Out in the Cold

I’m so glad I started this blog…

Yes, I’m happy for all the comments and support I’ve received.

Yes, I’m happy for the support I seem to be giving others.

But I’m happy for me too. When I go back and read the start of Elie’s service, I remember, I hear, I feel what I felt then. Sometimes, I’m embarrassed a bit; sometimes I smile and wish I could reach back and comfort that mother the way other mothers are reading this and learning and feeling and understanding.

Last night, Shmulik called during his free hour. They were camped out “somewhere” in a tent, in sleeping bags. They’ll be awakened at some point, and start shooting practice. I asked him all the right questions, if he was tired, if he was cold. He has a coat they gave him and a sleeping bag. He’s out there in the desert…though a different one than Elie was…and I smiled.

Gone was the fear, the worry. He’ll be okay. It will toughen him. Even if he’s a bit cold…that’s really okay. He’s okay. See how far I have come, I thought to myself. I didn’t think of rocket attacks, of Arabs sneaking up to the encampment. I didn’t think of Bedouins and wild animals…I didn’t think. I just asked him if he would be home this weekend, smiled when he said he thinks he will be, said our good nights, and went to sleep.

I really did. Look at me. I am the mother of an Israeli soldier and I’m good. I didn’t worry. This is what it is all about, I thought to myself this morning. This is where so many were, when I was so afraid last time. They smiled at me, tried to reassure me…and now I understand. It is something each mother must feel…and overcome.

Just as Elie learned the night; just as Shmulik felt the cold…I have to conquer the fear and worry. I have been given perspective and it is liberating. It is so different the second time around.

I can be there for Shmulik in a way I never could for Elie because I was following Elie, pointing out worries and concerns and unsure what to expect. Each time he left, it was to an unknown world…now that world is more known to me. No, I don’t imagine I can understand so much of what Shmulk is feeling, but I can listen to him with a different ear.

I question him to give him a chance to explain to me; not with the same blindness I had before. I know they set up guards; I know it wasn’t really that cold. I know that if this boy can sleep in his underwear in his room in the winter, he can sleep in a uniform, a coat and a sleeping bag in a tent in the desert and be safe.

That mother has grown and I’m not really laughing at her…I envy her the journey she took. It was a hard-won battle filled with real terrors. My fears were not unjustified or wrong. They were right – an outpouring of my love for Elie just as my understanding this time is a show of my love for Shmulik.

In many ways, comforting me helped Elie gain perspective, gave him a support line behind him. He knew that I worried, that I was there. Shmulik is such a different child, always has been. He’s the sweet one who bought me those endless presents on his way home from school – the flowers he’d picked that were flattened and half dead; the earrings (when I didn’t even have pierced ears); the “gold” necklace that was chipping off even before I’d put it on.

He was the “cuddler” while Elie was the tougher one. Shmulik has gotten tougher too now, stronger, more sure of himself. And yet, Sunday when I drove him to the mall to catch the bus, it was Shmulik who leaned over to give me a kiss, where I always had to corner Elie and give him one.

Last night, my second son slept in the deserts of Israel with a gun. No, he doesn’t know it well enough to use it, has only begun to learn and yet, and yet…

May the God of Israel watch over our sons and daughters as they sleep and as they defend and may He grant us mothers the wisdom to learn, to grow, to love, to trust our children as they serve our land and our people.

Last night, Shmulik slept in the cold…but his heart is warm, his home just a few days away.

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