Friday, August 19, 2011

My evening out

My children are on summer vacation.

And every conversation I have with another adult and every status update I post on Facebook seems to be a variation on the same theme: I am slowly losing my mind from all the time together.

But that’s only part of the picture, of course. I also really like having them around for long stretches. I love the unstructured days with nowhere to go and nothing to do. Nothing except housework (me and sometimes them) and play (them and sometimes me).

I love watching the kids interact with each other for hours on end. I love watching B.A. thrill at having his sisters around. I love seeing all the schemes and projects Y.B. comes up with to entertain her siblings. I love quietly passing time on the computer while A.N. builds block cities and solemnly narrates her activities. I love finding out that they like to lick the spoon after making pesto, just like me.

I love these children, and I love just hanging around and being their mother and discovering them without having to shuffle them through a routine. And I also miss the alone time that routine provides, the time to just do my thing without anyone pulling on my skirt.

* * *

Last night, I was walking to a café to meet my friend M. As I headed down the main street of my neighborhood, an older woman called out to me, “Kallah (bride), chamuda (cutie).” At first I didn’t realize she was trying to get my attention, since I am used to being beckoned as “Geveret (ma’am).” But I inclined toward her door, where she asked me to carry some bags for her friend, an even older woman.

This older friend and I headed to her house, she inching along Nachlaot’s uneven streets with the help of a walker, me carrying bags of melons and tomatoes. We chatted in Hebrew. She asked all sorts of questions about my life, in the Israeli fashion. I inquired minimally about hers, like a cagey American.

As we neared her home, she asked me where I was headed, and I told her I was meeting a friend for dinner.

“An American friend?” she asked.

“Yes, also a mother of young children,” I said, “so it’s very important that we take time to go out together!”

I was just making conversation, but I felt a bit silly. Here was this woman, Sephardic, a long-time resident of my neighborhood. Maybe she fled a hostile regime to come to Israel in the ‘50s. Maybe she is a scion of one of Jerusalem’s old pioneer families. In any case, she probably raised her many children with a kind of austerity and self-sacrifice that I can’t imagine. And here I am, escaping to a café just because my kids are home for the summer.

But she just said, “Oh yes, it’s very important for a young mother.”

And in truth, I don’t really know what she did for relief back in her day. Maybe she had a sister-in-law that she unburdened herself with while they hung up the laundry. Maybe she went for long walks and imagined what her life would be like when her kids were older.

* * *

I arrived late for dinner with M. We drank wine and ate food we didn’t cook and split a piece of cheesecake.  We laughed and caught each other up on our lives and let the time slip by unmeasured. And I went home happy and renewed and glad to wake up and spend the next day with my children.


Ima2seven said...

I wrote earlier this year about the conflicted emotions I experience when taking "me time". I don't know why this makes me compare myself to generations' past. Why do we do that?

I hope it was a restorative experience.

I LOVE having my kids home for the summer... but I have decided I need one while day without any contact with anyone I know at all, including my family, before I prepare for the chagim!

pam opper said...

What a lovely journey. I loved the grace in the pause you took to speak to these wise and generous women. It appears that you are giving to them and yet it is they who are the bearer of gifts. said...

Dear chaya, can't wait to be back in jerusalem, and run into you again on our morning/afternoon drop-off rounds. I loved this article which is perfect, as usual, but please no more carrying heavy bags-- I'm scared for your back!!!

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