It’s the little things that amuse me, remind me that Elie lives most of his life now on a different plain than we do. During the long Passover holiday, it’s a nice custom to avoid doing laundry. You can, if you have to (like when you have small children and simply don’t have enough clothes for them or you are seriously running out of towels), but otherwise, you simply try to avoid it and enjoy the holiday.
Elie came home on Thursday (actually, we brought him home after taking him from his base, stopping for a barbecue on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and then driving through the Jordan Valley) with his usual bag of dirty clothes. Friday, amid preparations for the last day of the holiday and the Sabbath, we ran Elie’s laundry through twice and finally hung it to dry before the Sabbath.
He left early this morning to go back to base, long before I’d awakened. I didn’t get a chance to bake him any cookies because I was so busy putting away all the Passover dishes and things and rearranging the house and that makes me a bit sad. He’ll be home again, God willing, in two weeks.
So, I woke to this quasi-vacation day in Israel. For most people, the holiday ended yesterday night and people are back at work. For those visiting from abroad, as for Jews living outside of Israel, they celebrate one last day (8 days instead of 7) of Passover and in Israel, children have this last day of vacation after being out of school for more than two weeks. I have a huge pile of laundry in the kitchen waiting to be done and my floor needs a washing terribly.
No time like the present – certainly not once we get back to routine and so I loaded the washing machine for load number 1. There’s an elastic band around the side-door of my washer that often catches things (coins, socks, etc.) and I regularly check it to see what’s there. Something shiny this time…I reach in and pull out…drum roll please…a bullet.
Yes, there it is. Obviously, it had been in the pants or shirts of one of his uniforms and so it sits beside me now next to my computer. A year ago, I wouldn’t have had a clue what gun it would match but because I know a little about Elie’s gun, I know it fits an M16. Because I have found others in his room, I know that there isn’t a shortage and no, Elie isn’t rushing back to base under-armed or missing anything.
No, it isn’t a token of his affection – it’s simply a part of where he is at this point in his life and the funny thing is that this time, I’m less bothered than I used to be. Last week, while driving home, Elie helped move things with his brother. He handed me his gun because it would have been more difficult to carry it on his back and he certainly couldn’t leave it in the car or put it down.
I am so-not a gun person. I believe in the “right to bear arms” – but could never imagine my arms bearing them. I don’t want to feel the power of the gun. For me, it symbolizes so much – as a Jew and an Israeli, it reminds me that once my people didn’t have guns and even today, too often, we are forced to live with the gun. As a mother, it reminds me that I made a choice long ago to bring my children to a country that I love, but part of that reality meant accepting that this day would come, when my son would dress in the uniform of his country and carry a gun.
All those thoughts, I think, from seeing a bullet in the laundry. More and more, as I enter the second year of Elie’s service, I realize I have gotten to a point that I couldn’t imagine a year ago. I am so much more at peace with what he is doing. Up until now, I have stood to the side and watched as the army took my beautiful boy and sent home this incredible man. I’ve searched in the man constantly looking (and consistently happy) to find still within him, the boy I love so much.
They get along well, this boy and this man. The boy spent much of last night hiding in his room playing on the new Portable Sony Playstation (PSP) that I’d ordered over the Internet and his uncle and aunt had brought to Israel. The man came down sometimes to help pack up the Passover dishes and spend some time with his visiting relatives, but the boy called him back again and again to this room. The boy went to bed very late last night, considering how early the man had to get up to return to base.
The man threw his laundry into the washing machine on Friday and the boy hoped his mother would hang it to dry (she did). The man packed his uniforms and army-colored socks late last night; the boy’s mother found a bullet in the laundry this morning.
They have no problem sharing a body, this boy and this man and I find, as I stare at this bullet by my computer, that I adore them both and that I have reached this level of contentment and peace within myself.
Of course, later this week, Elie moves bases for training and the fourth round begins. Life is never dull as a soldier’s mother – that too I have learned.