I wonder what it will be like to not put her to bed for two straight weeks. I worry about what that will do to our relationship but I have to keep it all in perspective. I need money, I was offered a job. I'm doing what I have to do and these two plus years at home have to count for something.
I want to travel back to a wonderful day in Israel. After a week in Ramat Bet Shemesh, I felt pretty trapped. I think I started to have a bit of a nervous breakdown. It really started to hit me how gone my friends are, how little I'll see them from now on. I had also put down a security deposit on an apartment and here I was in a foreign country, pretending all was well with C. I felt incredibly guilty. We'd been staying in a city where women covered themselves from head to toe by choice! I heard more Hebrew than English. Our first bus experience didn't make me confident about traveling alone.
On Monday, three days after C arrived, he rented a car. We'd planned to head to Masada that day but by the time he'd picked up the car and we found a map, it was well after noon. We chose to head into Tel Aviv, about 45 minutes away. I can't say I was excited about visiting the city. I wanted to see history, not a city that sounded like Miami in the guidebook.
The Mediterranean Sea is more beautiful then I realized. While Tel Aviv certainly felt like Miami, the Med cast it's spell. Still I felt discombobulated. Though I pretended to be in a better mood, I felt very depressed. As we climbed the hill into Jaffa, the historic port adjacent to Tel Aviv, the Sea and the landscape was overwhelmingly gorgeous.
We parked the car and posed for the obligatory photos in front of a stone wall that overlooked the Mediterranean. The water was a clear and aqua blue. Eliza saw the water and begged to go swimming. We'd packed swimsuits and towels and made for the beach.
C chattered cheerfully as we walked down to the shore. I smiled, nodded, went through the motions. Eliza wiggled and screeched as I spackled her with sunscreen. We passed a cafe/bar on the water that looked incredibly inviting. I longed to sit there with a glass of wine and watch the world go by. Eliza rushed ahead, reminding me that such places are no longer possible.
I changed Eliza into her swimsuit on the beach. C changed hidden by a stack of towels. He and Eliza ran for the water but it was too cold and Eliza quickly rushed in the other direction. He wanted to swim and left me to chase her up and down the steps of an abandoned lifeguard station.
I didn't feel like being on the beach, no matter how gorgeous it was. I was stuck in a foreign place with no ability to find my way out of the situation alone. C said that I'm the sort of person who is easily overwhelmed once I step out of my comfort zone. That's true in a way but I went to Italy by myself a number of times and greatly enjoyed the experience.
I am fiercely independent. Strip me of the ability to rely completely on myself and I'm lost. I'd even managed to travel to a foreign country, rent an apartment and live alone. Yes, I had a friend there to pick me up at the airport, to take me to the grocery store but ultimately, I could have stayed indefinitely in Ramat Bet Shemesh with Eliza. I felt trapped because of the lack of transportation but I'd managed to enjoy the time we'd had alone together.
But I couldn't be adventurous with her. I couldn't sit at cafes and write for hours. I couldn't spend two hours on a bus to the Dead Sea. I was sitting on a beach, totally dependent on some one else to provide me with a ride home. I didn't even have a cell phone should C and I some how get separated.
And while he swam, I was stuck chasing Eliza up and down a set of rickety steps. I wanted to put on my swimsuit and jump into the Sea.
I looked at Eliza, and thought "I don't want to be a mother anymore."
C returned from the Sea and took Eliza on a walk along the shore. I sat in the sand and watched them walk away, thinking how much I'd like to go home alone. I wondered if I even loved her anymore. All I wanted in those moments was my freedom. I didn't want to be dependent anymore. I wanted to be completely reliant on me.
Slowly they returned and as they approached I snapped photos. I will post them later, these lovely photos of Eliza in her pink swimsuit, walking towards me with blue sky behind her head. She smiled with a smile I hadn't seen before.
"Mama," she said and held out her hand. I opened my palm and she softly pressed down a handful of shells. Her little fingers wrapped around mine.
I looked at the shells in my hand. They were small, nondescript, white. Utterly unremarkable. Eliza smiled at me proudly and pressed her head against my chest. Her hair was damp and I hugged her. She looked at me again, smiling and seemingly waiting for something.
"Oh they're so beautiful!" I raved. "You found such beautiful shells! Eliza, these are wonderful!"
Little kids and shells, I thought. They collect them and think they're getting something special when shells are just as common as seagulls. Shells sit in small boxes on dresser tops and fill up drawers for years, forgotten after only a few days. Once you visit beaches on a regular basis, you learn there's nothing special about shells at all.
Eliza grinned, overjoyed by my false enthusiasm. She ran back to her father and said, "Mama likes them, Daddy. Mama likes the shells."
Only then did I realize, Eliza had given me the shells as a gift. I'd thought she'd handed them to me to show me what she'd found. I hadn't realized that her little mind would want to gift me with something. Something small and round and white and beautiful. Imagine how beautiful shells are to a child. Imagine that child collecting them so she could give them to her Mama.
I snapped back to life in that moment, amazed by the thoughtfulness and generosity exhibited by my wonderful daughter. I wondered how I could have created such a magical child. The rest of the day was perfect.
I wish I could say the rest of the trip went well but it didn't. I think I lost it completely on Tuesday night. Again it boils down to everything that was going through my mind: the fear of being in a country that feels a little unstable, the bad food, the uniformity of the people in the town we stayed in, the lack of ability to get around the country by myself.
The joy of spending time with Meredith and her family again. When would we all be together again?
But not once during the trip did I feel I didn't want to be a mother again. I still have those shells in a pocket of the diaper bag I took to Israel. I take them out and touch them from time to time. I will keep them and treasure them. I will never forget where they came from and the happy little girl who presented them to me, with a look of overwhelming pride.