| LifeTakes |

The Story of My Life 

I peeled off the plastic and started reading about Eli’s haircut

AT two-year-old Mendy’s PTA, I met Shimmy’s mother, who said that My Upsheren Book (Gold Publishers, Hebrew and Yiddish) was a must-read. Her eyes said that the book would make my child healthy and holy and happy. My mind said that it would make me a wonderful, loving, devoted Mommy. So at the end of an exhausting Thursday afternoon, with the two youngest already in pjs, I strapped Suri into the stroller, with Mendy and Chani sharing the buggy board, and we fled the house, bookstore bound.

It didn’t take long for me to develop a curiosity about the brand of insanity that had sent me out of the house at that hour. The dimming streets were full of weary families leaving the parks and the occasional sprightly teen emerging for twilight errands. We dodged our way to the bookstore with a slight sense of going in the wrong direction. The book was easy enough to find. I was hoping we’d have an equally easy time finding our beds.

Suri was already sleeping, her face damp against her blanket. Something told me that Mendy would need yet another change upon coming home. If that wasn’t enough of a motivator to set me scuttling home, Chani was, as of yet, unbathed….

They say that home is where the heart is. Well, in that case, I discovered that my heart was in the center of a kitchen strewn with the remains of a smashed plate and chicken and rice. In the sink, the dishes sat heavily on yesterday’s counterparts. Exhaustion sat heavier yet, like a weighted blanket, pulled over my head. Shabbos was coming in less than 24 hours and I didn’t even have ingredients at home. Rosh Hashanah would follow just two days later, and my brain and heart seemed ignorant of the fact.

The only feeling I registered was exhaustion. Deep, profound, suffocating tiredness.

Somehow, we made it to the bedroom. I transferred Suri to her crib and set the fan blowing softly just above her. The kids wanted the new book. I wanted anything else. Resigned, I peeled off the plastic and started reading about Eli’s haircut.

Shimmy’s mother was right. It was a good book. I appreciated the thought put into the storyline, the buildup of anticipation, the excitement, and the validation of young concerns and uncertainties. Mendy, on the other hand, was focused on the teddy bear in the toybox and the cars parked at the side of the pages. We continued this way, me reading about the haircut on Lag B’omer and Mendy pointing out the lollipop. I got excited reading about the day Eli went to cheder, and Mendy spotted the cat.

So we turned the pages and told our own stories.

At the picture of Eli wrapped up in a tallis, I faltered. On the couch at the side sat his mother, her head buried in a siddur. I looked at her and I felt resentment — an unsavory mix of frustration, disappointment, and overwhelm. The distance between me and my siddur suddenly felt unbearable. Would I come to Mendy’s haircut with my heart saran-wrapped and tucked into the freezer between containers of soup and meatballs? Would I still be pushing the nights and surviving the days?

That night, as I added some more pots to the sink and put in another load in the endless cycle of laundry, the tears came. They were followed by a surge of serenity. I was so relieved to feel another feeling above the exhaustion. A yearning for something other than my bed.

A thirst not for coffee and hunger not for chocolate.

Tears, not from overwhelm.

I finally felt like I was reading the book, not just noticing the cars instead of the upsheren boy. There was a plot for me to discover, characters for me to meet, and conclusions to embrace. It seems the dishes had been blocking my view of the moment.

My story had come to life.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 822)

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