So - today we went shopping for those last minute items that the army recommends each new soldier should have. We went to a camping store, which has its own list of what the army provides (one column) and what they recommend (two bigger columns). The store gives a free wallet and discounts for many of the items the new soldier will need.
Undershirts - green; socks - gray. A wallet, a special strong backpack, a flashlight, toothbrush holder, antiseptic non-water cleaner, and much more. The hardest part wasn't paying the bill, but rather standing there listening to the young store clerk (who has served in the army), explain to my son what he would need. A rite of passage that they all go through here in Israel, a language they understand. It will be cold at night, hot and dusty during the day. You'll only have a few minutes to wash and dress (better to get the key lock rather than the combination lock); better to get the back with zippers and compartments. You can keep your wallet with you while on patrol, but you might get into trouble if you try to keep your cell phone. Don't take anything of real value - there are thieves even among your brothers in arms.
You'll get nine pairs of socks from the army; three undershirts in green; three undershirts in white. Two types of uniforms - one to be worn on the base and during training; one for when you are going off-base.
The young clerk smiled when he said that my son would be home the first weekend after he enters the army - the army's way of reminding us that we aren't losing a son...that he'll be home if we just have patience and hold ourselves together. We aren't saying goodbye forever...just a few more days and he'll be home - lugging dirty laundry, wanting to sleep and eat as much as he can. They can wear any pajamas, the store clerk explains, and any underwear they want. What matters is that on the outside, the uniform is perfect, the clothes according to regulation.
Black shoe polish. "How do you know he needs black and not brown?" I ask naively, and the answer is a single word "Artillery." How strict they will be depends on the particulars of the army base, but it will be dirty and dusty and unpleasant - in short...reality.
It's all so simple and logical - no time for a mother's feelings and worries. Monday is gone...6 more days.