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The Things We Talk About      

As we argued, the space between us grew, until we couldn’t even see the other’s side

A decade ago, back when we were still considered a young couple, my husband and I had a tiny tiff.
I’m just putting that out there because a friend recently commented that frum essays are all filled with fluff and butterflies.
She emailed: No matter what happens, everyone ends up happy and laughing. Where’s the incessant frustration, the struggle, the fighting and tears… is everyone’s life really that picture perfect?
She has a point. I know that I personally hand-pluck which struggles to expose to very many thousands of readers. I mean… obviously. Of course life is messier then 700 polished words stuck on a page accompanied by a pretty graphic. In real life we can’t just edit out all the loose ends. But don’t we all stick a bouquet in front of the crack in the mirror and hide the stuffing in the couch with a throw pillow? Don’t we all pile layers of chiffon over our mistakes until they look more like dreams and less like reality? Yeah, okay, so maybe the veneer is detrimental, maybe being honest about our own mistakes could change someone’s world for the better, but… eh. Mistakes are ugly.
Fine. Fine. In all honesty it wasn’t quite a tiff, that little thing between my husband and I, it was a disagreement. We were in the car, our baby in the back. We were discussing something mundane that somehow snowballed. You know how it goes, all couples have disagreements.

We teach the children about the great talmidim of Rabi Akiva, how they argued, widening the space between them, unable to see the other side, believing only one of them could hold the truth. In their greatness, and because of their greatness, they underestimated what others were saying in Torah. We explain how these giants made mistakes and died for them, kept on dying until Lag B’omer. We must learn from the loss of 24,000 great men, we tell our children, and so each year we carry this living, breathing, silent, scruffy testament. Through mourning their deaths and studying their mistakes we can change ourselves.
I wonder if I utilize the written word the way I should. Do I ever discuss those very twisted, backward stitches, the mess-ups that make up the seam of my own humanity? Or do I cover them in glitter and seal them in shellac so they look shiny and neat before sending them out to the world?
Okay so maybe it wasn’t quite a disagreement between us. Technically it may have been an argument, each of us trying to impose our opinion on the other and as the heat rose, the space between us grew, the car filled with smoke, until we couldn’t even see the other one’s side. We went back and forth as we unbuckled and stepped out, locked the door, walked into the store. And now you’re thinking that this is an attempt at being Vulnerable, and you’re rolling your eyes because obviously couples argue, so don’t try to make this into a thing, Leora, you’re humblebragging, you’re not Brave for admitting you and your husband argued once; go take your virtue signaling elsewhere.
And you’re right.
Except you forgot I had a baby in the back seat.
Well, so did I.
Let’s try this again.
My husband and I once had an argument, and we were so deep in the fire we forgot our newborn in the car. In the middle of the day. In Miami. In August.
We left the car and grabbed a cart, and I went to the yogurt section, and he went to the paper goods and the smoke of our bickering followed us like a smoldering cloud until mid-aisle I suddenly froze, the way characters in a book freeze, only this time it was real and the primordial scream that came from my throat cleared all the fighting flames in an instant, and I felt the earth shake, crystalize, realign as half the store followed my throbbing heart out to the car and watched us pull our blessedly screaming baby from his car seat. That extra-expensive car seat, with the million-point harness that we got because we’re paranoid about safety.
That one.
This Lag B’omer I write in the name of lessons gained, in hopes of giving others the opportunity to learn from the embers of my mistake — ten years later, the memory is still hot to the touch. If it happened to me it could happen to anyone. Always check the back seat. And try not to fight too much with your spouse.



(Originally featured in Family First, Issue  740)

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