Chaya Lester

A Mother’s Timeline of Trembling

The Whatsapps started at 9:30pm
School canceled – clients cancel
the country shutters itself like it knows how to do
Like a turtle shrinking into its shell.
We cocoon…

The air spaces in the region close…
We distract ourselves with nervous jokes.

At 11pm comes down the news
– Impending doom.
‘Iran has launched unknown masses of missiles.’
I do the dishes,
the laundry, learn Torah,
Tehilim in the kitchen.
Skittish jokes with the children…

My 16 year old calls out loud Psalms 91:
“Don’t fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrows that fly by day.”
~ Well, the arrows are really flying now,
aren’t they babe?

We are thick in the night terror now,
but seem to somehow steady our fears…
We try to sleep as my husband stands guard at the computer screen.
The first explosions erupt at 2.15.
First 3 booms and then the sirens’ familiar tune.
The children move
Like nervous dancers into place.

I shlep the bag with the socks and sweaters,
the tissues, phone and Tehillim.
The next building over hosts us all
in its slender dusty shelter.
A pajama party of nervous laughter.

We take safe-room selfies
And swim in the absurdity
Of questionable security.
This is life beneath the Iron Dome
We listen and linger…
Finally safe to go home.

I gather
the younger kids into my bed
And invent a story of ‘the magical wiff-waff tree’…
Try to keep it simple, fanciful
To distract us from a frightful reality.
My 9 year old moans that his stomach hurts
And snuggles close as I rub his belly…
I sing the soothing song of the wiff-waff tree.
He is asleep by 3.

4:30 he screams out “No, No” in his bad dreams
I rub his belly; hum the tune of the wiff-waff tree
As he settles back to sleep.

In the morning he is surprisingly cheery,
full of energy…
He relays the conversation
He had had at shul yesterday….
“My friend Kalman Shai asked me how I would rather die:
By falling off a cliff
By terrorist attack
Or car-wreck?

Kalman Shai says by terrorist attack,
because then you get to be famous.
I said by falling from a cliff
– because then you have time to say Shema.
Like a last wish.”

I shudder
but we share a hug and a kiss
And sing again that made-up hymn
of the old wiff-waff tree…
Somehow recovered from a night of sleeplessness,
nervous jokes and trembling.

About the Author
Psychotherapist, inspirational speaker, wordsmith, performance artist & Co-Director of Jerusalem's Shalev Center. Chaya lives in the heart of Jerusalem with her husband R'Hillel & their 4 energetic children. Read more pieces like this in real-life book form:
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