In the past several weeks, have I:
Written something? Um, nope.
Read something? Nope. Maybe a few sentences before I fall into a coma each night.
Take a shower– other than the kind you take just to cool off in the Israeli summer heat: cold and brief? On occasion, when the need is clear. By clear, I mean, when the sweat from walking out the front door and half a block has begun to smell.
Eat regular meals or sleep more than 2-3 hours at a time? Not happening.
Read emails… books… blog posts…? In very limited quantities, and by that I mean hardly at all.
Unless you haven’t seen the Facebook updates on my Tales From the Motherland page, you may have thought I’d dropped off the planet. No, not that either.
I am in the beautiful city of Tel Aviv, Israel, and aside from some initial brief adventures, I’ve done little to explore this vibrant city. I always find time to meander around Old Jaffa, and I took a few hours to see the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, a gorgeous museum which is very worth the time and effort. I wandered down to The Port one evening when I first arrived; I’ve gone swimming in the beautiful Mediterranean and wandered some of the streets, but for the most part, I’ve spent most of my time in a few small blocks and in a small apartment with lovely views of the date palm outside our balcony.
The view from where I sit
Gorgeous Floral balconies in Old Jaffa
Old Jaffa is filled with beauty
Café huts all along the main streets
The cool relief of the trees along Nordau
The Tel Aviv Museum of Art
Muslims and Jews, cooling off at sunset, in the golden Mediterranean
Beautiful old mosque, at sunset in the Old Jaffa harbor
In some ways, that means I have experienced more deeply what it’s like to be one more resident of this place: getting a coffee, riding the bus, shopping at the corner grocery store (no easy task, when you don’t speak Hebrew!), trying to get things done before Shabbat starts each Friday afternoon–– and the grocery, and pharmacy, and cafés close. Cinemas and popular restaurants pay a penalty and stay open for the Sabbath, but my daughter observes these days of respite and we have all of our food cooked and chores done by sunset on Friday, to use through Saturday evening. For the past two weeks, every day has felt like Shabbat–– a lazy, stay at home groove that we are finally getting on top of.
I apologize for disappearing. I’m sorry that I haven’t kept up with things like Friday Fictioneers; I haven’t read much news; I haven’t read blogs that I follow and really enjoy–– and when I have, I’m so late for the party, that tables have been cleared and the lights are dimmed. I’m the last one in the empty room, leaving my comments–– because I want you to know that your work does touch me, that I have slipped out of my cocoon and done something… else.
Yes, I’ve been in a warm and lovely cocoon for the past many weeks. It’s this small apartment in Tel Aviv, where my daughter and her fiancé live, and now where my beautiful grandson lives. We have been sequestered here for two+ weeks now, as we ease this lovely little person into the world… a world that he arrived in on August 4, 2015, his grandfather (my husband) Smart Guy’s 54th birthday.
This time together, these first days are exhausting; they are sweeter than sweet; incredible in their simplicity and miraculous in ways that I had forgotten while raising my own three miracles. Two weeks ago, this small human was only a curve on my daughter’s small frame. He was a complete unknown–– we did not know his sex, he had no name, we knew we would love him/her, but even that was abstract. A day or so before she gave birth, my daughter told me with authority, “I don’t feel like a mother yet; I don’t think I’ll love this person right away–– I need time to know them.” I smiled. I didn’t say anything; I knew she was wrong.
Now, our lives swirl around this small person. He cries and we all want to ease his worries. He nestles against my neck, against my cheek, by my side, for hours each day; if I move, he moves closer. I can’t sing enough; I can’t whisper his name enough. I lose an hour, two, sometimes three holding him close to me, as my daughter tries to rest and he naps happily in my embrace. He turns to my voice; he looks at me as I sing to him, and I feel such a huge love that I am startled.
I have loved my own three children. I’ve watched them come into the world, and I’ve watched them grow up in it. I’m watching my youngest go out into that world in three short weeks. I thought I knew what this cocoon would feel like, that I remembered. I thought I was prepared. But the memories aren’t as huge as the moments back in this world of sweet new smells, tiny sounds and enormous love.
I took refuge in a fish tank down the hall… whenever I needed to just breathe freely…
For two long days my daughter labored. It was surreal, agonizing, disappointing, spectacular, and life changing. Suffice it to say, that as the wife of a surgeon in the US, I have become jaded. I am admitting that, so please spare that point later. I have had excellent medical care whenever I’ve needed it. I have grown accustomed to doctors I know well, in clean shiny hospitals, where everyone sanitizes their hands and certain things can be expected. Giving birth here was very different. Watching my child, my first baby, pushed to “hurry up,” ignored when her contractions made it too hard to get up and move around–– in a tiny room with two other women laboring as well–– all while I stayed awake, for 60 hours, dozing for only brief times, on the corner of a bed, or on the floor–– it was humbling, and awe-inspiring and life-changing and huge in so many ways, that the words I type are entirely inadequate.
The incessant beeps and the magical whoosh…
My girl has always been independent; she has always been determined. Her Hebrew name means Lioness. I gave her that name at birth, because it was clear in her first hours that she was just that. She has lived up to that name in every way. It’s ironic that her own first cub was born at the start of August, a Leo. However, in the two days that she labored in the hospital, to deliver this baby that now fills our days with so much joy, I watched my girl shine in ways I could not have imagined. Determined not to huff and puff or yell, she hummed through each contraction. “The sound travels from my throat to my center, to the baby,” she told me. And so, as we all tried to get through some very difficult hours, some of them even traumatic, it was as if my girl sang her child into the world. Other laboring women would stop by our room to listen; they touched my arm in the hallway and told me that this sound comforted them. I rubbed many of their backs, and sat with some as they labored, and my daughter hummed. I felt such pride and love, watching my daughter work to bring her own child into the world– staying focused on what she wanted for her body, and her child, despite countless distractions and barriers. We tried to block out the incessant beeps of monitors, and were lulled by the magical whoosh, of the baby’s heart beat.
And so, when I stood beside her in those final moments, urging her to “push!”–– Telling her to find that sound, to hold her focus, despite her exhaustion, despite others urging her to numb the contractions and rest, I knew she could. She did. She hummed; she pushed; she was the strong woman she has become, and then, her child slipped into this world, and we were all quiet and gentle. We welcomed him peacefully, joyfully, with reverence.
I felt a visceral jolt when I saw him. He looked so much like my eldest son that I was taken back 23 years, instantly, and my heart beat faster; it swelled with love. As the hours passed, he looked more and more like his mother, my baby girl, so much so that holding him against my shoulder I was transported back, over and over. Moments of sweet memories, blurred with the moment we were all in. The sweetest smell, a new baby. It carries me back to when I held each of my own babes, and I felt like all of life’s best things were right there in my arms.
It isn’t always this pretty…
At 52, getting up every three hours is very different than it was when I was 27 and my first baby suckled from me, hour after hour. Then, the exhaustion was overwhelming, but infused with the heady sense that only I could do what she needed. Nursing is hard work. It is not as natural and easy as so many women are lead to believe, and my daughter has struggled to make this work. It requires extra hands, and unwavering support… through the night, through the long, hot days. Her fiancé is working full time and also in grad school. Like her own father, her partner can’t be there to do this. I remember so well how overwhelmed I felt when my husband, who was in his medical residency at the time, working 80+ hours a week, could not get up and fix it for me. Make this baby sleep, I wished… as I watched him sleep through her cries. Now, I am here to help that same child, a new mother, with these early days. We are lucky. My husband and both of my girl’s brothers, were able to fly here and be present when their nephew and grandchild came into the world. We all circled around him in his first 24 hours and each wanted to hold the tiny boy who is now a member of our family. We all were awed at his delicate fingers and long feet–– oh, those feet! We all held him as if he was the most delicate spun glass… and smiled as he opened his eyes to see us.
His name means “truth with equanimity:” Amitai. It rolls on my tongue; it dances through my dreams, when I drift off for short hours. I hold him close and know that when I leave he will not remember me. I will come back a stranger. The pediatrician expressed “shock” at his alertness. He stares at us, tracking us and gazing into my eyes with his deep blue ones. I want to believe he is taking me in, as I memorize each exquisite element of his tiny face and body. I want to believe he will remember my voice: singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow, Edelweiss, Beautiful Boy (John Lennon), and whatever other sweet song comes to me, in those precious moments––– even Jon Bonjovi’s Livin’ On A Prayer sounds lovely, in the late hours, holding my grandson.
But like so many things with motherhood, these hours are fleeting. This sweet boy will not remember me, probably not for years to come. Each visit, a journey that takes a long 24 hours of travel, and a week to recover, will be a new introduction. He will forget my songs, and nestle in other arms in my absence. My daughter will send me photos, and let me see him on Skype. But these days and weeks in this private cocoon, with my daughter, her fiancé, this small child, and I, are sacred and permanent. I have been reminded that a child is a miracle, each one a new human being in this world, who has endless potential and possibilities before them. Each child deserves to be held, loved and sang to. So many are not, but this small boy is. And this time is everything right now.
So, this is the best apology ever. I have been caring for my child. I have been witnessing her bring her own child into the world. I have been loving that baby, my first grandchild, every minute that I can. When I leave, he will be exactly three weeks old, and I will have held him each of those 21 days. I will have sung to him, each of those days, and told him that we are here to fill his life with love. I know I will ache when I board that plane; the 20 hours flying home will feel like 50. But, these days in this cocoon are everything right now, and I can think of no better apology, for dropping off the edge of my usual world. There will be time to write, time to read, to shower, to eat well and sleep well, later… when I am dreaming of this sweet baby’s smell, his tiny hand clutching my finger, these wonderful days of becoming a new family, of falling in love. When my world gets bigger again…
Minutes have become hours have become days… all a lovely blur of time
Please note: there are no pictures here. My grandson’s parents have asked that I not post his picture in my blog. Grr. I have to respect this request and so there are no pictures of him here. I would tell you he is exquisite, especially lovely, that his expression is alert well beyond what you’d expect from a 14-day old baby, but I would sound like the bragging Grammy that I have become. You might want to stop by my Tales From the Motherland Facebook page; to hit Like and see what’s posted there. Really, do it. There’s something in it for you, wink wink.
Wish Washy, highly emotional ramblings of a tired mind: To my fellow bloggers, who have created a world of support and creative energy, that sustains me, please accept this apology. There are so many bloggers I enjoy and whose work I read, or who read my work, but these are the folks who are really there for me in a steady way: Jen, Jennifer, Carrie, Cathy, Audra, Mike, Heidi, Stephanie, Susan, Lisa, Amy, Rochelle, Susan, Brenda and Suzanne, you are the best! Thank you for taking the time to read my work, pretty much every time. If I write it, I know you will come, and that means so much to me! Thank you for your kind comments and lovely support. I save your posts and will get to them when I can, but I so appreciate your wonderful presence. It’s hard to believe that 4 years ago, I had no blogging community (I was just getting started), and now I think of so many of you, on a regular basis.
To my friends and family: you have been such a wonderful source of support. Thank you! It is not easy to be away from home for 6 weeks… if I had some romantic notion that it would be, I was wrong. There, I said it. I’m homesick. I am so thankful for and to: My kids: Middle Man and Little Man and their wonderful accomplice, Emmy, and my husband, who had to ride sidecar but did it graciously and lovingly. I missed sharing our wonderful rental with you, but so appreciated all of your help! Shayne, we couldn’t have done it without you! To my sister, Kristen, and my aunts Cokie and Pat, my uncle Bob; cousins Amy K, Damia T, Tracey T, Kim, Stephanie; my good buddy Marc F; to Ruth and Mike; to my nieces Charlotte, Ashlee and Julia and my nephews Ben, Scott and Justin, and dear, dear friends: Marybeth, Daryl, Mary Ellen, Rosemary, Nora, Valery, and here in Tel Aviv, Miri. And finally, to my new family members: Sasha, Tanya and Roni–– All of you: you guys have been incredible! The hours of sweet private messages, long chats, loving congratulations and words of encouragement and thanks (for all my on-going updates) has been just what I need during the many hours that I’ve been sitting in this small apartment. You have helped me stay awake, keep cool, and be present. I really do look forward to your emails/chats, which remind me that I have a whole other life, outside this little guy’s finger… which I am currently wrapped around. I am so grateful to you all.There are lots of other wonderful friends and family who have sent love and well wishes too, but the folks I’ve mentioned have gone above and beyond in their efforts to keep me connected. And I apologize for these run on sentences and pathetic punctuation. It’s enough just to write.
Truly, my cup and heart runneth over
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