They say that even when your children are fully grown, you are still their mother and they are still your babies. I have three grown and married children - it's an interesting phase in my life - because I still have two younger ones - one mid-teens, one not even a teen yet...but very soon, very, very soon. So, I'm not suffering the empty nest syndrome but I'm learning to relate to a new entity - mini-families within my family; children and their spouses, grown children who answer first (correctly) to someone else and yet, even as I am learning to be the mother of grown children, still learning to be a mother-in-law, and a grandmother, I'm still a mother with school and lunch and laundry and parent-teacher conferences and homework.
I know the day will come, faster and sooner than I can imagine, when making school lunches will be a thing of the past, asking if they did their homework will be history. I don't think you can prepare for it - more like surrender to the reality that this is where you are in your life and like all other phases, you learn to accept and enjoy it - hopefully enjoying each phase more than the previous ones. Considering how much I love babies, at times that seems unlikely - and yet, there is something beyond amazing in the simple act of seeing your grandson clap his hands and laugh. Did I take the time to enjoy my own children doing the same? I think I did; I hope I did.
I am still more mother than grandmother - but I have friends who are definitely more grandparents at this point than parents, so I understand that time and phases march on - and yet, I think you are always parents, even when you are grandparents. One doesn't stop - at least, that's what I believe right now.
And where did all this come from? Well, I really love writing here on this blog and in the Israeli sense, even though my sons are not soldiers, my adopted sons are not soldiers, one nephew is out, and my son-in-law finishes in one month, Israeli mothers remain soldiers' mothers for a couple of decades or more beyond the first time they surrender back their uniforms and guns.
Friday night, walking home after visiting a friend, we met two boys from the neighborhood. I know that one has been in the army for a while - I didn't really believe it was over a year and he was almost half way done. The second one was about 10 years old the first time I met him - his parents call him a miracle child, their miracle child, because when he was very young, he fell in a pool and drowned...by medical terms, he was dead and they managed to resuscitate him. His name is Chaim - life!
To me, he is always that little boy - and Friday night, as he stopped to chat with us in the street dressed so finely in his white shirt and dark pants, I learned that last November, he entered the army too. So, here were these young boys...both soldiers. And down the block, they told me of another boy, also once a neighbor, who is so much younger than my sons - who entered the army a bit over a month ago too. I was the "veteran" Israeli when they moved next door to us from America one summer and now his mother begins the journey I began so many years ago.
And for the last days of the holiday, we had Lauren's cousin stay with us. B. entered the army about two months ago. He is called a "lone soldier" because his parents live in America - but he grew up more as a brother than a cousin to Lauren and her sisters and is very much a son to a family about 45 minutes from where we live.
We met him a few months ago and he blended right in with our sons and considers Elie very much as an older brother guiding the way through the strange world of the army he has entered. Elie took him shopping - much in the same way I took Elie, Shmulik and Chaim. He came to us on Thursday - tired and hungry and I smiled as I explained the rules of the house say a soldier eats whatever he wants.
So, he was here, this new soldier coming in to the house in his uniform and large pack and I thought of his mother and what she wouldn't give to have it be her kitchen, her house. I hope someday it will be. For now, I got to feeling kind of melancholy. No, don't get me wrong - I do not miss having soldiers on active duty, not knowing where they are or what is happening I'm proud they did their service and happy to be here and not there.
But it got me thinking - their mothers...these three boys and so many others - they are the soldiers' mothers, the real ones. And I'm the one with the blog...and then Aliza went to get the mail and in it was a "Tzav Rishon" - a call to reserve duty for Elie and just as in the "old days" - there went my stomach. How long, I asked him? Where?
He was impatient, "let me read it and then I'll tell you."
Two days - coming up soon, in the center of the country. Not too bad, not too far, not for too long and a subtle message - yeah, in Israel, a mother is always a mother, welcoming her sons (and daughters) and others' sons to their homes and we remain, long after, soldiers' mothers.