This past weekend, husband #1 and I vacationed on the Island of Long.
Sounds exotic, right? You can almost see us being served fruity cocktails as we sway back and forth on our hammocks, made of silk and palm fronds. (I got the fruity cocktail, and husband #1 had them pour his Fanta orange soda in a fancy glass so he wouldn’t feel left out.) The island musicians playing rhythmic versions of Copacabana and Mordechai Shapiro’s greatest hits. The minyans that formed spontaneously on the various beaches, beckoning for husband #1 to join. The smell of the ocean. The sound of the seagulls crisscrossing the horizon. Relaxing after a day of parasailing and snorkeling. The crisp sheets and fluffy pillows.
Wait a second, wait a second. Get a grip, kids, we were in Woodmere for shabbos. No beaches, no cocktails — but plenty of minyan choices and lovely accommodations provided by our wonderful friends. I got a little carried away once I used the word “island.” But it was a wonderful weekend nonetheless.
As we blessed the new month and I happily went to synagogue, when we got there, I saw a sight that had me become my mom. “Becoming my mom” means that I started talking to a complete stranger about something that struck me as interesting, funny, or questionable. This is what my kids have started calling it — well, actually, they just call me by my mom’s name when I do this. “Hey Eita,” they will say, “we have to go now, so finish up.” Yes, my boys are adorable. And my mom is famous for befriending people from everywhere, talking to people absolutely anywhere, and well, just talking to anyone who will listen. Truth is, most people just want to feel heard, and anyone who talks to my mom is heard.
So there I was, on the Island of Long, standing in the back row with my friend, and in walks this adorable young person. I believe her gender, from birth, was female. (You have to be very careful these days how you identify people. My 81-year-old father was recently asked by his cardiologist’s office if he still identifies with the gender he was born with. As I said before, you can never be too careful.) Anyway, this adorable young female walks into the women’s section holding a baby that looked like it was born quite recently. Her hair looked perfect, her clothing was not stained, she didn’t have a burp cloth on her shoulder. She was just holding the baby like she didn’t have a care in the world. Or a diaper bag. Or a stroller. As she walked past me, I just had to ask, “I am sorry for bothering you but, how many other children do you have that you are carrying this new baby around so nonchalantly?” She looked at me and smiled and said, “Oh, this is my third, but I am so-and-so’s daughter-in-law so there is a whole staff at the house.”
I told her that I wasn’t from the Island of Long and I had no idea who so-and-so was. But, geez, I would just love to know what a “whole staff” meant. And how old were her two other kids? Were they self-sufficient? Were they both in sleep away camp? Were they learning in Baltimore? How was this mom so calm? And who was her mother-law? And what did she eat for breakfast? How did she look so put together?
The questions were endless, and I didn’t ask any of them, because no matter what the answers were, the bottom line was still the same — when I had babies that young, I never looked that put together. Heck, I don’t even have young babies now, and I still never look put together. Leaving the house with three kids under the age of 4 was a test of patience, courage, and strength. Surviving the outing in one piece, without losing anyone or any articles of clothing, without anyone having a major meltdown — all of these things were miraculous and felt never-ending.
So she didn’t make me feel that I was a bad mom, she just made me reflect on a time that I thought would last forever. I thought I would never get a good night’s sleep or be able to eat in a restaurant or go to a movie. Or leave the house without a suitcase filled with snacks and changes of clothes and diapers and wipes.
OK, she made me feel old. Are you happy now?? I am going back to my hammock and my fruity cocktail….
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck is trying to figure out how it is August already.