Off Track| August 2, 2022
I’m now a spectator, painfully watching the race go by. I’m no longer one of you
’m making my way through a packet of gummy bears and a Family First magazine. School send-offs... work worries... marriage musings... I skip all that. It stings.
I read those pieces in the past and giggled, thinking “sooooo me,” and dreaming about publishing bits about my own working mother/wife hectic life.
Well, here it is, except it’s now a jobless/single mother/just trying to survive kinda life. This isn’t a pity party. Well maybe it is, but you’re totally invited to join.
In the frum world, most of us follow a similar path. Seeing how each other’s lives mirror our own gives us this feeling of... Kichels! Pesach prep! Shalach manos pressure! Bosses and tantrums! We’re traversing this together.
But I’m now a spectator, painfully watching the race go by. I’m no longer one of you.
I can’t do the easy small talk, “What are you making for dinner?” “Have you done your camp clothes shopping?” I can’t bridge the yawning chasm between us.
I go through the motions of daily living. Errands, weddings, car pool, laundry. But I’m in a bubble of denial and shock, a constant state of disbelief. It lodges in my throat and stings my eyes. How did this happen? Is this really my life?
“Mommy, Mommy look at my boo-tiful tower!” my son exclaims.
“Wow, sheifeleh, it’s gorgeous.”
They puff with pride over their creations. Exclaim over the chugga-chugga of a passing train. Pluck at flowers and then wail when they get smushed into the car seat.
I thaw a little at their joy for life. Delightfully living in the present, they soak up every experience, even when they acutely feel what’s missing.
“Mommy, wake up!” Ooohhh, I’m being pulled out of a heavenly slumber. I drift in and out of my trance. My heart sinks when it dawns that this is reality. Living my worst nightmare, my dreams are all rainbow-colored fairy tales. But then I must wake up.
I need Herculean strength to start another day. Dressing my toddler requires strategic battle planning. If he’s decided his wet diaper and pajamas are here to stay, then he’s a formidable opponent. It’s all about precise timing and approach.
After a restaurant-worthy number of breakfast options offered, my kids eat a few spoonfuls, and I’m cleaning the rest off of… everywhere. Hairdos, lunch boxes, tantrums, and goodbye kisses, and they’re finally off. I make another lame promise to myself they’ll be on time tomorrow.
ÒIÕll have a latte with one sugar and a muffin.”
“I’ll have a hot chocolate and a doughnut.”
I’m meeting a friend for coffee. A short reprieve from the heaviness.
“So, what’s the latest?”
I fill her in.
“It’ll get easier….”
“I know… it has to.”
We sip our hot drinks and experience that moment laced with pain and friendship.
A few hours later, the kids come home, and since I’m a really good mommy (I hope!), we head to the park.
They swing up high, balance on rocks, spin around. I put in every effort to just be there with them and whisper a silent prayer, “Hashem, You know I want so badly to give them what I can’t — a father. Help them be whole, happy, healthy, and follow in Your ways.”
We head home. Supper and baths.
“Okay, darling, last one, then it’s time for Shema.” We sing Hamalach together, as we’ve been doing for years.
“I love you so much, sweetie, and Hashem loves you so much, too.”
“I love you too, Mommy.”
That evening, I take a long walk. Memories overwhelm me. I cry about everything that has crashed into smithereens. About a present so painful and a future so uncertain. Yet I know somewhere in this blackness will come a pinprick of light.
One day I’ll be back on the track, but I won’t be that same runner. Because it’s not how far you can go, but how much you have to overcome to get there.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 804)
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