This past Saturday, we had friends come over for a play date. The mom is a little older than I and she too has twin daughters slightly older than my girls. Once they warmed up, the kids and the moms had a lovely afternoon. During the course of our chat, the mom and I eventually shared our stories. She told me that her family had not been at all supportive when she told them she was embarking on the journey to solo motherhood. She went through a long arduous process wrought with ups and downs hormones and frustration on her own. My heart ached for what she went through; especially because I had been there. I wished I had known her then so I could’ve been there for her.
She then asked me if my family was supportive all along. Although I have been asked this question many times before, this time a light bulb went off (on?) and I was able to give my family a huge "like". Other than an initial conversation with my mom that was mostly a Q&A session with silly questions like "why would you want to have a baby?" and "do you think you can handle the responsibility?" she was completely supportive. My dad, who is usually kept out of these sorts of discussions in our house, once confronted, not only gave his blessing but showed love and support in a way I had never seen before. I had no doubt that my mom would be behind me, she always has been no matter what. She is that kind of mom. My dad has always been far more critical. He is also of a generation that doesn’t really get the ways of 2012. He is far more traditional, although ironically, his own life has been one of "off the beaten path" as well.
Lest you think the support ends there, my family lives in the neighborhood I grew up in. When we moved there I was 12 and about 75% of the families were Jewish of which 50% were observant. Today, the neighborhood is mostly observant, even black hat (hareidi) and it is very common to see the bathrobe/snood set walking around on shabat followed by four to six kids…you get the picture.
Once I decided that I was going forward with my decision, I gave very little thought to my parents' circle or the people of the 'hood. I live 10,000 miles away. My community is very diverse, modern and open minded. My synagogue is orthodox as well but we have gays and straights, marrieds and singles, more observant and slightly less observant members. Egalitarianism is greatly respected. The women in our shul (synagogue) actively participate.
The year my girls were born we went to Chicago for the holidays. I really didn’t think about how my presence with two kids no husband or head covering would be perceived. People knew, my dad, the now great supporter had thrown a kidush (party in synagogue) in the girls' honor. What completely awed me was my former elementary school principal's reaction. This is a man who I have always believed to be one of the lamed vavnikim. (36 great righteous men). I have always admired and respected him greatly. I had asked him to make a bracha (blessing) at my wedding and when he agreed to my request he told me that he rarely accepts this sort of invitation since if he did he would likely be at a wedding or two or three daily, but in my case he made an exception, although I don’t know why. I am hardly a paragon of virtue or religious observance. One of the heartbreaks of my marriage falling apart was the shame that this man had blessed me and I was letting him down.
In any event, fast forward to the day in question, a Saturday afternoon, August 2010. It is shabat afternoon. All my mother's friends have come by to see the babies. A knock on the door. My rabbi's wife!!!!
Now, the Mrs. is a woman that I have always greatly admired and respected as well as her husband but in a completely different way. Any of you who have grown up in a strictly orthodox community know that one of the cornerstones is the cookie cutter quality. The Mrs. Was anything but. Intellectual, attractive, outspoken. She always dressed appropriately but fashion forward and cool. Her wig was cool, she never looked dowdy, frumpy, or well…cookie cutter. She always had something to say and it was always intelligent, thought provoking and slightly different from the template responses of the community which I found, even as a teenager, to be stifling.
So here she is, standing in our doorway. Coming to wish me mazal tov from her AND THE RABBI!!!!!!!!
So yes, I have a life of honey. G-d has blessed me in so many ways. I have amazing parents who have always been supportive and "there". My extended family and friends too, have been loyal, loving and have taught me many important life lessons.
My community here in Tel Aviv; I cannot say enough about the support they offered after my girls were born; meals and groceries brought to my door. Challot and visits to the hospital, which was a distance from where we all live. When they found out I was staying at a hotel in the hospital on shabatot to be near my kids (I don’t drive on the sabath), they chipped in and paid for a weekend. Yes, I have a life of honey.
It has taken me a long time to appreciate my parents. I must admit for a long time I had a sense of entitlement that is something most children have and outgrow but this child took longer than most.
I am blessed. Hashem (G-d) has given me two gifts and because of them, in three short years, I have grown and stretched and dug deep to become a better person and someone they can hopefully, look up to and respect.
Maybe the July heat is getting to me; those who know me well know I don’t generally gush. I want to thank all those near (and far) and dear that your support and kindnesses are NOT givens. I don’t know what I have done to deserve the outpouring of benevolence but you have inspired me and humbled me. Thank you.