"T his is so beautiful.”

She’s curled up across from us, on the brown leather couch parallel to the one on which we sit. Her big blue eyes sparkle with something I faintly recognize from a long-ago time: idealism, expansiveness, taking in everything and nothing.

“What?” Instead of allowing myself to be vulnerable, I recede quickly behind a shield of humor and cynicism. “You must be referring to my daughter’s dress!” I assert, because no way, no way, can she be referring to This.

Because, actually, the girl — that’s really all she is, a girl dressed in a woman’s clothes, an 18-year-old who thinks she’s mature enough to make decisions for the rest of her life — is indeed referring to This. The post-hadlakas neiros calm, which has inexplicably descended upon my home.

“No,” she says, laughing, “although the dress is quite cute.”

“Yeah,” I add, frantically clutching the bait, desperate, wanting to keep the laughter and self-deprecation as a mode of defense, “I guess beautiful is a pretty extreme adjective to use!” But, please, please, please — don’t describe my Life as beautiful!

And then she shatters the mirage I cling to: “This. Your home, your family. It’s so beautiful.” She is misty-eyed, and I see that familiar flash I may have seen in myself ten years ago (only ten years? It feels like yesterday and ancient history all at once) while looking in the mirror.

I am sandwiched between my two, usually incredibly wild, boys, ages four and two. They are almost angelic at the moment; what the girl doesn’t know is that in a matter of minutes they will be tearing through my home, riding like madmen on their tricycles, sitting on their baby sister until she can barely breathe.

This is beautiful?

When my children manage to synchronize their screams, until I almost join the chorus, and I feel the adrenaline in my veins racing toward a Mommy-meltdown... Is that beautiful? Should I tell her that most Friday nights, we start with a book on the couch, which inevitably leads to a fight between the children over which book to read, which ends up with one pulling the other’s hair, so ultimately, I drop the entire plan and head out to the nearby park, dragging three children behind me because I feel I truly. Can’t. Handle. Them.

This is beautiful?

I can sense she’s enamored of our kollel lifestyle, about the simplicity, about the inner happiness that radiates from our home. So perhaps I should disillusion her, let her know that just a few short nights ago, just a few short feet away (because, yes, our Yerushalayim apartment is small), I dissolved into tears on our kitchen table, heaves wracking my body as I cried to my husband that I felt the burden of parnassah was just too much for my narrow shoulders to bear. That I hated counting shekels, hated feeling like I was always depriving myself, hated putting in long hours at work, hated that I even signed up for this.... This is beautiful? (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 578)