| Theme Section: Time Will Tell |

Taking Flight

The clock is a constant in a shifting world. Six women share time-related tales

Taking Flight

Penina Steinbruch

"Me next!”

“No, me, I’m next.”

“No, take me!”

As I swoop down from my flight around the playground, I survey my classmates all begging me for rides. Now every one of them wants to be my friend. But I’m only giving rides to the kids who were nice to me before I learned how to fly.

“Time’s up. Please pass your test papers to the front.”

My attention snaps away from the classroom window to the teacher and her sharp command.

I look down at my paper in a panic. Everything after question eight is blank. My face flushes crimson. What’s wrong with me?

Growing up at a time when Ritalin was mostly a tool to keep rowdy kids from disturbing adults, I was never labeled with any issue, but was constantly chided by the adults in my life to “live up to my potential.” I was so bright, they kept saying, what a shame I didn’t do better in school.

It’s not that I didn’t want to succeed, I just didn’t feel the same tug of the clock my peers seemed to feel.

As an adult, I felt out of step when other women seemed near panic about things I’d barely even thought about. Why were they planning Succos menus when we hadn’t finished cleaning up from Rosh Hashanah yet? (Or maybe they’d finished, and I was the only who hadn’t?) And a menu? I bought whatever was on sale when I went shopping, and then made whatever I was in the mood to make a day or two before Yom Tov.

No matter how many kids I had, or how many hours I worked, I always seemed to be doing less than everyone else. And whatever I did do took me longer. The women around me buzzed with urgency; endless important things to do. Why didn’t I feel that same pressure? What was wrong with me?

It took me many years to appreciate my personality. My life was working, I realized. My laundry never ran away, even though I hadn’t penciled it into my calendar. What my children lost in menu options, they gained in fridge space, fewer leftovers, and a relaxed Mommy.

What I’d always considered a minus, I started to see as a plus. I celebrate Purim on Purim and Pesach on Pesach. And please, don’t hate me for this — I loved lockdown. While I may still need to be reminded to stop smelling the roses and go make supper, I never have to be reminded to stop and smell the roses.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 785)

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