Once every year she packs a suitcase and leaves. Once every year she becomes young and restless once more, with no family, with no chores, not Mother-Of or Wife-Of, just her and the sea, and the waves, and the streets of her childhood and adulthood, and desert and valley and the Sea of Galilee and conversations deep into the night. Laugh lines on her face, her eyes bright once again, she traverses the land to the south and north, to east and west, endeavoring to use the time to its fullest. In summer she puts on her sandals and walks the shores of her childhood, remembering taut skin, insatiable curiosity, and the infectious joy of life. She walks the beach and asks herself where the bygone years have vanished to, gone by so swiftly. She never even stopped to check if she achieved her childhood dreams or just settled into her daily routine. Once a child herself she became a woman, married and bore sons, the epicenter of her universe, who fill her heart with kindness and infinite tenderness and powers she never suspected were hidden inside her, and now she boards a plane again, finds her seat, gazes through the window and eagerly awaits liftoff. The flight, she knows, will be ever so long, but it will lead her to the faraway youth she left behind all these years ago. As if having shed her skin, she now speaks (nearly) flawless English, and has adopted near-boundless tolerance, and a courteous smile, still struggling to create silence among the noises in her life.
A woman, fifty-two years old. She has recently discovered new creases in her neck, and creases spread too into her hands that held, loved, changed diapers, fed and caressed. She looks at her hands, remembering her aging mother, and her dear friend she had lost some years back, and thinks how kindly fate has smiled on her, to be fifty-two, healthy, with many years ahead to give and to love, to encourage and accompany, and she is a lucky woman – no more, no less.
The plane lifts off. She brings books with her on each flight, and always they remain untouched at her side. She cannot read on flights, but they are there to impart a homey feel, temporary though it might be. The flight attendant serves her champagne. She gazes outside upon soft clouds, the plane sours and she notes the endless sky above, radiant with the sun she misses in her everyday life. She raises the cup and whispers “cheers” and smiles to herself, only to herself, and leans back, having scurried all day, packing, organizing, making lists and giving final instructions to the cleaner and the gardener, and reminding her mate once and twice a doctor’s appointment and transportation schedules.
She adjusts the screen in front of her, already searching for a movie to take her to other worlds belonging to other people, and thinking of all the things she will do as soon as her feet touch the ground of the airport. She will grab her bag, check and double-check she did not forget to take her glasses, as on other times she had left them on the plane. She will bid the stewards farewell, thank them politely, and then her feet will touch the ground and she will think to herself that in all likelihood nothing has changed since the last time she visited. She’ll rush to collect her suitcase, to collect her rented car and drive alone, as always to the hotel on the seashore. On the way she will adjust the mirrors, the seat she had just sat on, and try not to think about her body’s exhaustion after such a long flight. She will turn on the radio and search for the same beloved old songs. She will drive in endless traffic. Avoiding talking on the phone, she will look out and see all she had left the last time she was here. Tel Aviv will once again be crowded, her drivers hot-headed, and she will pray not to be crushed from either side. She will allow an irate driver trying to cut her off to merge, offer her a sympathetic smile, and think she had probably had a long day and has many a chore still waiting at home. When she arrives at the hotel darkness will have set, and she’ll exit the car, and drag a heavy suitcase behind her. She will enter her room and immediately open the largest window she finds and look out at the sea. She will inhale its scent, listen to its waves and know she is home – finally home.