Yesterday was a good day, and the kids told me so as they drifted off to sleep. I floated for a while on that as I hung up their towels and washed the dishes from dinner, on the knowledge that I had created something today, when the idea of tomorrow dawned on me. Tomorrow. Can I do it again tomorrow? Can I speak calmly and play with them on the floor again? Can I mediate fairly between the girls with the baby on my lap, pulling my scarf off? Can I stay calm when they don’t eat what I made and when they decide that 5:15 AM is an excellent time to start the day and spill yogurt on the fresh tablecloth?
Sometimes I feel like I'm spinning in place. Is this what I am really here for? To make dirty dishes clean and then dirty them again? To sweep against the never-ending tide of dust? To pick up the toys and then encourage the girls to take them out again? To win one day and lose the next?
Outdoorsman works very hard, but sometimes I dream about standing in front of something that I’ve built like he does and know that it’s done and will not get undone. How all powerful and G-dlike. Gaze upon my work! I have finished it and behold it is good and behold once again at how it stays put!
I was brushing my teeth before bed last night, and I saw my face in the mirror. Usually, a slightly bewildered 16 year old peeks back at me, but this time, I saw myself. I saw my age, and the lines on my forehead that didn’t go away when I put my eyebrows down. And I realized, if I do something now, like write a book, no one will say, wow, she was so young! To write a book! What had happened to me? Where did I go? What happened to the girl with a mission, marching off to the Emerald City armed with nothing but a certainty that she was supposed to be somewhere else?
At my grandfather’s shloshim, the Rabbi said that he was of a generation of men
who, every day, for 90 years, did what they were supposed to do and did it to the best of their abilities. No fanfare, no dreams of glory, just discipline and hard work and the knowledge that you were using your talents to make the world a better place. I think that this is best personified in the two degrees that my grandfather held. One was in social work, and one in sewology. Which I don’t think is actually a word. My grandfather started camps all over the US, Canada, and Israel. He got a degree in social work to understand group dynamics and to be able to raise the bar for modern orthodox Jewish camps to a degree that had never been seen before but is now the model for camps everywhere. And the sewology degree--well, the sewers in camp backed up, so someone had to take care of them.
Maybe it's not so much about Emerald City and far more about what you can learn on the yellow brick road. And twenty washed dishes and four calls for last requests before sleep later, I knew even though it's true, I could be doing things better, I am making my own little world a better place for my little family. My grandfather the social worker and sewologist would be proud of me.
The bleach and the scrub brush were still out when my daughter, who was supposed to be sleeping an hour ago, missed the toilet a little bit. She had dashed into the bathroom just as I was giving the mirror over the tiny sink one last wipe, a faint feeling of satisfaction at a job well done in my heart. “No—“ I started. I stopped, and waved her in. As I put the cleaning products away in the back of the cabinet, I wondered what exactly I had been about to say.