissed me and straightened my bangs, like she always does, and I put the bangs back exactly the way they were before. It’s sort of a routine for both of us, that we keep doing, not sure why. I looked around me and saw that everyone is really dressed up, compared to the dull way they dress everyday at the institute. There was especially professor Snir with his weird bowtie, that has nothing to do with the jeans and sandals he usually walks around with. He also looked really excited compared to his regular indifferent expression. That made sense – he’s heading this secret project that mom participates in. Still, his behavior looked exaggerated to me. When I was little, I loved visiting mom’s lab, that deals with stuff called molecular biology. I was so excited about all the test tubes, the petri dishes, the devices beeping and bleeping – it looked like such a magical world , and I imagined so many adventures here. But the older I get, the less and less interested I am in all this. Suddenly it seems like such a gray place with so many white rooms, filled with machines just making lots of noise. Nowadays I’m more interested in history, like my dad who’s a history teacher at out local high school. “Nir,” mom turned to dad, “We’re seated at table 15. Noga, you’re seated at the children’s table, number 20.” Mom has the ability to deliver dramatic news in the most uninterested way. Drama is my specialty in this house: “What???” I protested vehemently, “I don’t get to sit with you? I’m isolated? Outcast? With kids I don’t know? No way!” I said, feeling the anger rushing through my veins. Why did we come here? To sit apart from each other? And, after being away from each other for so long. What’s the point of bringing the family and children, and why should I sit with kids I don’t know. I was also upset because of mom’s indifference, because it seems alright to her to tell me about it just like that, as though it’s nothing. I felt the tears choking me, and ran to the bathroom. I could barely see through my tears, and opened the first door, feeling upset. As soon as the door opened, I saw someone about my age, with a head full of brown curls, standing in front of the mirror and washing his hands. I fell silent, wiping the tears with my sleeve and stood there, surprised. I forgot everything that preceded this moment, and just stood motionless, staring at him. I couldn’t believe my eyes. He must have understood that I was standing there frozen, and said, “Hmm, I think this is the men’s room.” I couldn’t bring myself to answer or move. I was stunned. Suddenly the door opened and dad came in. “Okay, Gorbache…” He saw the boy standing in front of the mirror. “Uhm, sorry,” said dad, feeling like it’s the second time he almost screwed up. “How do you know they call me Gorbachev?” Asks the boy, looking at my dad. I feel a heat wave flushing over me from the inside. The boy stood in front of my and dad, smiled and pointed to his forehead: “You can’t miss it, huh?” On the boy’s forehead there’s a large, noticeable stain, in pink and purple. A birthmark. How is he not embarrassed? How can he walk around with that thing and even laugh about it. I kept standing there, thoughts racing in my head and feelings gushing in my veins. The boy extended his hand to me and said: “Hi, I’m Yahli, and my nickname is Gorbachev, after -” Dad interjected to say “The former leader of the Soviet Union, who had the same port-wine stain. Of course, buddy! He’ll be remembered as one of the leaders who…” I looked at dad as if to say “No, don’t do that. Don’t start giving a history lesson and don’t tell him about me.” Dad understood and stopped talking. There was an awkward moment of silence, and then I realized that it’s actually my turn to speak. I tried to pull myself together and speak calmly: “I’m Noga.” I tried smiling too, but from the corner of my eye I could see in the mirror that it was kind of a crooked smile. “Are you coming to the children’s table?” Asked Gorbachev, meaning Yahli. “Yeah, sure, I mean right after I find the right bathroom.” Yahli giggled and said “Right, sure, see you soon,” and the he left. I glanced at dad and exhaled, letting out all the air I was holding in my chest for the past couple of minutes. Dad gave me a look that said, “Did you see that? What are the odds? So I gather that the children’s table problem has been solved.” I returned a look saying “Totally, I can’t believe this happened, I’m stunned, I can’t really express what it is that I’m feeling right now.” Dad gave me a hug. How did he know that was exactly what I needed?!

I went into the bathroom, the ladies’ room this time. I made sure there’s no one around and stood in front of the mirror. I took my bangs and moved them up and away from my face. I got closer to the mirror and took a good look at my forehead. Yes, there it was, in the same place. My large birthmark, that changes colors from purple to pink and right now it’s almost red from all the excitement. The mark I’ve been ashamed of ever since the kids in kindergarten made fun of me after I cut my bangs off. The mark that looks exactly the like the one that boy from the bathroom has. Exactly the same! Same shape, only the other way around. I have to look into this weird coincidence. And who is this Yahli? A kid proud of his giant birthmark. Who doesn’t hide it. Who is proud of his nickname. Who laughs about it? That’s it, Gorbacheva has decided to get to the bottom of this. Children’s table, here I come.

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When Dana was five years old, she went on an evening picnic with her mother and brother. On the way to the park, Dana looked up into the sky. The moon was full and round and she noticed something incredible. Dana cried out, “Look, the moon is following us”. Dana’s mother smiled and explained that the moon isn’t following us, it’s just the feeling we get because the moon is very far away from us. Since then Dana grew up and learned that this is also because of the relative angle between our planet and the moon. Today Dana is an educator who believes that education changes the world, and also believes that there’s no end to what today’s wonderful generation of children can achieve. After being a science teacher for several years at the Nature Environment and Society School in Tel Aviv, she joined SpaceIL’s education department and is responsible for building and editing this website, “Moon Kids”. We can also let you in on a secret: today, when Dana goes for a walk in the evening with her daughters, Soof and Geffen, while she’s telling them stories, she likes to imagine that maybe the moon up there really is walking along with them.)

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