Every week you miss the strawberries; the strawberry guy’s truck is still there by the time you haphazardly show up after two, but there’s only apples, small melons, maybe some citrus left. Oh well next time, you smile at your teen who you’ve once again asked/requested/implored to jump out the car to inquire about longshot leftover תותים.
This week you get some fresh intel – the strawberry guy is showing up at 12. You drive past and he’s not there, so you move on to your next errands – gas, the vet. You’re not surprised when a random song you haven’t heard in a long time pops into your head on the way back from the gas station. As you pull it up on Spotify, you’re also not surprised that before it’s even rolled into first chorus, you’re feeling the heaviness behind your eyes, and you heart hurts, and it has nothing to do with the song at all, the song is about impressing a woman with money and fame, and you know you’re going to give in, and you do, and as tears aggressively roll down your cheeks, you know you have no choice but to be in this moment.
Parenting in wartime – even with a roof over your head, even when your kids are unharmed – is draining. We go to work, we drop off at school, we make appointments, we pick up groceries. We answer questions, we dance through a minefield of answers, we take a second after our elementary school kid makes another comment that marks another papercut slice on your aching heart.
We have to bury our own anxiety in a reservoir of badness until it’s going to overflow, and then when you anticipate it, you have to find a reason to not be around them. We have to be stable, secure. We have to offer structure and hope.
The overflow comes in many recognizable forms:
- Frustration with a helping of wild aimless yelling is certainly one unclever form.
- Shiftlessness, indecisiveness – circling around dinner, what time to leave, how to approach end-of-day cleanup.
- Drowning out life with immersive audio/visual stimulation, on louder volume than usual, noise canceling headphones and endless episode lists preferred.
- Overwhelm, submitting to the tears because the reservoir can’t hold another drop – perhaps the most discomforting. No one wants to see their mother or father cry.
So you keep driving to the next to-do, and you feel the reservoir take back its empty space. You can feel the smooth surface of the walls unveiling as the water recedes, you can sense the cement bottom under the murkiest, deepest of these waters.
Through glassy eyes, you make a left to return to the pickup point. You drive past just as he’s parallel parking onto the sidewalk. You line up behind a handful of other mothers who were anticipating strawberry guy. They look like regulars. One of them is a previous neighbor, and she is positively beaming.
“Oh, they’re going to be so happy.”
“Yes,” I beam back.
It’s the most sordid of human flaws that sets into the motion the horrors erupting around us. To undo it all, you’d need the most complex and intricate of remedies.
But today, all I want is to share some strawberries. Fresh air in the form of fruit. Buried under headline after headline, poster after poster, commentary after commentary, the papercuts become infested wounds and the reservoir becomes ineffective. All we can hope for through glassy eyes is to taste a future even the tiniest bit sweet.