If you’ve read this blog long enough, you know I’m unstable. You would have predicted this post, and you can now gloat. It was inevitable. I am supposed to be shopping: enjoying a solo day in the city, time to myself after months of none. I was suppose to see a friend today, and finally get to meet her delicious new baby girl, who has become three months old, without me seeing her. I woke with a sore throat and chills, so no babies for me today. Sitting here, I think it’s for the best: I’m not sure I could spend time today with another mom and her sweet, little girl… it might be too much. None of what I anticipated today is happening, because I’ve got a lump in my throat and I tear up at the merest effort to move from this spot. So, I’m sitting in a Starbucks to try and type a tourniquet around my bleeding heart.
This heart is weak; it bleeds easily. There are fissures and scars across its surface, to attest to the many times I’ve sat just like this… slowly bleeding out. My girl, Principessa, left today; Again. I just can’t fully wrap my head around all the emotions that are battering this heart right now. Didn’t I practically wish for this all summer? I believe I even posted it here. I certainly said it out loud more than once. She drove me crazy. I drove her crazy. Until it was time for her to leave. Then we found our sweet spot again and there were cuddles, tender moments, dancing, singing in harmony, hugs… and tears at the airport. A long, long, lingering goodbye. I smelled her sweet neck, and buried my face in her hair. She hugged me back. I didn’t want to let go. I knew that when I did let go, she’d be gone… far away, for far longer than I want to think about. Back to the land that beckons her. Israel.
If you have the time, and the inclination, you can go back and read Ode To Girl Interrupted, for the long and complicated history of Principessa’s love affair with Israel, her faith, and our rocky road. It’s probably worth it, and there are all of the photos you won’t find in this one… of my cute girl when she was little and just strong willed, before she became a young woman and had convictions. If you read Drunk Blogging… On A Very Big Day (written while proverbially “3 sheets,” upon her college graduation in May), or remember it, then you know that my girl tends to bring up these emotions in me. Each time however, I seem to get blindsided. I see it coming and think I’m prepared. I think to myself I’ll be fine this time, I know what to expect… and then I come around the bend at SEATAC, see the line of airline names and as I say to her, You’re on Jet Blue, right? I begin to cry again. Not the borderline, isolated tear running down your cheek cry, but the big old lump in your throat, voice cracking, don’t-be-wearing-mascara-when-it-comes cry. And that’s exactly what happened this morning.
The summer was not easy. It hasn’t been for the last couple of years, since my two oldest kids went off to college and thought they could come home and tell me everything I’m doing wrong: “Why does it matter if my dishes sit here all day? You know I’ll put them away later; what does it matter?” “It makes more sense to keep the x, y, z here, not there.” “Yeah, I’ll do it later. Mom, it doesn’t matter.” “Why do you care?” Why indeed. Oh the list is long. And equally long is the list they might give you of the unreasonable expectations I have. There would probably be a kernel of merit to their lists, if I were willing to look at them. If. But it was not an easy summer, and Principessa and I butted heads so many times that I really thought I might not feel sad to see her go. There were moments when I distinctly thought: I can’t wait for her to go! Foolish me.
She was in a tough place this summer. She has spent years working on a formal conversion to Orthodox Judaism. The requirements and efforts are huge, and she has risen to the challenges and worked hard for this. However, she spent much of the summer waiting for a formal date for the conversion, not sure if it would happen or whether it would be in time for her to go to school (Yeshiva) again in Israel. In Ode To Girl I shared our difficulties with kosher cooking, changes in style, and things that we’d done together for most her life that we can no longer do easily, if at all. That remained the same this summer. However, her anxiety over: waiting for a date for her conversion, and trip to the mikvah in Boston, and then her plans to travel to Israel to study Torah at Pardes Institute, which depended entirely on the conversion going through, weighed on her all summer. She did not want to return to Israel unless she was fully Jewish, in the eyes of anyone who might ask in Israel. Given that I am not Jewish, she needed the conversion for that to be true. So, while she’d been accepted to the wonderful programs at Pardes, and offered incredible merit scholarships, she was not willing to accept and go unless that last “t” was crossed. It made her tense and frustrated. One might even say, very difficult to be around. I would tell you that I had a big old “direct your frustrations here” bullseye on me all summer. (^^My favorite Farside cartoon, popped into my thoughts more than once this summer…) Yes, yes… I know, they always dump on the ones they trust can handle it, the ones they love… again, I’m not that mom.
Word came only a few weeks ago, after three months of pins and needles: She was given a date, 8/31/2012, tomorrow, for the conversion. All the pieces began to fly into place. She would tell you that fly is a simplification: she worked to get them all there. But things seemed to turn around in a day. She could get ready for classes, look for an apartment, pack her things. She found out that a very good friend would be going to Israel for a year too, and in the most amazing twist learned (last minute) that they will be on the same flight from Boston to Turkey to Tel Aviv! Suddenly, when she could exhale and begin to get excited about these plans, she turned back to me and wanted to reconnect. I was hurt and bruised. It didn’t go easily.
Look, I’ve said it before: I’m not that mom. I’m not the mom who has her shit together and is good at compartmentalizing it all. When Principessa was going nuts this summer, and dumping all over me, it hurt. I recoiled and put up some walls. It’s been hard enough to accept that she has chosen such a very different life path than the one we put her on… Yeah, I know, that’s what kids do. But, for all of you who tell me I should be glad she’s passionate, that she’s bright and independent, that it will be so exciting for her… For all of you who say, it could be so much worse. Duh. But, I wonder if it would feel different if it was your girl running toward something you didn’t relate to at all. If one of the loves of your life was racing head long into a lifestyle that you knew you would never really fit into, with her, again. What if your girl wanted to live on the other side of the world, possibly forever? Really, would you still see all those silver linings? And, if your answer is still yes… either you don’t get it, or as I said, I’m just not that mom.
I’m the bit-broken mom. I fracture easily, I bend, but I also snap. I mend, but with scars. This one is really brutal. I could barely bear it when I watched her walk into that airport this morning, with her giant back pack and bags: all of the things she thinks she’ll need for a year or more. I could barely stand it when she paused and looked around our house, and our yard this morning and I knew she was taking a mental picture… in case she’s not back, for a very long time. I felt my heart bursting as she picked up that back pack and I knew that all that she needs is in there, and all of the things she left at home are the things she is leaving behind. I swallowed lumps of gratitude and bitter-sweet as we drove and she told me about all of the people and things in Israel that she is looking forward to being with again. There are so many “strangers” I would thank and embrace, for the love and care they have shown my girl. Oh the kindness of strangers, how I’ve leaned on them in my mind.
There are so many things I want to say to her, but I know she is following her heart, her own path, and I need to step back. I just don’t like doing it. My heart tore a little, two weeks ago when she asked me if I’d fly to Boston with her and stand beside her at the mikvah. It was such a huge gift from my girl, that had to swallow hard before saying I’d try. The flights were impossible: Labor Day Weekend, and I need to be home by Monday. Not possible. But the fact that she asked, that she’d have her non-Jewish mother, who brought all of this turmoil on her in the first place (If I’d just converted 25 years ago, if Smart Guy had picked a Jewish girl, if…), stand beside her, started the crack that’s been spreading across my heart for the past weeks since she asked. Each day I’ve desperately thought: what if I just go? If it really is “the thought that counts,” then she will have me beside her tomorrow.
I can’t stand beside her anymore, only in spirit. She is grown up, making grown up decisions. There’s no turning back the clock or wishing for re-dos. For the record: there’s a lot I would re-do. Instead, I’m doing my best with what I have: good intentions; endless love for all three of my kids, that I hope travels with them and allows them to forgive and over-look the missteps I’ve made along the way; a fractured heart that holds each of them in its leaky chambers. If I’d known how hard this would be, if I someone had shown me a glimpse of this present moment in Starbucks, where Landslide just came on (Principessa and I sang it together two days ago. Stevie Nicks still rules this, but this version we sang), and I turned my face to the wall to hide my weepy, mascara running eyes… If I’d known all of this, would I do it again? In a fractured heart beat.