“DUMBLEDORE’S ARMY, STILL RECRUITING.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Despite the fact that I have been blessed (?) to have experienced almost all that Israel has to offer — marriage, birth, death, wars, piguim, the educational and health systems, mortgages, holidays, movies, doctor, teacher and garbage strikes, traffic jams, bargaining in the shuk, snow, water shortages, egg shortages, washing machine part shortages, sandstorms and sudden flooding, price hikes, and the beach — nothing has ever prepared me for receiving a child’s first call up to the army.
I went through that experience four times without falling apart. I cried, I moaned, I shut myself up in the bathroom, but I did not fall apart.
My three boys served in the army. My older daughter took an exemption and, instead, did two years of National Service.
They all survived — even grew and matured — from the experiences.
I, however, lost years of sleep and memorized every crack in the bathroom walls.
I enjoyed a couple of years of army-free existence — except, of course, for several rounds of ‘miluim’ (army reserve duty) and a war or two, but hey.
And then, my baby received her first call-up papers.
Of course, my baby isn’t a baby at all. She’s 16, almost 17. She has started studying for her theory test for her driver’s license. She’s writing matriculation exams. She heats up her own lunch in the microwave and washes the dishes after. She puts a few grains of coffee into her chocolate milk and tells everyone she’s drinking mochaccino. When I say good night to her, it’s because I’m going to bed.
True, her room is a mess, and she forgets to put her laundry in the hamper, but hey.
She’s still MY baby.
When I drop her off at the bus station to catch the bus to go to school in a different town, all I see is the child I dressed in pink and yellow (after three boys) going to kindergarten. Now, her favorite colour is black.
Because of her, I was allowed to keep all the baby toys, and the tiny adorable dresses, and the Dr. Suess books. She’s the one who made me go to kindergarten when I thought I had graduated. She’s the one who keeps me company, when all the others left. She’s the one who was supposed to keep me young.
I guess that’s quite a burden to put on one kid.
As it is, she’s put up with a lot: hand-me-downs, lots of blue clothes and blankets, enormous quantities of teasing, old parents. Sometimes, she would ask to go on a trip somewhere, a museum or a park, only to be told “we’ve already been there, you weren’t born yet.”
She’s about to start a new phase of her life; independent and responsible. (Hopefully, I won’t have to still wake her up in the morning. I HATE that bit.)
I suppose all parents go through this, watching those creatures they created get bigger and bigger. But that letter in the mail calling your offspring — your baby! — to serve ones country seems to exacerbate what is already a gut-wrenching, tear-jerking, alarming, emotion.
On the other hand, the pride with which I watch my children take their place in shaping the destiny of their people also causes my breath to stop, my hands to shake, and my eyes to fill. There is no winning at this game.
I don’t plan to fall apart this time either. I feel like I’ve been kicked in the gut; I spend too much time hiding out in the bathroom; my eyes are constantly overflowing. But, hey. I’m still standing.