Oof! This is my
expletive. My husband will remind me that there have been others in my
repertoire that have elicited our alarm and amusement when subsequently pronounced
by resident preschooler and kindergartner. But Oof will effectively express my exasperation. Most of the time.
Oof! to punctuate
the seventeenth time I’ve told them to get their shoes on and wait by the door.

Oof!  when I’m carrying five grocery bags, two knapsacks, socks,
sweatshirts, keys, and a stuffie, and one kid pronounces that s/he’s too tired
to walk and needs to be carried; and the other chimes in.
I will venture
that Murphy, famed creator of unassailable laws, was a mom. Volcano and play-dough
(from scratch!) – making projects are creatively conjured on the singular days
that I’ve set aside for organizing.
Oof! I shout as
the water, flour, and food coloring mixture spills over. 
“Gozal!”: the kids’
joint response darts back at me. And stuns me, surprises me, delights me. [Oof (אוף!) in Hebrew, spelled differently, is also the imperative
form of the verb ‘to fly’. There is a song; a wonderful, simple, evocative Israeli
song called Oof Gozal (עוף גוזל) – “Fly Little
Suckling” — about the choked up experience of letting go as one’s young ones leave
the nest.] 
With a play on semantics, with a dose of humor, a measure of the
unexpected, my perspective has shifted. I am smiling.
Suddenly the
exhausting phase, it seems, has been
exhausted, and a dazzling moment sets
With the shift in perspective, time’s ephemeral nature sinks in, and a
flitting inkling congeals.
Later at
night: “Come here, give me some five year old hugs, soon you’ll be six
already!” I say to my first-grader, as he lies restively in bed. “I only want
to grow until my Bar Mitzvah”, he counters, sullenly.
Right. I’ve
heard it before. The reasoning is clear. Sebastian doesn’t want to grow up
because then he’ll die. So what if he’s got many good years to live, he doesn’t
want to die at age 100 either. He doesn’t want to not be able to breathe.
I start to utter
a few words about peacefulness and a long life while internally beckoning the
spirit of motherhood wherever she may be, to instruct me with the “right answers”.
 “But what about after 2 weeks of
being dead I’ll want to come back to life?” Sebastian pitches. Um. I gulp and
furrow my brows. I take in a long inhalation to mask the tangled and hesitant feelings
scrambling inside. And then I start: well, your spirit will always be with us
because people will remember you and talk about you like we talk about – HERZL!
— he pipes in (Theodor Herzl: father of modern political Zionism and visionary
of the Jewish state, a figure S knows well from a Hebrew children’s musical DVD
narrating the history of the State). Why yes, Herzl. Safta (my grandmother) was what I was going to say; the spirit we
evoke when we eat ice cream for dinner. But just as well. 
[Certainly, there’s a
link between the political Zionist figure of the late 19th century
and the vivacious pioneering woman who lived and breathed Zionism in the early
20th century.]
However, the
direction I was forging was upended and Sebastian simply declared: “Well when I
die I want you to sing to me the song that Collins sings to Angel.” OOOOOHHH LOVER I’LL COVER YOU!! That was
that: end of discussion. I could exhale. As I leaned over my child and started softly
singing “five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes”, he corrected
me: “not minutes, kisses.” And I ached to cover him with them. 525,600 of them. 
Liliana inhabits
another plane; she wants to reach the ripe age of 97 like her imaginary “big sister”. 
“When is it
gonna be my birthday?” “I want to go to Mexico!” In another three months. We
will. My dismissive replies beget the typical moan: “but it takes a long time.”
And she’s right. It does take a — long — time. Especially since we have no
plans, funds, or vacation time to go to Mexico.
I feel like I teeter
between halting time and hustling it along. Mexico would be so nice.
But while the
anticipation (for birthdays and Mexico) is grand, playing “school” in her
bedroom or eating watermelon will yield a “best day ever!” exclamation. That’s
the thing about this three and a half year old. “Everything” goes. When asked
what she wants or likes, it’s “everything”; when poised with a choice, it’s
“all of them.” There’s a sense of expansiveness there that’s freeing, that
encompasses the what might be (the ubiquitous “I want you to buy me this for my
birthday”) and the what is (watermelon juice trickling down the chin).

Just the other
day, while dropping Liliana off at daycare and settling into the sofa by the
window for our morning story-time parting routine, I instructed her to go
choose a book. She returned with Robert Munsch’s Love You Forever and sidled up next to me. 
I began reading… and
sobbing. When my girl turned to me with a puzzled chortle asking why I was
crying I answered because it’s beautiful. She instructed me that if it’s
beautiful I need to smile. Like this. 
And I did.
Time does its
own thing. We want it to soar, to float, and to stand still, at turns. But it
just marches. Onwards.

It often feels
like the moments flit and the phases linger. But I think it’s the other way
around. The phases flit and the moments linger. It is the moments that we
Like a story time snuggle; a glance at a sleeping child; a shout (oof!) that collapses into a laugh.  Like the lyrics to a good song, or the
words in a good book; that elicit the tears, time and time, again.