A Nation of Soldiers?

I was at the market today buying all sorts of odds and ends. My husband’s parents passed away 15 years ago, both after long illnesses, both from the same disease, one within 12 days of the other. It’s a sad time for us and yet we commemorate the days each left us with a night of learning in their honor. Friends come over and after the studying, my husband rises and says the mourner’s prayer in their memory.

Elie has arranged to come out a day early to join us; our other children will be there as well. My job is to fill the table with cakes and desserts that honor our home and my parents-on-law’s memory. This week, we remember my mother-in-law, an amazing woman that I’ve written about in the past and will likely write about in the future.

For now, though, I want to write about what happened a few moments ago, that happens so often and yet I forget to write it.

I went into the market and filled my cart with different types of nuts and nosh. I went to the drink section and
added the sodas I am trying not to buy for my home, just on these days, for our guests. I bought the ice tea that Elie likes and then when I was buying the potato chips, I added all the stuff he likes too.

I went to the cashier, loaded it all on the table and packed it in bags as each item was passed through the scanner. And then I looked near the end, where the next woman had already loaded her stuff and saw the same things I had just purchased.

“Are those mine?” I asked her, thinking maybe I had gotten distracted and not finished.

“No,” she said with a smile, “I have a soldier too.”

I don’t know how she knew and yet she smiled. And thus began a three way discussion of who had what in the army.

“I have one almost finished,” she said.

“I have one finishing soon, but the same month, another begins,” I said.

“We finished off three already. This one’s a girl,” she answered.

“Ah, we had two in at the same time. A boy and a girl. A girl is easier,” the cashier added.

“I don’t know how you survived three or even two at the same time,” I told them, “I’ve barely survived one. I thought Gaza would kill me.”

“That’s the way it is here,” she said.

I took my bags, said my goodbyes and came to my car where I sit typing this. “That’s the way it is here,” she said. Yes, I guess she is correct. I’ve heard our enemies say that Israel is a nation of soldiers. It isn’t really true, I’ve always thought. And yet, if, perhaps there is some truth in what they say, they are missing one key fact. As much as we are a nation of soldiers, we are a nation of soldier’s mothers.

Something as simple as buying potato chips, Doritos and ice tea becomes a moment of bonding. She has sent four children to the army…I begin my second one soon. That’s the way it is here.

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