Yes, being a mother of a soldier carries with it one other element that I might not have mentioned - we stare at other soldiers as we think of our son. We look at their boots and their berets. Today, as we returned from our vacation up north, we stopped at the "favorite family pit stop" - a lone diner/shop in the Jordan Valley that welcomes you, provides relatively clean bathrooms and a nice place to just stretch your legs.
It's a familiy favorite we call the "tank place" because it has the remnants of an old gutted tank set up for kids to climb in and around as parents relax over coffee or ice cream or just a bottle of cold water. For religious Jews, it's also a great place to "grab a minyan". For the uninitiated, this means finding a quorum of 10 men to pray together, elevating the individual prayers said three times a day to a higher community level. It always amazes me that the owners of the store have no problem with this and readily surrender various areas of their property to groups of men who stand, face south towards Jerusalem, and pray.
Today, on our way back from our vacation up north, we again stopped. This time, it was in the last few moments when the afternoon (or mincha) service can be said. My husband, sons, son-in-law and his brother got out of the car and went in search of six others. Just as we arrived, a bus pulled in and the passengers were given "1o minutes" to go to the bathroom, buy some refreshments, and get back on the bus.
A few soldiers were on the bus, including one with black boots and the turquoise beret of the artillery division. I debated with myself, told myself to just be quiet, and then listened in surprise when my mouth refused my brain's command. Clearly, my heart had taken over, thought by brain in disgust.
"What unit are you in?" I heard myself ask and watched at least one of my children cringe. "There she goes again," they must have been thinking. "Couldn't anyone have stopped her?" To be fair, the soldier didn't cringe, didn't even hesitate. He told me the unit number and, as if that wasn't bad enough, my mouth just continued, "my son is in..." and there it went - name and number of the unit. The soldier knew immediately the number, based on my having said the name, and quickly pointed out that he is involved in armaments, not cannons, whatever that means.
No, I didn't bother mentioning Elie's name, that would have been just beyond embarrassing. There's no way he would know Elie. He's in a different g'dud (battalion...was that the translation?....well, a different group), not the same unit or task and not even stationed in the same area of the country. There are thousands, give or take, in artillery, many units and types of units. Israel's Defense Forces are divided into (roughly): air force, tanks, ground forces, border guards, artillery - and maybe some others. That puts Elie in one huge group consisting of tens of thousands, if you include the reserves as well as the standing army. It was silly to have even approached the young man based solely on his being part of the same general classification.
And the very worst part of it all is that I know deep down, I'll probably do the same thing again next time I see that combination - black boots and turquoise beret.
The one redeeming quality here is that hopefully I'll forget to mention this to Elie. My brain is already threatening my heart with excommunication!