I can capture the moment and explain what happened, but I can't explain the feeling of peace that comes with the moment. The sudden need, the sudden satisfaction, the sudden joy that comes and lingers after the moment passes.
I started the day feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. So many reasons I couldn’t begin to count them; so much to do, I don’t know where to begin. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, so my first job was to cut it down. I did that by starting to make a list of the things that are on my mind. I hadn’t finished when I was called into one meeting, followed by another.
Finally, back to my office for some quiet. I read some emails, looked at the pile of papers on my desk and decided procrastination was good. I sorted through the stack, throwing away the garbage and handing much off to be filed. In the middle of the second pile, Elie called. I had spoken to him before the Sabbath arrived on Friday, spent a nice and quiet Shabbat with the rest of my children (one “adopted son” was with us, another far away in America living with his wife, Elie in the north.) Not all together, but at least everyone safe and accounted for.
Sunday came with the regular back-to-school/back-to-work routine. Meetings, some work, some accounting, some twittering, some LinkedIn, and then the phone call I wasn’t expecting.
I don't have all the details but for some reason, Elie and two soldiers were given the battalion commander’s jeep and told to drive from the base in the north to point A, from point A to point B, from point B, back up north. I assume they had things to do in each place, but the main point here is that our home lies roughly between point A and point B - with a detour of about 20 minutes. It's a matter of driving straight when the road curves from the Dead Sea to Jerusalem, entering our city and driving another 5 minutes to our home.
"Hi, Ima. Where are you?" Elie asked.
"At the office," I answered. In Jerusalem. It was early afternoon. The Passover holidays are fast approaching. It's a time when people, especially women, start cleaning every inch of their homes – not your regular daily/weekly cleaning but to a depth that is often hard to explain. Passover cleaning is difficult to do at the best of times; almost impossible to do while maintaining a full work load. My middle son spent much of the day cleaning on his own, waiting for me to come home and pitch in.
"I'll be home in about an hour," Elie said. My first thought was that this was a bad thing. If they were sending him home now, would that mean that he wasn't going to spend the seder with us? I'm desperate for that time, that night, that togetherness. I need to be able to shut the world out and if Elie isn't home, I won't be able to do that. I won't be able to gather into myself and forget all else. I know that sounds terribly self-centered, but I guess that's why I started this blog - so that I could talk about a soldier's mother. Often I talk about the soldier - but this is a mother thing. So yes, I want him home. I need him home – not today, next week. Why were they sending him home today?
Before I could get completely upset, Elie explained that he was traveling past and so would stop at our home for a few minutes. Ah, my heart calmed as quickly as it stirred. Five minutes. Passover is still ours. Wait…I’m in Jerusalem at work. He’s going home.
"I was going home early," I explained, more to myself than to him. A few hours doesn’t really make a difference, and anyway, here a computer, there a computer – I can work from home. "I'll meet you there."
I could have put in another hour of work, but that would mean not seeing him. I left the office within minutes and as I was entering the city called Elie.
"Where are you?" I asked.
"Tzomet Almog," he explained - just at the foot of the steep climb up from the desert plain to our mountain-top city. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth – located approximately 350 meters below sea level. Maale Adumim is about 650 meters above sea level – the highway climbs for a good 10-15 minutes. Elie was close, "About 20 minutes away," he said.
"Do you want me to stop and get you anything?" I asked him.
"How about burekas?" he asked. These are potato or mushroom (or cheese or spinach) pastries with a light flaky dough.
"How many are you?" I asked.
"Three," he answered. And so I stopped in the mall and filled a small bag with mushroom and potato burekas.
"How many burekas can three soldiers eat?" I asked the man behind the counter.
"Depends on how hungry they are," he answered with a smile. Great, I thought. Duh. I'm a mother, you silly man. Just say I put in enough, that's all I need to hear. He took the bag, put it on the scale. And said, "This is fine."
I bought some chocolate pastries too. Drove home. Threw two bottles of Elie's ice tea into a bag; added a container of brownies and some cups. What else?
"Hi, Ima," Elie called out as he came in the house. I showed him the stuff in the bag and got a "cool." He went to the bathroom, gave me a hug and went outside. I asked if the others wanted to use the bathroom too. Elie said no.
I followed him outside and saw that the "others" were two soldiers - one male; one female. Elie was the commanding officer, the other two didn't have stripes on their sleeves. One was the driver. I looked at the young woman, "would you like to use the bathroom?" I asked.
"Yes, is it ok?" she asked and suddenly she was what she really is - a girl; not a soldier, but a person under the uniform. Yes, of course she needs a bathroom. Elie and the other young man could easily find someplace, any place, if they had to see to their needs, but she needed a private place. Not something that Elie or the other boy would have thought of and so I said to the young woman, "he's a man. You'll have to excuse him," and they all laughed.
She went in and I told Elie with a smile, "girls need bathrooms," and he laughed that wonderful laugh; smiled that wonderful smile and shoved a burekas in his mouth.
They stayed for about 10 minutes, munching on the brownies and the burekas. Elie kept saying he wasn’t hungry and yet in the space of a few minutes, he ate several burekas and brownies, drank some ice tea and just smiled.
Elie confiscated one of his brother's music CDs (with permission) and they stood around and munched and talked. Three young people - that's really all they are. Three beautiful young people...all dressed in green...all with guns…driving around in an army jeep...and an assignment that requires them to travel between army bases.
As Elie walked to the front of the jeep, I called to him, "you still have to give me a hug," I said. And he did.
In the scale of a lifetime, it was a quick flash, easily gone in a second; in a mother's day, it was everything. The world balances when you can see your son for just a few minutes unexpectedly. It's back to cleaning; back to folding laundry; back to waiting until the next time I have all my children with me and I can close out the world, knowing they are all safe.
I asked the young driver if he was OK to drive the long distances, asked him to be careful. It was the mother speaking to them - hopefully a slice of home for each but most definitely for Elie. He travels back up north with his mother's brownies...and her love.