If you live in Toronto, you know that this is the bronze Jacob Wrestling sculpture that sat outside the JCC on Bathurst Street forever.
Every morning, forever, long ago, I’d stumble in semi-darkness and blur and fog past the sculpture, holding my little kids’ hands, rushing in to get them to daycare (and then me to work) on time. And then, in the evening, I’d do it all over – rushing in in a foggy stupour to pick them up from daycare and rushing out to get us all home before we collapsed from exhaustion.
Holding those little hands, swinging their arms, singing half-asleep the "happy to be a mommy with two babies" song and, of course, dreaming big about "later" and the wonderful lives we would have together as they grew.
Last week, walking out of a fitness class at the JCC (beside the now-demolished JCC where my kiddies went to daycare), this sculpture jumped out at me. It didn't, really, but since the building had moved, I hadn't noticed where the sculpture had gotten to. And suddenly, it was in front of me.
And the words in my head, cool and clear like a breezy late-winter evening: "you blew it."
A sign. And I hate signs. I don't even believe in signs, really.
But that thought was what I walked around with, hanging over my head all week: "I had eighteen, nineteen years to parent, and now it's over, and I blew it." Life was what happened while I was busy making other plans.
On Shabbos, I went to shul and of course, when I finally stop moving and am surrounded by stillness (and it was also erev my first husband's yahrzeit), I start weeping. Subtly, I hope; I hope nobody noticed.
But then one friend came over, and then another, and I decided that was a sign, too. I mean, TWO friends? I don't even HAVE two friends. Gazillions of acquaintances, but people I'm actually really happy to see, who aren't family members? Not that many.
So I sucked it up, figured the happy sign beat the sad sign, wiped the tears away and decided that was NOT the message.
But it is a scary thought - if you had only four more months to parent one of your most beloved children... well, if you were me, you'd probably start by smiling more. And I probably should, too.
Beyond that, I have no idea what to do, other than just keep on keeping on what I've been doing, these last 18 years...
I haven’t blogged much about it, because big kids have their own ideas about what belongs on blogs, but since a million people have asked and I have said the same thing to all of them, I figure it’s public knowledge, neither of the big kids is coming with us on aliyah. Yup, zero for two.
One of them is planning to spend the year in Israel anyway – hooray! So we will have one child close for a teasingly short time before things shift once again. And the other – well, we just don’t know.
People make assumptions, when they see you with two little kids. It happens often enough these days anyway, even with the big kids living with us at home. They assume these are your only kids. They assume this is your first marriage. They assume you’re about 15 years younger (not all the assumptions are terrible!).
People are terribly shocked and forced to do a bit of math when I admit I have an 18-year-old. (Yes, that does mean I’m not 35…) Being a parent to ALL of these children is so much a part of my identity that I hate that assumption and I don’t want to lose it.
This must be a common thing for parents of adult children, but it is a new thing for me.
Brutally, it must be a common thing for parents who have lost children - “I am a mother of THREE – even if only two are here today.”
I think I finally, sort of, understand those necklaces that show how many children people have, and their birthstones. How silly, I’ve always thought (arrogantly, as it turns out). You just need to count them to know.
Well, not for much longer.
But I haven’t blown it… not yet. I hope.