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The Last Hour

Fifteen minutes left of 5777. This quarter of an hour has been planned, written in parchment, last Rosh Hashanah

m waiting on the platform to take the subway to the fertility clinic. I lean against the wall, wondering what that foreigner who’s making strange motions wants from me, only to realize that I’m blocking the map.

I move along the platform, stumble bleary-eyed on the train and off. A hundred appointments, maybe more. I lose count. It’s a mad scramble to make it to the clinic before work, in the middle of work, only to wait for the train. Other trains in other directions fly by. Chanukah, Pesach, summer vacation, roaring past. Sometimes I feel that more than the treatments, the medication that might work, will work, it comes down to this. Waiting. Waiting on the platform.

The summer air, hot and cloying, hits us as we walk off the train and on to home. Two weeks’ wait. Two weeks to get on with life, work, supper. To pretend that we’re not waiting, not hoping, not clutching onto the gossamer threads of a dream.

Because to hope is to open oneself to disappointment. Dreams that haven’t been nurtured cannot be dashed. As if. As if we haven’t been here before. But it’s different this time, it has to be. The two-week verdict is Erev Rosh Hashanah.

I wake up early to have my blood test done. “You’ll have the results by seven this evening,” the technician says.

Seven? That’s 15 minutes before Yom Tov.

I can’t. Can’t. What will I do till then, sit on my hands and urge the day by?

My husband insists we make some meals ourselves. To keep me distracted with soup and roast and dessert. I stand in the kitchen and the phone rings. A friend calling to wish me a gut yahr.

Year? My life stalls at seven this evening. But I respond to the prattle, where are you going for the meals, where are you davening, and breathe past the too fervent brachos at the end of the phone call. I love her, I love them all; I hate this.

We have our own phone calls to make. This grandmother, that aunt, in-laws, friends. The show must go on, even as the onions char from What if? What if not? Even if I’m not quite sure what I’m saying to assorted relatives.

Kesivah v’chasimah tovah, shanah tovah, again and again as my head whirls and finally I’m talking to one of my younger sisters-in-law, just wed. She wishes me and I wish her and I hear it in the creak of her voice, I don’t want to be there before you, don’t want to be the next sister to race past you, please, G-d, please.

And then my husband’s cell rings and I know it’s the lab from the way he stops, stupefied, in the doorway. I bang down the phone, cannot think of a graceful way to end the call, Oh, we’re just finding out… I can feel my heart, my whole body pulsing with beat, beat, beat, willing the call to end and never end at once.

Inanely, I look at the clock. Seven. Fifteen minutes left of 5777. This quarter of an hour has been planned, written in parchment, last Rosh Hashanah. I watch a slow smile bloom on my husband’s face and beat-beat-beat-beat he nods his head.

“Yes,” he says simply.


Waiting on the platform, same platform, just the other side. The other direction. For the train that will take me to the doctor for my prenatal appointment. It’s a bustling station — trains going in and out of the city — but this platform, this modest two-sided platform, is the portal between worlds. The fertility clinic one stop uptown, the OBG’s office one stop downtown.

I take the stairs down through the station many times in the oncoming months. Coming down, the platform is spread before me. I look right, where I’d waited, shuffled, so many mornings, and turn gratefully to the left.


It’s Erev Rosh Hashanah again, I’m rushing around. Clean up, cook, laundry. Yom Tov comes in just a day after Shabbos. In his crib, my little son whimpers. I pick him up, hold him close.

Last year, last year this time we didn’t even know.

He’s a summer baby, but to me he will always be a Rosh Hashanah baby.

Desperate tefillos of the year before, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Hoshana Rabbah, and every day, every Shema, every Shabbos. I thought they’d all been in vain. They hadn’t stormed the heavens, hadn’t broken through. And then, zero-hour, dusky clouds swallowing the year, He’d shown me they had.

I lay down my Rosh Hashanah baby. There are three hours left to the zeman. And anything can still happen.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 661)

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