Wednesday, November 15, 2017


It was Saturday night. My son's laundry was sweet and clean, dry, and folded into a neat, solid square pile on the sofa. On top of this pile was a plastic ice cream container, repurposed, and filled with fresh-baked Toll House cookies, the hot, buttery aroma of which still lingered in the air. I remarked to my husband that I felt good: I'd done everything possible to take care of my son, to pamper him and give him a nice break from the hard work of soldiering.

There is satisfaction in that, I said to my husband, and it is felt on more than one level. I'd done my duty as a mother, been good to my child. But I'd also done whatever I could for an IDF soldier. We do love our soldiers, here in Israel. And when you help them, you're helping your country.

That was the heart of the thing: a love of sons, and a love of country, expressed in the most practical of terms.

How lucky am I, to be a mother of sons who serve my beloved country? I get to spoil IDF soldiers.

I get to spoil my sons.

Already on Wednesday, my son had written to ask if I'd make apple pies for Shabbos. I'd done that and more. I made fresh tehina sauce and roasted garlic for him to have with homemade sourdough challah. I prepared his favorite sweet and sour brisket and my famous mashed potatoes.

In between cooking tasks I got right down on the floor with his dirty laundry, to pretreat and make sure nothing important was left behind in his pockets. This might have been a disgusting task to someone else, but to me, it was an honor, the clothes having been anointed with the sweat of an IDF soldier. Soldier stench is an honest stench. Especially when that soldier is one who defends Eretz HaKodesh, the Holy Land.

When our soldier sons have leave, we, my husband and I, are doing everything we can to give them a break from the stress, to help them in any way possible. One week, my son came home after a grueling hike of many kilometers. He limped into the house. He had chafe. His feet were covered with blisters.

Not knowing what else to do, I took my prized bottle of Aveeno bath soap from America, and made a little foot bath for him. "Wow. That smells so good. What is that?" and then nothing more after that except a moan of pleasure that escaped his lips as his feet sank into the hot and foamy scented water. His enjoyment of this small gesture suffused my own heart with joy.

There is nothing I wouldn't do for him, or for my other boys in their service.

My husband, meantime, does what he can to give them rides to and from the Central Bus Station, quite a distance from our home. Yes. They could take the bus home. But they are tired, the boys. And they are carrying packs that are incredibly heavy. It's a backbreaking weight. And we Epsteins are kind of small.

The truth is that while Dov can ill afford the time away from work, not to mention the extra burden at the end of a hard week, those rides are important. The boys and Dov have come to call this time "road trip." They connect, father and sons. It's good for Dov and good for the boys. They talk army.

The boys know their father was in the army too, once upon a time. They feel comfortable talking with him about operations and army tactics. It's like a debriefing for them. And Dov gets to learn new tidbits from the seemingly bottomless well of IDF acronyms.

Aside from the road trips and guy time,  Dov tries to put aside spending money for them to take back with them, too, though the boys receive a small salary for their services. We don't want them to spend their money. We want them to save it for after the army, if they can. Money is tight with us, but we do the most we can to help them.

Weeks the boys don't come home, we miss them so. It's lonely and too quiet without them. We miss their goofing around, their hilarious impressions of celebrities. We wish they hadn't volunteered to stay on base over Shabbos.

At the same time, we're proud they went the extra mile, volunteering to do more than their share for their country. We worry about them. We scour the news and try to calculate the distance from where we know they are situated, to trouble spots making the news.

One has just finished serving, one is still in, and the third goes in next year.
You never think that your tender newborn baby is going to grow up to be a soldier. And when it happens, you find your love for them fair explodes in your heart. They look so handsome in their uniforms, raised on the soil of Eretz Yisroel, tanned, fit, and strong in olive green.

You want them to be safe.

And there really isn't anything you wouldn't do for them.



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