KJ Hannah Greenberg

 Not Little Boys and Girls, Anymore

They’re not little boys and girls, anymore. They have spouses and children. They have education and jobs. Some have had their own homes for longer than a decade. Some are just starting out on their own.

What’s more, even though Am Yisrael is living at a time of war, my offspring take care of themselves as well as look out for each other. They pay attention, too, to the need of other folks.

It seems that, as it should be, my descendants have grown up. One fought in Gaza and is being reassigned to Ramallah. Another braves the homefront as her warrior spouse fights in the North despite having had to leave my daughter and their many young children behind. A third spends most workdays furiously laboring “from home,” i.e., from her sister’s apartment, so that her sister is not, for months, raising those many small children alone. Our youngest’s health prohibited him from entering the army and his gender makes it awkward for him to  have a season-long sleepover at his sister’s home. So, he supports our cause by spending endless hours preparing, packaging, and labeling meals for soldiers, for terror victims, and for displaced families. My scions are not wee, anymore.

I remember, multiple decades ago, when they and I were concerned with different matters. Our present day combatant, as a child, and then as a teen studied martial arts followed by MMA. His biggest challenge came when a teacher, knowing that my boy was both gentle and patient, assigned him a beginner with whom to spar. That novice, who had no control over his kicks and punches accidentally broke my child’s nose. After being released from the otolaryngologist’s hospital care, my boy worked with his teacher to convince the newbie to continue learning. He’s long been a gallant.

As for my oldest child, long before she had sons and a daughter of her own, she assisted me with her siblings. While I stirred oatmeal, she heated up sippy cups of apple juice “for all the big numbers.” While I signed permission slips and packed lunches, she matched socks so that feet would be covered for school. While I reassured one with hugs, she made certain that the other two were breaking bread, not heads. She’s long been “a little mommy.”

Correspondingly, my younger daughter has long been responsible. She remembered the birthdays of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. She organized her siblings to celebrate her parents’ birthdays and anniversaries. It was she who ran to babysit, gratis, the neighborhood lady who was not rich in money but in children (that lady gave birth to triplets after already being blessed with a sizable brood). It was this daughter who made sure that charity collectors were always warmly received in our home and it was this daughter who repeatedly insisted that we rescue community cats. She’s long been providing for others’ well-being.

As for my youngest, as a child, he was our family’s “mitzva police.” He directed Shabbat and holiday guests to sinks for washing, checked the hecsherim on incoming groceries, and, unhesitatingly, albeit respectfully, corrected any family member or visitor who erred in the wording of their blessings. He was so charming in his help that a neighbor said she “wanted to eat him up.” Ever the literal five year-old, he admonished her that he was not kosher and that, thus, she ought not to do so. He’s long been a lev tov.

I was blessed to witness my children’s past. I am fortunate to see how they act in the present. I can only imagine their futures.

Perhaps, my valiant child will continue in his intrepid ways. When he was in his 20s, he quit a job because the proprietor was cheating customers.

Perhaps, my fostering daughter will continue in her encouraging ways. Although bright enough to have had atypical offers for both secondary and tertiary education, she stopped her studies after two degrees, side-stepped prestigious job opportunities, and elected to work as a teacher and an administrator in a public high school possessed of a significant population of needy kids. She claims that “doing good,” now, is what matters most.

Perhaps, my younger daughter will, likewise, continue to make caring for others her priority. Mostly surreptitiously, she helps family and friends. Additionally, she’s been weighing switching careers from intellectual properties law to social justice work. To her, salary is necessary but not the only factor in occupational choices.

Perhaps my baby, similarly, will go forward with acts of loving kindness. He’s extremely understanding of our elderly callers, and beyond compassionate toward any of our company who has mental health challenges. Although, currently, he’s pioneering, i.e., trying out various routes in his life,  it’s foreseeable that he might become a veterinary associate, an aide to the infirm, or take on some comparable role.

I know who my children have been. I can guess at who they will become. In the interim, in this period of extremes, of an existential war, I am proud, b’ayin tova, of who they are.

About the Author
KJ Hannah Greenberg has been playing with words for an awfully long time. Initially a rhetoric professor and a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar, she shed her academic laurels to romp around with a prickle of imaginary hedgehogs. Thereafter, her writing has been nominated once for The Best of the Net in poetry, three times for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for poetry, once for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for fiction, once for the Million Writers Award for fiction, and once for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. To boot, Hannah’s had more than forty books published and has served as an editor for several literary journals.
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