| Musings |

On Becoming Them

I was a typical girl from a typical family marrying a typical boy from a typical family

I always knew They existed. They were at the edge of my consciousness, sometimes staring me in the face, often blurred in the background. I remember a brachos party in sixth grade when we wrote down the names of so many people in need of yeshuos. Of course, They were on the list, those waiting for kids. I remember putting down my 70-year-old aunt’s name alongside that of my young cousin. It was all one big mush of Others. They were an amorphous bunch who evoked pity and an uncomfortable fascination.

I still remember the palpable relief I felt when each of my newly married siblings had a baby. I was so nervous when one brother waited a whole year and a half, but then he also made it. We were safe. When my brother right on top of me became a father, I felt an underlying anxiety recede. We did it. Our family was staying the course. My parents were free of worry.

Then I got married. The baby of the family. I was always the favorite aunt who loved little kids. I looked around at my siblings’ large families. I knew what was coming next, and planned my life accordingly. I was a typical girl from a typical family marrying a typical boy from a typical family. We were all set on having our own typical family.

But we didn’t. I’m not sure how and I’m not sure when, but somehow my neatly laid plans evaporated. Maybe it was when our first anniversary passed with no news. Perhaps it happened when everyone who got married at the same time as we did became parents. It might have been when people greeted my stomach instead of me. It could be that spotting my name on a Tehillim list did us in. Probably our first appointment with the “other” doctor, not the OB, clinched it.

All of a sudden, I was Them. I blinked in confusion, double checked my ID, and searched frantically for the exit. Something was off. I don’t belong here. This place is for Them! I waited for someone to notice the mistake, to realize how far-fetched this setup was. Yet no one did. I was here.

I adjusted myself to the lighting, took an extra sweater for some warmth, and tentatively opened my eyes to sneak a peek. I blinked and looked around in surprise. The life and laughter in this place shocked me. I still didn’t belong here, but I took another step in and allowed myself to explore my surroundings.

My discoveries shook me up. I honestly couldn’t believe what I saw. I met people who were so smart, thoughtful, erlich, gracious, and understanding. I felt such unshakable emunah, clarity, and acceptance. I was in awe of the gadlus ha’adam, the infinite patience and the eternal hope We possessed.

And the laughter; that was the best part. Only We understood the comic situations we found ourselves in. No one outside got it, but in our world pulsating with life we lived a different experience. I realized there were parts of this community I actually liked. This was different, unexpected. It definitely wasn’t something I’d asked for, yet it contained a raw beauty. I settled in for the stay.

Then suddenly, I was out, on the other side. My exit happened faster and more easily than I expected. I blinked in the different lighting, and tried to adjust to the new setting. I wasn’t There anymore. I had a little baby, like Everyone else, to prove it. I’ll never belong There again, never be a part of that community.

I’m so, so grateful I’m on the other side. And yet I still look back. I look at Them with compassion, respect, and admiration. There’s is a little part of me will always remain There.

And I’m all the better for it.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 835)

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