Wednesday, February 13, 2013

February 13 - Starting Young...

On February 13, 2007, I stared at a blank screen and began to write. I went through the form to create a blog...something I'd been thinking about for professional reasons. I wanted to understand this blogging concept and it seemed a good time.

I got stuck on the first section - what would I call it...at the time, there were two huge things coming at me fast in my life. One was my daughter's wedding...the second was Elie going into the army. The wedding seemed pretty straight forward - a band, a hall, photographer, invitations. All of that was done, just six weeks before the wedding.

Most of the clothes were arranged - I don't even remember what else had to be done at that moment when I sat there pondering. We had someone to do her hair and her makeup; we knew how we would get there and back physically and what would happen in the immediate days after the wedding as the young couple began to settle into their lives. But even if we weren't completely ready...I knew the concept - store, money...finished.

A wedding is all about preparation - then those 4-5 hours zoom past and it's over. The wedding gone, the important part - the life and what they would build together just beginning.

Now, that other thing was something else. There was little preparation - and it seemed back then (and sometimes even now), like it will never be over. I sat and looked at the screen and thought - yeah, soon Elie will be a soldier and I'd be...I'd be a soldier's mother. A soldier's mother...

I typed in those words...and began to write...six years ago. Six years...over 1,200 posts...

Elie went in and with the blessings of God, came home safe and well. He's married now and so happy.

Shmulik went in and with the blessings of God, came home safe and well. He's married now and so happy.

Yaakov was already in when I began writing, but he too came home safe and well and is married and a father of two gorgeous little girls.

Chaim went in and with the blessings of God, came home safe and well. He's not married and no, I'm not going to try to set him up...unless he asks me...

And Davidi has his bar mitzvah, grew inches above me, entered high school, and was called for the first time to the army

...and Aliza finished elementary school and had her bat mitzvah and has grown into a gentle swan

...and my oldest, the one who made me a mother...she's been married almost six years and made me a grandmother for the first time.

And still there is a part of me that needs to look back sometimes, almost like scratching a scab...needing to remember that for those who don't know, the army can be frightening and unknown...and six years later, I can smile about how little I knew, how little I understood...and know, even now - it remains frightening at times, unknown at times. Somewhere along the way, I stumbled on the idea of the army being like a roller coaster for parents - the ups and the flat areas are easy to handle - even enjoyable at times. They grow into fine human beings, they learn, they get stronger...and the falls are a terror beyond anything I could have imagined. There is no safety net, or so it would seem in those harrowing hours when you don't know where they are, what is happening, when you'll see them next.

It all started...six years ago today...on Tuesday, February 13, 2007 with this post.

Starting Young

Starting from a very young age, Israeli boys (and girls) know that they are destined to go to the army. It's part of how they grow up, where they are headed, who they will become. For those of us who came to Israel as adults, it's something that is harder to assimilate. It's so easy, year after year, to deny that it will happen, to postpone dealing with it. So, here I am, six weeks away from when my son will enter the Israeli army, suddenly having it all become real. This blog is a soldier's mother's story. 
Elie is 19 years old. A handsome boy with the most incredible blue eyes. He's smart, a volunteer in the ambulance squad, and lest you think that I think he is perfect, he's got a mighty fine temper and his room's a terrible mess. Elie is the manager of the family, the one who analyzes everything. From the time he was young, he didn't trust us mere adults to manage things. When everyone else would fall asleep on those long evening drives home after a long vacation or whatever, Elie would stay awake and keep watch. "Are we lost?" he would ask when I hesitated. Only Elie. 
Once, on a trip to Eilat, we really were lost. Only Elie was awake when I pulled up to the roadblock and queried the soldier why he wouldn't open the gate to let us pass.
"Where do you want to go?" the soldier asked. 
"Eilat," I answered. 
He smiled, "Back 29 kilometers and make a right." 
"What's that ahead of us?" I asked. 
"Egypt" was his answer. 
I made a u-turn, while everyone else was sleeping and looked in the mirror to see Elie's eyes watching me. Always watching. Always Elie. 
So - Elie is all grown up now, a man about to go to the army. We got his "marching" orders last week - artillery unit, and already I am panicking. Not because I don't want him to go, but because I haven't had the time to accept it all. My daughter, Elie's older sister, is getting married in a few weeks and two weeks after that, Elie goes in. I've been up to my elbows in wedding plans and jitters. Dresses and caterers and invitations and most importantly, smoothing out the nerves of a happy and excited bride. 
And, in the middle of all this, quietly moving closer and closer was this date - end of March, 2007, my son will be a soldier.

2 comments:

ProphetJoe said...

Another wonderful post, Paula. A reflection -- it's always a good thing if done without rose colored glasses :-)

I started to make a suggestion -- that once Davidi is finished with his IDF service, you should change the blog name to An Israeli Mother. So much of what you write about is about family life in Israel -- and not just your family, but all of the families who worry about their children in the IDF, the parents who mourn for the Fogel family, on and on -- it is about life and family in Israel. Keep it up!

That thought raised a question in my mind -- in Israel, do young women have compulsory service in the IDF? If so, you obviously have to wait until Aliza has completed her service.

Paula R. Stern said...

Hey, Prophet Joe,

To answer your question about women in the military, the answer is yes and no. Women, mainly religious women, can opt for what is called National Service rather than army. Many girls do army; many choose to do the national service. A small number choose to enlist in combat units. The girls serve for 2 years, rather than 3, unless they go the combat route. My older daughter worked in a nursery for children with troubled backgrounds, health issues, etc.

Flip side, as I learned recently, is that even when your son is out of the army...they aren't out until they reach the age of 40. Elie did 29 days of army service this year, including 8 next to Gaza waiting for war to start.

I've got a few years and Davidi's service to get through before I decide about renaming the blog. For now, I guess I'll continue with the name and the mixture of politics, Israel and family. Thanks, as always, for commenting and sharing your thoughts. They mean a lot to me!

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