One of the arguments I’ve heard from people who choose not to become a parent is that: the eventual and inevitable parting with the being that you worked so hard to raise is not worth the pain that accompanies a child’s “leaving the nest.” Although I am not yet a parent, I did leave my own parents, and I know that their happiness for me for having chosen to make Aliyah is mired by loneliness, and hindered by concern.
The hardest thing about making Aliyah is missing the small and large encounters and milestones that occur in families. The eight hour time difference between Minnesota and Israel makes it very difficult to feel as though you are participating, real time, in anything; although Whatsaap groups definitely make transcontinental and transatlantic differences seem much shorter. It’s not just the graduations and celebrations that you can no longer attend; it’s having breakfast with your Mom, or running to the mall with your Grandmother, or having a late-night conversation with your Dad. Every time I see my parents, I see the passage of time in the lines on their faces and circles under their eyes, and I know that for much of their aging, I am responsible.
I met Amichai through my bubbe’s friend’s son. He called to tell me that he thought I should go out with his wife’s nephew. Go figure. I was skeptical, to be honest, but I figured all I had to lose was four hours of a Thursday night. Everyone wants to find their other half. No one will say that they enjoy the dating process, especially when it seems to be going nowhere. The first time I saw Amichai, I decided that I liked him enough to go on a second date and I hoped that he did too. We sat for a few hours and the next day he called. At the end of our conversation I sent him a message saying that since he didn’t ask me out again, I was going to break tradition. He said he thought it was implied.
Amichai and I dated for close to three months. He speaks Hebrew and I speak English, and when we have a hard time understanding a word or two, we use Google translate. We come from totally different backgrounds: he’s native Israeli and Sephardic, the chanting at his Synagogue sounds like the Arabic Muezzins, and he eats foods that are heavily mixed with hot peppers. He’s studying building engineering. I’m hoping he’ll build a nursing home for the elderly people whom I’ll take care of. We basically have nothing visibly in common, but we have the same goals, values and hearts. And if I weren’t going to marry him, I would for sure choose him to be my friend. We have external differences, but I believe that we get along because of them, not despite. We have to work hard at communicating. If we’re only half listening, we won’t hear and we definitely will not understand each other.
After hours and hours of investing in a relationship in which we both saw potential, Amichai, with the help of two loyal friends, asked me to marry him overlooking the Jerusalem skyline at sunset. I told him it was a dumb question but he insisted that I say yes, so I did. Obviously.
I have been welcomed into Amichai’s family and I have met many of his friends. He has yet to meet my parents. The only member of my family who he has met is my brother, who is on a year course program in Jerusalem.
I have done a lot on my own in Israel but I have never before planned my own wedding. As I write this article, I wait in anticipation for my parents to arrive this week so that they can meet Amichai and his family. I planned a day to go with my mom to look at wedding dresses. I want her to be a part of this special time in my life, even if it’s just a few hours.
We just celebrated Mother’s Day, which, while it’s often called a Hallmark card holiday, I think it’s a great excuse to recognize all the women in our lives who take on motherly roles. No one replaces an actual mother, of course, but so many can gently take her place. Since we have gotten engaged, many “surrogate moms” have offered me their advice, assistance and time. In Israel, I’m without my Mom but I am not motherless.
I am so thankful that I am my mother’s daughter. I want her to know that the umbilical cord is never severed; that while I will, from now on, spend more Shabbatot and occasions with Amichai’s family, my Mom will always, always be with me in my heart and in my prayers.