Note: This article was written on Friday, December 7th, 2012.
Normal is that status where life just is. Normal is when you don’t hear sirens in your head, listen for ambulances, imagine the phone ringing. When your country is at war, when your son is a soldier, when you have friends and family living in areas where rockets are falling, you crave normal to a level that I doubt most normal people can understand.
There are so many things that aren’t normal about life here. Having a pile of gas masks in a corner of the room isn’t normal. Buying 12 bottles of water to take to your son’s unit isn’t normal and when you end up not delivering them so they are in your house – normal would be to drink them. Not normal is to take six of them and put them in a room that has been specially built to withstand missiles and explosions.
No, having a bomb shelter in your home isn’t normal either.
Normal is a day like today – and they come so rarely here. The sun is shining. The sweet challah dough is rising on the counter. I made a blueberry pie and soon I’ll be making a spinach/broccoli casserole and a carrot casserole. That’s normal. The soup is boiling on the stove and the house is filled with the scent of that and the finished chicken cooling on the table.
Tonight my daughter and her husband and baby will be staying over – Elie and Lauren will come over, along with Lauren’s cousin, who is a soldier. Technically, he’s a lone soldier because his parents live in the States, but he’s got Lauren, who is as close as any sister could be; he’s got an adopted family near Jerusalem, another nearer to the center of the company.
Davidi is home this weekend, though right now he’s taking a shift on the ambulance squad. Chanukah is coming Saturday night – we’ll light the first candle.
I’ll make the potato pancakes my mother-in-law taught me to make. We’ll sit around and talk and be a family and somewhere in all that normal, I’ll push away the thought that we have to work so hard to reach normal, it just isn’t normal.
Aliza told me that when the siren went off, she cried. The children went running to shelter and she was frightened. I don’t remember what we were talking about, why she mentioned it but we all have this poison inside ourselves that we have to release.
On Sunday, I’m going with a group of women to Netivot. It’s a closed group from all over Israel and we share our mornings and our thoughts and meet a few times a year. I missed the last meeting, decided I really wanted to go to this one and so we are stealing a day and traveling to Netivot, so close to Gaza. There, we’ll go shopping to help the local community.
I don’t know what I’ll buy – I don’t usually go shopping on Sundays…I’ll find something. I’ll go there to that beautiful city and I’ll buy something and most of all, I’ll crave normal. I won’t listen for a siren or an announcement that there’s an incoming missile.
It’s too soon, anyway. The Arabs still have what to get from this short period of quiet. They are sitting back and letting the world condemn Israel for whatever the latest complaint is about. That’s okay – that’s kind of normal too. What would a week be without some nation somewhere finding fault in what we do – ignoring all that others do?
Syria is about to fire chemical weapons at its own people; Egypt is hounding demonstrators in the street. There is unease in so many places – perhaps, perhaps I’m wrong and Israel is the most normal country in the world.
At least we find islands of peace each week; at least we find ways to simulate normal. Yes, I have a bomb shelter in my house – but it’s also got a bed in there and an extra freezer, some bookshelves, tons of books. It looks like a normal room – it’s even painted pink. The only sign that it isn’t a normal room comes from the door as you enter, and the second metal window outside.
I haven’t managed to open the metal yet. Elie and his father quickly ran to slam it closed when the first siren went off and it has been closed since then. Maybe I’ll know normal is back when one of us opens those metal shutters?
Tonight, I’ll light the Shabbat candles; tomorrow we’ll begin lighting the Chanukah candles. I guess that is the normal that is Israel.
Visit A Soldier’s Mother.
Paula R. Stern