2 Amputated Decades

2 Amputated Decades

There is not one human being in Israel who knew me before the age of 20. And that’s a bit of a weird reality to exist in. Because even though I was, in a certain sense, reborn when I arrived in Israel and became religious 19 years ago, the truth is that I did exist before then. I was a daughter, a sister, a friend, a student, etc. etc. etc.

It’s as though, when I boarded that plane to Eretz Hakodesh half a life-time ago, I deleted with a single keystroke the manuscript I has labored over for 20 years, day and night .

And the truth is that, for the past 19 Israeli years, those amputated years have not really bothered me so much. As you probably can tell, despite it’s challenging days and months and even years, I adore my Israeli, religious, JewishMOM life. But over these past months, for some reason, those forgotten years have started to sting a bit. Maybe because of the natural life-assessment that takes place as my fortieth birthday approaches. Maybe because, day by day, I’m watching my children grow up bigger and bigger and know that my own childhood, in a sense, disappeared– because of the life choices I’ve made.

I am writing this from my parents house in Baltimore where I am visiting for 10 days. Here, in this home, those lost 20 years are returned to me.

On the way back from the airport this morning I told my daughter with new excitement, “Over there, behind that big church, that was my school all the way until 12th grade. I’ll take you there one day.” “And there’s the corner where I waited every day for the 44 bus to take me home,” “And see over there? That was the home of my best friend, Susie, until she moved away and we lost touch.”

Sitting here now in my parent’s living room, I smell the sweet, familiar old-book musty-ness. I hear the creaking of wooden floors above me that were the musical accompaniment of my young footsteps. I walk quietly by the door to my sleeping parents’ room, and have the delicious realization for the tenth time today that in this home I am not just a wife and a daughter with the multitude of grown-up responsibilites those roles require: here, I am first and foremost my parents’ daughter.

After the pressured rush to clean my home for our subletters and then flying across several time zones with 2 children (the rest of my children are with Josh and his parents in Canada) I walked past the airport guards and saw my mother and father sitting there waiting for me. My mom took the stroller and my father said “Jenny, we need to take the elevator to level 2 where we parked…” and I felt the weight of the entire globe fall off my shoulders.

As we do every time I visit, my parents walk me around their yard to share their expanding collection of trees. “See that big red maple, this is the tree we planted when John started college, and that white pine is Miriam’s, and that Japanese maple over there is yours. Remember? We planted your maple right by that woodpecker tree where you kids had your tree house. And that butterfly bush over there is the one we planted when Hadas was born, and there’s Hallel’s dogwood tree…and Jenny, we planted another butterfly bush by mom’s office for Tsofia this past spring.”

The rest of the year I’m the one in charge. “Yoel, no spitting!” “Hadas, don’t forget your sweater” “Yes, Hallel, you can take 10 shekels to buy some glue.”

How sweet to spend ten days with the two people who held me in their arms and sang me songs until I fell asleep as a baby. Who cared for me when I was two years old and ten years old and sixteen years old and thirty-two years old. Who remember and treasure 20 years of memories and friends and summer jobs and the characters who filled my life– even better than I do.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com user Sazzy B.


  1. So beautiful. It’s great that you feel that way with your parents.

  2. How blessed you are to have such a warm, loving and also adult relationship with your parents and your past. Enjoy!

  3. At some time baalei teshuvah have to integrate their “now” selves and their “past” selves. We need to find those morsels of goodness that led to our teshuvah, most importantly our parents who shaped and molded us until we were ready to fly solo. It’s all a sign that we are becoming complete people.

  4. Your writeup is so refreshing, and dittos my feelings of nostalgia and “amputation” that you mention. I am raising a beautiful family here in Jerusalem, but every once in a while get that stinging feeling over what I left back in Baltimore(!) eleven years ago.

  5. It’s so true that sometimes we forget where we came from, when in reality it is what makes us who we are today! Whether someone has a negative past or not, we all disconnect ourselves from it in some form or another. It’s crucial to realize the importance of it while still pushing forward with our current lives as it helps us appreciate the the people as special as our very own parents! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  6. Wow.
    If only we can give to our children what your parents give to you… who could ask for more?

  7. I know exactly how you feel. We live in my husband’s home town, oceans away from where I grew up. He is always bumping into an old elementary school acquaintance, we visit his family home weekly and he is surrounded by the familiar places of his childhood. I will (almost certainly) never come across anyone I knew from before aged 22. And unlike you there is no longer a home back “home” to go back to with someone to mother me as a brief respite from all the mothering, although I so badly need it. But I was recently blessed with this years’ annual visit from my brother. When he is here and we go out together with the kids on fun trips I am only part a mother. Being with the person who was my closest companion for my entire childhood as well as witnessing my transition into my current life, my past life comes alive again and I feel somehow more like a whole person.

  8. Malka Pais

    Brought tears to my eyes.

  9. Now, that my parents are long gone and I have become the safta,I still long to go back to the days before I became X’s wife, and Y’s mother…Just want to be Z’s daughter

  10. Bs”d

    beautifully written! thanks for sharing!

  11. Just wondering why you chose the word “amputated” to describe your years in Israel. It seems negative. Not sure if that is what you were getting at. I have been in Israel for two and a half years and struggle with my decision everyday. I cry everyday for the life I had. I can’t seem to let go of the past and ask myself why I was so ready to leave in the first place? I haven’t been back to visit since making aliyah. It’s very depressing.

  12. Caroline Bass

    I loved this article. I love how you write, “the delicious realization for the tenth time today that…here, I am first and foremost my parents’ daughter.” Yes. You are their amazing daughter whom they love in the same way you love your children. I am lucky enough that 6 years after I left my home in NYC to move to Los Angeles, my parents and sister decided to pack up their bags (and house and life) and move out here too in order to be closer to me and their grandchildren. And everyday I feel so grateful to have them near me, to be able to let go of the mother/wife duties, if even for an hour when I visit their house, to just be their daughter and sit on the sofa while my mom makes me something to eat and worries after me the way I worry after my boys. I never take it for granted how special it is that I have my parents near me once again. Savor every minute at home in Baltimore, enjoy your memories of your childhood, and relax in the caring arms of your parents. In fact, take a nap while your parents look after your little ones. You deserve it!

    • caroline,that is so wonderful that your mom and sister moved out to LA. I dream that my parents will move to israel for at least part of the year…unlikely, but i can still dream! In the meantime, I’m loving this time in baltimore with them:)

  13. Oh, but it is so hard to reconcile the roles of mother and daughter. When I am home, I sink back into the couch and am completely disoriented by the sound of my children crying. My mother’s home is relaxation, lack of responsibility. But I can’t expect my mother to take over my role as well as hers!

    Does anyone else experience that?

  14. This was a poignant post, though I also wondered at the lashon you used, “amputated” really sounds rather violent.

    However, I can certainly relate to the feeling of life starting at a later point, and reconciling the past with the present, and indeed, the future.

    It sounds like you are having a lovely time with your parents, and that is a brachah, both for you and for your children to see this relationship with your parents. I hope you enjoy the rest of your trip. Who knows, maybe we’ll run into each other in 7 mile?

  15. This really moved me and brought a lump to my throat. To ND- I feel exactly like that when I am at my Moms house! It’s always a difficult transition to come home and become responsible for my household again.

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