My eight-year-old snagged the window, of course, but even from my place in the dreaded middle seat, I can catch glimpses of the ground if I crane my head at just the right angle.
I’m an adult, I know, but the sight of the miniature houses and tiny cars never fails to thrill me. Yet as I crane my head to see those last snatches of America, the treelined roads snaking past and through and over each other, the yellow-striped gray asphalt, the squat, sprawling, melon-bricked public schools with the playgrounds we used to visit on Shabbos, something inside me twists.
I’ve been living away from my family for over ten years, and while I’ve gotten used to a lot of it, it hasn’t really gotten easier. I miss my family and I miss Target (usually in that order). I miss the ease of living in a familiar culture, I miss the career paths I always assumed I’d be able to follow, I miss the comfort of being able to communicate effectively and articulately.
But now, on our return flight to Eretz Yisrael following a family simchah, what brings me to tears is my last view of those winding suburban streets, so different from the palm-tree-lined streets baked in glaring Middle Eastern heat. I stare out the window, determined to catch every last glimpse of the topography of my childhood, but the plane is climbing quickly and in a few more minutes all I can see is clouds.
It’s the big things that make it so hard to live so far away, but it’s also the little things. I’ll be scrolling through the pictures my sister sent of her kids’ summer vacation when I find myself blinking back tears at the sight of the violently fluorescent blue of her kiddie pool against the vibrant green grass of her yard. I mean, we have a kiddie pool too, but it’s inflatable, and it’s light blue and white, and it sits on our mirpeset against a background of white Yerushalayim stone and that blue, blue sky, no trees in sight.
Or I’ll see a picture of my five-year-old nephew tightly hugging his baby sister, and instead of cooing over the baby’s cheeks, my breath catches at the sight of the maple tree behind them. It sounds so stupid, I know, but my childhood was framed by red-brick buildings and sprawling trees and green backyards. Take away that outline, and what’s left? I’m unmoored, unsettled.
Or it’s my friend, telling me how she took her kids to the fire station over Chol Hamoed, and it was so much fun, and Yanky was in heaven sitting in the fire engine and trying on a real fire hat, and doubts creep up: Can I really raise children without ever once visiting a fire station?
(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 602)