By Malkie Hirsch
As we sat down for dinner tonight, the six of us eating and chitchatting about various topics, a thought of doing this family thing by ourselves without any outside influences or distractions brought me back to the very first day I spent at home with my eldest son, Dovid.
It’s always the moments in your past that define you as a person, a parent, or professional that remain the most vivid. The scene I’m about to describe is a moment that came to mind as I sat with my children, doing something we do all the time, but tonight, for some reason, it stood out as a profound moment I likely won’t forget.
In the early summer months of 2007, I remember Moshe handing me a newborn baby Dovid he had just cared for in the early hours of his first workday and I recall my feeling of panic as he turned to leave the room and start his commute to work.
“Wait!” I said as he walked out the door. “You’re going to leave me here with him all day?! What if he cries and I have no idea what to do? I’m not ready for this…”
Moshe laughed and told me that he had the utmost confidence in me as a new mom and that some things are just innate.
He didn’t hesitate as he left the room. “Feed, burp, diaper, sleep. He’s a baby—those are the basics and then we explore other possibilities if those are covered and he still seems unhappy.”
This was precisely why Moshe was a natural leader in all aspects of life—he was able to break things down in a comprehensive way, and I repeated the checklist of this new baby’s basic needs in my head, waiting for the time when I’d have to take action and become a mom suddenly, even though I was sort of shocked when the hospital handed me this pink-faced mini-Moshe lookalike swaddled in a hospital blanket and told me that I was free to return home and raise him into adulthood.
In last week’s parashah, the original Moshe found himself in a similar situation (OK, totally larger scale, but stick with my metaphor, please.) He’s taking care of some sheep, minding his own business, and G-d tells him, “I’m entrusting you with my babies.”
Moshe’s like, “What? Me? Who am I? I can’t do this. I can barely talk!”
And G-d just burned the bush without burning the bush, and patiently explained, “Moshe—you got this, I’ll be with you. Even when it looks like I’m not. I’ll be with you and I’ll be with them.”
Eventually, Moshe has little choice but to walk toward his scary but world-altering destiny.
I definitely had my share of new mom faux pas that I probably shouldn’t repeat. I once was intent on cutting his tiny newborn baby nails and waited till he was asleep to complete the task. He was fed and changed (and I had showered!) and as he drifted off to sleep, I took his finger and cut his nail. And the nail clipper took the skin on that nail and then I proceeded to call Moshe, hysterically crying that his fingers were now uneven because I took most of the top off of one finger with the long fingernail.
Another time, Dovid was on the bed next to me. As he became more mobile, he’d throw his body to the right and the left, and the next thing I knew, Dovid was on the floor, having fallen from my bed.
I grabbed him, and I called Moshe, crying. He asked me where I was as he fell (literally right next to him) and what I was doing as he fell (pretty sure I was sleeping upright). He instructed me to call the doctor but calmed me down and reassured me that all would be fine.
There were a few more moments of my personal first-time parenting that I’m sure sound identical to the experiences of many others who have felt like they were winging it when it came to childrearing, but I’m proud to say that I and the five kids I’ve raised thus far have gotten through the trials and tribulations life can tend to throw in our direction, and we’re stronger and better from it.
I miss being able to call Moshe for the most mundane issues throughout the day and even hearing the predictable, “I don’t know what you want me to do—I’m at work” response. It would be better than the sounds of silence I’ve become used to.
The feeling of everything pertaining to the care of my children landing squarely on my shoulders is not something I enjoy at all. Even though it kind of did before, Moshe had a way of bolstering me that I relied on emotionally.
I still have his number in my phone and sometimes stare down at it and wonder what he’d say if I asked him for advice on the latest issue.
I miss that sounding board, that person who always supported me and the kids, even when he was rarely around during the week. We always felt his presence and always followed his input and took cues from his suggestions.
Tonight, as we sat around the table, I imagined Moshe walking into the kitchen, nearly two years after he left one random day, and how proud he’d be listening to the normal conversations among his growing boys.
Talk of their fantasy leagues, the sports games they were looking forward to watching this week, goings-on in school, and looking forward to winter break.
I sat next to them as I ate my dinner, quietly observing and reflecting on the time when Moshe handed me our first baby and the other babies that followed as the years progressed.
He’d hand the babies to me, entrusting and having complete faith, before turning around and walking out the door. He always returned that night, until the day that he didn’t.
His confidence in me carries me through the times in life when I’ve second-guessed myself, but I do know that my desire to make him proud overrides any feelings of inadequacy.
I always turned to him for strength and encouragement. I didn’t even realize at the time how important his answers were, how long I’d need them to last: “Malkie—you got this, I’ll be with you. Even when it looks like I’m not. I’ll be with you and I’ll be with them.”
He knew what I was capable of before I did. Handing those babies to me, one last time. Leaving before the babies were fully grown but knowing I’d do whatever it takes to do right by them.
And for that, I’ll always be grateful.
Malkie’s husband, Moshe, a’h, passed away at the age of just 40. She has been sharing her thoughts and emotions with readers on her Instagram page @Kissthekoshercook. We are now privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family. Read more of Malkie’s articles here