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Angel in the Sky

There’s no one talking to me, no one phoning me, no one expecting anything from me


flying back home to England after a very intense few days in Eretz Yisrael helping my daughter after birth. This five-hour plane ride is the first stretch of time I’m getting to myself in the whole trip. There’s no one talking to me, no one phoning me, no one expecting anything from me. And no guilt feelings that I “should” be doing anything else but sitting and relaxing. Funny thing to say while squished in a cramped airplane seat, but I haven’t had this much space in a very long time.

A voice jolts me out of my daydreams. “Would you like anything to drink, madam?” I look up to see a stewardess smiling down at me. Her name tag reads “Angel.”

“I like your name,” I say. “I call my little boy the same thing.”

She laughs and thanks me. “The problem is,” she says, “that I don’t always want to be an angel.”

I was an angel the last few days. I didn’t eat and I didn’t sleep. I had only five days to give to my daughter — I couldn’t leave my family for any longer — and I was determined to get the maximum out of every single minute, for her sake. My own physical needs switched off as I worked nonstop from early morning to late at night. Bad enough that I couldn’t support her through the birth (aside from crying into my Tehillim from 2,000 miles away); now it was time to get things done!

As soon as I arrived, I took a taxi and went to pick up my daughter from the convalescent home where she’d been staying, awaiting my arrival. That first hug for a daughter after she has given birth; that first time holding a newborn grandchild — I wish those precious moments on everyone. I took her home and made her comfortable. I helped her unpack and showed off all the gifts I’d brought along. I told her exactly who the baby looks like, sent her to rest, and got to work in the kitchen while keeping an eye on baby, delicious baby, in her stroller.

And then it came time to pick upthe “big sister” from gan — my 20-month-old granddaughter who was definitely not going to remember me from their last bein hazmanim visit back home many months before.

I had to cajole a fearful child into my arms with promises of Mommy waiting for her at home. But she learned very quickly what bubby-love is all about. On my last morning there, just moments before leaving for the airport, I dropped off a happy, smiling child at gan. She didn’t understand why I was saying such a long goodbye. “Why isn’t Bubby staying here always?” she wanted to know when she came home to find me gone.

I cooked and cleaned and changed diapers. I washed dishes and shopped and changed diapers. I picked up some treats from the bakery in honor of my son-in-law’s birthday. I stocked the freezer, ironed shirts, cut up fruit, and changed diapers. I took a quick break to run to the shekel shop and seforim store to stock up on gifts I didn’t dare return home without. I did laundry, bathed the baby, cooked Shabbos, and changed diapers.…

I didn’t feel the need to eat. I couldn’t eat.

I cooked up a huge pot of their favorite chicken-barley soup, nourishing and filling — enough to last for the next three months — so that even when I’d be long gone and far away, I would still be feeding my kimpeturin daughter.

And then late at night, when I was finally done, I switched from bubby-mode to mommy-mode and took my waiting yeshivah bochur for fries and then off to the Kosel. As though I were an angel who had no need of sleep….

I couldn’t believe I was really there, doing what I was doing. When my daughter informed me that she was planning to have her baby in Eretz Yisrael, she took for granted that I’d be coming to help her.

Of course you’ll come, Mommy!” Because that’s what mothers do… It was an integral part of her plan. But for me it wasn’t so simple. I have a lot of little children still at home, including a one-year-old. I never left this daughter, my oldest, when she was that age.

Until the last minute, I didn’t know how I’d do it, but somehow, I managed to wrench myself away and I came. And now, after giving every last bit of love and care and nurturing that I was able to dredge up, I’m on the plane back home.

The rest of my family is waiting for me, no doubt eagerly anticipating the imminent return of our household’s Manager in Chief. But I’m exhausted and depleted and my angel wings are drooping. I’m not ready to slip right back into my usual role. My eyes close of their own accord. My family may be waiting for me (or for the presents in my suitcase!) but I am waiting for my bed….

In Eretz Yisrael, I was Mommy-Bubby-Shvigger. Back home in London I’m Wife-Mommy-Daughter-Granddaughter-Sister-Aunt-Friend. And Bubby-over-the-phone. But right now, up here in the air, stuffed into a squishy airplane seat, I am just Me. Alone in a plane full of people. And it feels good to be that way for a change.

I soak in these hours like oxygen I didn’t know I was lacking. I needed this so badly, this place of shedding all my many roles that sometimes pull me apart and break me into so many pieces. For now, for a few hours, I am whole. It’s a reminder — as much as I define myself by the people in my life and their claims on me, and as much as I want to nurture everyone in my orbit, I also exist as a person in my own right. And I also need nurturing now and then.

Unlike Angel the stewardess, I would love to be an angel all of the time, giving and doing with no needs of my own, but I think my angelic phase is over for the moment, to be superseded by a singularly human phase consisting of as much rest, recuperation, and chocolate as my family will tolerate. (I stand more of a chance if I share the chocolate…)

And I’ll try to hold on to this new feeling I’m experiencing up here in the sky and recreate it once in a while in my ordinary life down on the ground. Everyone wants their turn with me (some waiting more patiently than others!), and I seem to spend my life running from one to the next trying to fill their needs. I need to learn to insert myself into the line, too.

As for my toddler (who is not likely to have much sympathy for a worn-out Mom), I will continue calling him “Angel” in the unlikely hope that it will make him want to behave like one at least some of the time….


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 822)

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