I nestled the wine tumblers into my daughter’s car seat and actually used the seatbelt to ensure their safety. I stuck the bottle of wine into the back pocket of a seat in my minivan, where it took its incongruous place among random kid paraphernalia, and went on my way.
I had a few flashbacks as I went to meet my date as to how different things are when you’re doing this for the second time. I fought against the conventional ways of our frum dating system while in my twenties and I found myself trying to reinvent things once again.
I recall feeling awkward and unnatural in my younger years, as I walked down the stairs after my mother, meeting the guy I’d have to make believe I was amused by/ impressed with/ fascinated by/ for the next couple of hours, as he would try to catch glimpses of the football game playing on an oversized television screen in one of the identical airport hotels sprinkled along JFK.
It left me feeling all wrong. Dishonest with myself and with the guy sitting across from me in something way too dressy for a Tuesday night. Eventually, I decided that I no longer wanted to date the way throngs of frum young adults dated.
I didn’t want my parents making meaningless chitchat and offering a Perrier bottle I’m pretty sure was regularly polished and stayed sealed way past its expiration to some guy whose name I’d forget the minute I shut the door and came home.
I started meeting my dates in the city, where I worked. We’d go out to a Starbucks on a lunch break, we’d grab a quick dinner, and then catch a train back to Lawrence. Sometimes I’d get a ride home if we were having a good time and wanted to stay out longer.
Things were so much easier back when all I had to orchestrate was my own schedule and wardrobe before a date. That’s a far cry from my reality these days.
There’s a silent understanding between us as my phone screen displays my house number calling, again, and receiving a question from one of my children that definitely could have waited until I got home.
The content of the conversation is different now, too. We talk about our kids, our life story, ex-spouses or ones no longer here. We talk about what life has been like thus far. Sometimes the conversation is deep and substantive, and sometimes I’ll reveal my most effective way of removing stubborn food stains from my sons’ shirts (hint: Irish Spring soap bar).
I laugh inwardly, as I try to remember what I spoke about when I dated as a 20-year-old. I’m sure my dialogue was peppered with “Baruch Hashem” and “Im yirtzeh Hashem” way more than it is now.
I’m sure I spoke about me, me, me and all the exciting things I wanted to do. The places I wanted to go. The life I wanted to live. Now, it’s more like this: Sitting across from a man discussing how to successfully merge two families into a new blended one.
The splitting of the Red Sea sounds easier, which is where wine comes into the picture. At first, it was meeting him down the block and going to a park or the boardwalk, where I’d see a friend’s daughter, a child I could’ve birthed, walking on the other end of the beach, in stockings and shoes definitely not meant for the sand.
I’d shake my head and laugh because for a second I’d forget the dramedy of my life but then reality would come flooding back that I was standing with a man other than my husband on a boardwalk, discussing the intricacies of his custody agreement. Absurdity abounds.
I wonder if I’ll be lucky to get that same sort of clarity I had when I met Moshe. I wonder if the feeling will be logical and sensible or if it’ll be a matter of the heart. Or hopefully a little bit of both.
I try to keep that feeling fresh in my mind, so I could remember what it felt like to think you’ve known someone for years when, really, it was days or weeks.
When you get each other even when few words are spoken.
When being in their company feels like home.
When you look forward to seeing them.
When you turn around and realize that all the juggling, the davening, the parenting, the playing, the soul-searching, the soulmate searching finally yields some chemistry, some hope that you can laugh and love again.
But in the meantime, I’ve learned to take all these tumbling, joyful, intoxicating moments, strap them into the colorful tapestry of responsibilities and roles of my blessedly busy life, buckle up, and try to enjoy the ride.
Malkie’s husband, Moshe, a’h, passed away at the age of 40. She has been sharing her thoughts and emotions with readers on her Instagram page @Kissthekoshercook. We are privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family.