Yom shishi, 28 Shevat 5773.
Our Sages teach that our souls are sent to this world to work on our eventually perfect selves, to correct some problem in the fabric of the universe, or both. My sons are always teaching me, which is why G-d blessed this particular mother with these particular sons.
Over time, I have shared and hope to continue to share some of the lessons they have taught me. Now we are in the Empty Nest stage; and in order to perfect my midah of spontaneity-with-patience, my boys -- who no longer live at home -- appear at random times, with random guests, for Shabbat.
Back story: I am a Yekke by nature. This means that I need to be on time for everything, need to have plans, need to have things follow a pattern. Living with other human beings, this attitude can have certain drawbacks, as you might imagine.
In order to be the best mom I can be, given my nature, I always asked my kids to give me a few days' notice before a friend came to spend the night, or for Shabbat. I can see some of my fellow moms' faces, reading this with utter incomprehension. Just know how special you are, ladies, to have already mastered (or been granted the gift of) spontaneity! It is not one of my natural strengths, to be able to warmly greet drop-in guests.
But life has changed, and with it, G-d's plan for this year's Ruti improvements. My boys live away from home -- with their wives, in their barracks in the IDF, at their yeshiva dorms. Other people or institutions help them to decide where they are spending Shabbat, and how soon they will arrive at my door. In the case of soldiers, these plans remain mysteries until hours before candle-lighting. So I can sit around and kvetch that I don't get the warning I prefer. Or I can leap outside my comfort zone, and learn to "roll with it."
This Shabbat, like so many others, I didn't know until the day before Shabbat who would be home. Buy a roast? Big or small? A big pan of shwarma? Or a couple of pargiot, with a nice sauce? Sodas? Or just seltzer? Ice cream and cookies and chips for seudat shlishit? Or lox and crackers, with maybe a boiled egg or two?
Sports Guy: "Looks like it's an in-Shabbat, Ema. I will probably just stop by on Thursday night with some laundry, if that's okay, and then see you on Sunday for a few hours. Okay?"
Ema: "Sure, Baby. See you when we see you."
(No pretzels. Maybe three kilos less beef.)
Stunt Man: "Ema, I'd like to come and bring a friend, but it depends on whether [Yeshiva Bochur] will be home." (The brothers are close; and one's plans are often contingent on the other's.) "And is [Sports Guy] having an in-Shabbat, or will he be home?"
Ema: "Well, I still don't know for sure about Yeshiva Bochur... and Sports Guy says he won't be coming this time."
Stunt Man: "Oh. Okay -- I'll get back to you... by Thursday, I promise."
(Sushi. Seltzer. Beer. Shwarma, for sure. Some of that horrible hazelnut-filled chocolate square cereal stuff.)
Yeshiva Bochur: "Yesh! Home for Shabbat!"
Ema: "YAY!!! Champagne Girl will be so happy! Will we see you?"
Yeshiva Bochur: "Hmmmm. Maybe for seudat shlishit."
Ema: "No worries."
(Beer. Ice cream and junk for the third meal. Did I say beer? Garanim. Scratch the lox.)
Sports Guy: "It looks like I may be able to be home for Shabbat. Any brothers home?"
Ema: "I think we may have a 'full Shabbat,' with all three brothers!"
Sports Guy: "Cool!"
(Mass quantities of beef. Pretzels. Sushi. Don't forget the sushi.)
Stunt Man: "Ehhhhh... looks like my friend and I will probably not be there for Shabbat, but I'm not a hundred per cent sure. Can I tell you tomorrow?"
Ema: "No problem. Whatever works for you is fine."
(Cut the beer in half. Make the same amount of sushi. Sports Guy won't have to hold back, then. Buy the awful chocolate cereal squares, and stash in the chukalukim closet until next time. Never hurts to be ahead.)
Champagne Girl: "SOOOOOOO exciting! Everyone will be together for the first Shabbat in a long time!"
Ema: "Well, I'm not so sure about Stunt Man."
Champagne Girl: "Oh, don't worry. Sports Guy and Yeshiva Bochur will be there; so you know that Stunt Man won't miss it."
Ema: "Wait, Motek. I'm getting another call..."
(Get some chocolate syrup for the ice cream, and whipped cream...)
Stunt Man: "Hi Ema --"
Ema: "Hi, Sweetie. I hear you're joining us for Shabbat."
Stunt Man: "Yeah, it's not too late, is it? Wait -- how did you hear? We just decided..."
Ema: "Yeah, I know. It's going to be great, having a 'full Shabbat.'"
Stunt Man: "Yeah, it sure is. See you then, Ema. Thanks!"
(Buy everything. What's the worst? Somebody won't show -- and I'll have some in the cupboard and freezer for next time.)
I have become amazingly adaptable. Score one for the Big Guy and His Soul Perfection Training Plan.
Wedding photos by Yehuda Botshauser & Co.
Midah: character trait
Yekke: A Jew of German descent. In this instance, it refers to the character traits of punctuality and precision. Not always heart-warming to be around -- but we get the job done. On time, and under budget.
Shwarma: THE best fast-food in Israel. Closely rivaled by falafel, which is good if you have less money that day.
Pargiot: boneless chicken thighs. The steak of Israel.
Seudat Shlishit: the third meal of Shabbat, considered to be the holiest meal, the "Yom Kippur" of the Shabbat
Garanim: seeds, specifically sunflower seeds, for liberal spitting all over Ema's freshly washed floor, the patio, the bedrooms, the steps leading to the Cave...
Chukalukim: what IDF soldiers call "junk food for the road"