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One Last Day

Mishpacha contributors

“It is hard for me to part from you,” Hashem tells His nation. “Stay another day.” Time seems to weave an intricate dance; the orchestra plays its final coda; dreams collide with life and explode with splendor. And so we spend Shemini Atzeres together, When one last day is all you have.. Seconds beat in time with pounding hearts; minutes gain the luster of eternal memories; hours are saturated with a lifetime’s love. One last day basking in our Creator’s loving Presence. When one last day...

Monday, September 16, 2013

My eldest child leaves tomorrow for the first half of the summer. The red satchel strains at its seams as Shalva yanks the zipper closed. I’m surprised to find that the entire contents of her room fit into two over-the-shoulder bags.

My daughter leaves in 24 hours. I glance at the clock: 23 hours and 59 minutes. Do I sound like I’m looking forward to her departure? I am. And I’m not.

None of my children have ever been away from home for so long. It will be strange to ferry around a crew of four instead of five. The kids won’t have to bicker over who sits in the back seat in our minivan. There will be ample room in the passenger seat and the second row.

There won’t be any fighting.

The image flits through my mind; a home replete with calm — without door-slamming, foot-stomping, and frustration volleyed back and forth between us, mother and daughter.

Shalva’s birth labeled me as “mother.” She was the first little person entrusted to me, to feed, to change, to cuddle, to cherish.

But as I look at this 13-year-old almost-woman before me, I have trouble reconciling her pouting lips and defiant eyes with the pinkish, squiggly newborn swathed in a striped receiving blanket.

I want to make this day special for her, for us. I want to show that I will miss her when she’s gone.

But will I? Will I miss the accusatory tone in her voice, the teasing, the bossiness?

I will miss her. I will miss her.

The lie I tell myself taunts me. How can I not miss my own child?

I watch her recheck her carry-on bag to make sure she has enough batteries for her new handheld game, and I acknowledge the truth. I want to miss her. I want her to think that I will miss her.

“Shalva,” I say, taking hesitant steps towards her. “I can’t believe you’re really leaving.”

“Yeah,” she says.

“Are you excited?” She is, I know it. My daughter loves going away, even just for a Shabbos to her friend’s house. She’s never been toDenver, and hasn’t spent much time with cousins who are around her age.

“Yeah,” she says again.

I wonder what she’s thinking. And I am left wondering, just as when she stared at me from the Graco stroller with her curious brown eyes, her cheeks pulsing as she sucked her pacifier, and I had no idea what was on her mind.

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