Elie called a few hours ago. For a moment, with the sound in the background, I thought he was calling to tell me he was on the way home. Wishful thinking. No, the sound was the wind as he walked to check one of the outpost positions. It seems, he explained, that the previous unit kept leaving the place dirty and he wanted to make sure they cleaned it before his team came on.
“If they didn’t,” he said, “I’m going to tell them they can’t go home until they clean it up.”
He’s been up north for two weeks. This Shabbat would have been his to be home, but they are once again shifting locations and the current base is larger and needs more men on base. Elie stays. This is the first Chanukah in his life that I won’t have seen him light any candles, won’t hear him make the blessing, won’t watch his candles burn in our window and tell the world of the miracle of Chanukah.
His calling was the final confirmation. He won’t be home.
Even as he was, in a way, taking this from me, he was giving me back something. He’ll be home next week and the base, the checkpoint, where he will be assigned next is relatively close to our home. He’ll be within easy driving distance for the next few months – enough to drop by and bring some cookies, a blanket, whatever.
Oh, and he has a cold. Nothing serious, but to a mother, a cold in the distance is somehow more of a blow to the heart than having him sick upstairs in his room.
My youngest son asked for Elie a few days ago, “Is Elie coming home this weekend?” he asked.
“I don’t think so, probably not.”
“Oh,” was the answer, but the disappointment was there. It’s been two weeks, going on the third now. It seems, apparently to all of us, like a long time.
So he’ll be home next weekend…and one other soldier is coming back to our area and is bringing his dirty laundry.
“Do you need anything? I’ll wash it tomorrow,” I told him.
“I’ll call you. Maybe socks,” he said, “and could you send cake?”
And with that, those simple four words “could you send cake?” my world was made right. Isn’t that absurd? Isn’t that ridiculous?
The cake is in the oven, white chocolate chips sprinkled all over the top as he likes it. Tonight, as Israel welcomes the Sabbath, we will light the last and final candle of Chanukah. We, here in our home…and Elie, far up north in the Golan Heights.
Next year, Elie will likely light again here in our home, no longer a soldier and yet still a soldier; and our next son will light…somewhere, some place. This is Israel, this is our homeland, this is my life, as a soldier’s mother…but he wants me to send cake.