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Living the Dream… Which One?

“I thought of a buyer,” I told her quickly. “Me!”

Shortly after I decided not to return to the halls of ivy where I taught college students with varying degrees of interest (or disinterest) in what I had to share, I met a friend on the avenue. As we spoke, she shared that she was going to sell her Jerusalem apartment to move closer to her children.

“Do you happen to know of anyone who’d be interested in my ground floor apartment in the heart of Jerusalem? It has a private entrance and garden.”

I was caught off guard.

“I’m selling it fully furnished. Actually, all the buyer needs to do is pack a suitcase of clothing. Everything else will be there.”

“I’ll try to think of someone,” I told her, and then I was off. But before I’d reached the corner, I made an abrupt U-turn and hurried back to her.

“I thought of a buyer,” I told her quickly. “Me!”

Yes, it had always been my dream to live in Yerushalayim, the Kosel minutes away, spending my days walking to shiurim, meeting friends at outdoor cafés…. The fantasy scenarios flashed nonstop as I walked, no, floated, down the street.

I sprang into action, asking friends in Israel to check out this dream apartment. (They confirmed it was everything my friend had described and even better!) I told my children.

Of course, I wasn't ready to leave my life here in America totally behind; I would juggle both, as so many others seem to do.

Okay, I guess I don’t need to keep my big house in Brooklyn; I can find a smaller abode. I wasted no time and pulled up Zillow. I didn’t want to leave my neighborhood, of course: My children are here, my shul, the neighbors who’ve been with me through thick and thin. I had certain basic requirements: large enough for my children to stay with me, a driveway (a Brooklyn necessity of perhaps greater importance than indoor plumbing), and, of course, a deck for all my flowers so I could be outside as much as possible.

Sticker shock would be an understatement. It would take all of my assets from selling my really big house to relocate to a much smaller house. Oh, the road to fulfilling dreams does not run so smooth, but I was not to be deterred. Until I spoke to my accountant (definitely to be avoided if you are working on dreams). He very kindly but firmly informed me that I was not in a position to maintain two residences with all the amenities I considered nonnegotiable. I had to choose one if I didn’t want to relegate myself to a lifetime of poverty. And all those basic requirements were already available at no cost in the house in which I already resided.

Meanwhile, here in New York, I was zocheh to be living another dream… my children and their children. You see, when I was growing up, though I was a cherished and probably spoiled bas zekunim, there was one thing my parents could not give me: grandparents.

I never was zocheh to experience what it must be like to have grandparents. But then again, very few of my friends had grandparents. We were the post-Holocaust generation. I knew I was missing out. If I was ever zocheh to be a bubby, I decided, I would be sure to be everything I imagined constituted the role.

Fast forward (not literally) but yes, Hashem granted me the sunshine that is called grandparenting. I may have fantasized about walking the streets of Yerushalayim, but I didn’t have to fantasize about the joys of siddur plays and backyard birthday parties, first grade graduations and Shabbos sleepovers, reading picture books and attending a has'chalas Gemara, and, when mommy was not available, walking a dancing first grader to the bus stop.

Yes, there are airplanes, but sharing those small moments, baking cookies with Yom Tov cookie cutters, taking a trip for ice cream after a puppet show, feeding the ducks in the local park…. Those are also dreams. It’s so hard to choose between dreams.

When I’m in Yerushalayim, enjoying the spiritual high of walking the stone pavement of that holy city, I look up at the perfectly blue sky and I think about the apartment on that beautiful street in the heart of Yerushalayim that isn’t mine and is highly unlikely ever to be. I sigh, but then I keep walking. There are gifts to be bought for little ones awaiting my return… and that’s a dream the One Above has fulfilled for me.


This column will run monthly


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 884)

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