As parents, we spend much of our parenting lives gathering two kinds of pictures. There are those that go in the photo albums, on our desks, splashed across our computer screens. These are the easy ones, as they are a moment frozen forever in time. We collect them, share them, and have no problem remembering the moment because it is there for us in a physical and tangible way.
And then, there are the pictures in the brain. These are so much harder, so much more personal. You can share them, but not really. They are yours and yours alone for as long as you can hold on to them. Some last decades, some fade away too fast.
I have a picture of my oldest daughter at 13 months. She could walk around the room holding on to something, but simply refused to walk alone. We stood her in the middle of the living room, held her until she was steady, and then we backed away and called her. We held out our arms and we could see her internal debate. She looked as if she was about to take that first step, and then she simply leaned back, plopped down on her backside and crawled to us.
I have a picture of Elie that I have described here in the past, of his eyes, bright and awake as everyone else slept in the car, as he asked me if we were lost. And this morning, as I was driving my youngest daughter to school and then on to Elie’s base to drop him, I got another picture. My daughter loves to go to the local market and buy something small for school. It’s a treat I give her sometimes when she gets herself ready on time.
Today was one of those mornings. We dropped off my youngest son at his school and went to the grocery store in the neighborhood. I asked Elie and his other brother if they wanted to come inside and get something. My middle son decided to remain in the car and listen to the radio. Elie answered, “why not?” and came inside with us.
Elie took a small bottle of ice tea and a bigger box of cookies. I took some rolls for tomorrow morning. My daughter went to where they keep the small bags of chocolate milk the children love to drink here. They also sell it in small bottles that allow the children to close the top and drink it in spurts, rather than all at once. She’s not tall enough to reach the small bottles.
She stood there for a moment and then called to us. Elie went to help her. She often does this with me, and I pull a bottle from the shelf and hand it to her. This time, she commanded her brother, “Elie, lift me.” Without hesitation, he put his hands around her thin waist and lifted her to the shelf where she grabbed a bottle of chocolate milk before he lowered her to the ground.
I wish I had a camera but it happened all too fast. I wish I could post it and print it and put it in an album and send it to all our loved ones. It was a picture, a moment to cherish but it only exists in my mind and I’m sorry I can’t share it with everyone. They love each other so much, these two. Elie tormented her all Shabbat. He teased her, he tickled her, he twisted her and tossed her around. He literally drove her to tears at times, with me telling him to stop and leave her alone…only to have her edge up to him a few minutes later for more.
She went to school today after a weekend with Elie; he went back to the army after a weekend with Aliza. It was a wonderful, quiet time for all of us and it left me with yet another one of those wonderful pictures in the brain that often last a lifetime.