The countdown continues. Twenty-five days. Elie's meeting with a commanding officer was postponed and rescheduled. Still not sure what the purpose of the meeting is and most who hear that someone is coming personally to meet Elie think it is strange - perhaps the army has too many soldiers and not enough to do. Either way, it is a wonderful concept that some officer (ordered to or not), is taking the time to meet with all of these boys before they enter.
It is a huge transition for any child, though Israeli children have been conditioned almost from birth that the army is a natural part of their lives. Most American kids, at least where I grew up in New Jersey, knew that after elementary school comes junior high school; after junior high school comes high school; and almost without exception, college would follow. Here in Israel, kids progress through school knowing that the army, or at least some national service, will follow.
The army invests a tremendous amount of time and resources to match the child to the army. Those who show a keen interest are channeled to use that talent and develop those skills and interests. Some can go directly to university and gain a degree, and then use that degree for a period of time in the army. Elie's main talent, though I doubt the army will channel into it, is his ability to lead or manage a situation, and his background as an ambulance volunteer. He has taken several different courses to become trained. My older daughter and second son also took some of these courses (I wrote about one experience at The Ostrich Calls to Me).
So, we have two countdowns at this time - one only 7 days away, my daughter's wedding; and one 25 days - Elie's entering the army. If I think of either one...my stomach begins to roll and my thoughts freeze. There is so much to do to marry off a daughter, to help prepare her for a new life. Yesterday, we explained to my youngest daughter that her sister would soon be changing her name. She said the new name a few times and then said, "I have to get used to it."
It's easy to know what you have to do to prepare for a wedding, though the preparation itself isn't nearly so easy to accomplish. But how do you prepare a son to go into the army? One friend said she went and bought her son some army-regulation green socks and underwear. Another recommended a flashlight and a strong backpack. These are the things he may need, but there are emotions and knowledge that I can't offer because he takes a road I have never traveled and though I would see him on this road and even go along with him if I could, this is a road he travels with others his age. Mothers are left behind. They walk through the door and we know in our minds that the army is smart enough to send them back to us just a few short days later for a visit so that we too, like my little daughter, "get used to it."