So, it turns out that the base where I thought Elie was...he isn't. He's still 15 minutes away (not 10), but the base is smack inside Jerusalem, secure and centered for non-combat officers coordinating, planning, and I have no idea what.
But, since this is a non-combat base, they lack one thing: combat soldiers. These soldiers are needed to defend the base, even one located inside Jerusalem's municipal borders and so it is Elie's group's turn. In real terms, this is a piece of cake and a walk on the easy side. They are a few blocks away from pizza, hamburgers, and everything else, actually. In short, they are bored, well-fed, and as relaxed as they can be while still being "on patrol."
I went to the First International Bloggers Conference hosted by Nefesh b'Nefesh last night, promising Elie that when it was over at 9:00 p.m., I'd go back home, grab a bag of stuff I'd prepared and a hot pizza, and take it to him. If I'd realized the base was IN Jerusalem, I could have just picked up a pizza in the city...but never mind, that too is part of getting used to the army's efficient inefficiency (as well as our own).
So I loaded the car with a bag of goodies, the likes of which...well, ok, the likes of which Elie can get anytime he wants. I added two packages of those horrible gooey candies that stick to your teeth when you chew and make you work your gums really hard. Of course, they are filled with so much sugar that it cancels out any benefits of this gum-workout. I try not to keep them in the house but I bought a few packages for our upcoming vacation and then put two big packages in for Elie. The standard Doritoes (two flavors) came next, along with pretzels, chocolate wafers, two large bottles if ice tea, one bottle of cola, and I can't honestly remember what else.
Ah, that was it - the ice tea was frozen - as Elie loves it, and so had I been efficient and left the backpack of goodies in the trunk of the car while I attended the conference, the ice tea would have been melted. Great - I've rationalized myself into contentment!
It was a treat to see Elie, to show him the new flashlight. He immediately compared it to his current one that the army gave him. As he shined both on the building across the street, the new one, given by Yashar LeChayal shone brightly and strong on the face of the building while his current one was weaker and the light more dissipated.
"What will you do with your flashlight now that you have this one?" I asked him.
"I'll give it to one of the others guys. Only the officers have flashlights in the unit."
I wasn't happy hearing that, but they adjust to what they have and work with it. Anyway, Elie was more interested in all the gadgets that came along with the flashlight, "this is a really good one" he said at one point. Just "wow" was there too.
As I stood watching him first look at the flashlight and then switch to the backpack of treats I'd packed, I realized I'd been given a gift this evening. My little boy was there. Sure, it was the man standing there tall and strong and so incredibly handsome in the uniform with the M16 rifle and commander's bars on his sleeves. Sure he's in a man's body as he towers over me and I can see the strength in his arms as he lifts easily the packpack I'd found was a bit heavier than I'd expected. But this was Elie - the same Elie who could sit for hours examining and taking apart everything he could get his hands on when he was young.
The pizza was getting cold, the flashlight had been examined, and the ice tea was melting, "You better go," I told him, knowing that he was fine and missing him anyway. "If you need anything, call me and I can drop it off on our way up north in the morning."
"You're leaving tomorrow morning?" he asked. His voice was steady and I'm sure I imagined that little twinge of regret.
After I went over our plans again Elie told me how long he'd be on this base and when he'd be returning to his checkpoint. It will happen while we are kayaking on the Jordan. Here he is, so close to home, close enough to touch, close enough to visit, and I'm going away. There is no end to the ways a mother can find to feel guilty and bad, I discovered long ago.
"Have a good time," Elie told me as we parted with a smile and a brief kiss on the cheek.
"Be safe," I told him as I always do. Just be safe.