Last night, we had the most magical Sabbath Dinner to date on our journeys. Barbara and Mort opened their home by the river to us, and filled our stomachs and hearts with love. As we entered their home, every one of my senses were fired up and filled simultaneously. The smells of Sabbath chicken and challah, the rich pendulum of art and Jewish memorabilia, sounds of the river, and softness of their adorable dog Maggie rubbing against my leg. The children were just delicious as they passed out their drawings and gifts they prepared in honor of our hosts. All night, Barbara, Mort, and their special friend Ricardo as kind and gracious and interactive with Dahnya, Orazi, and Solai as grandparents, and a good uncle, would be.
In their slow-paced retired life in Northern Panama; they relish in trades that were once hobbies. Mort builds wooden furniture and teaches and sells homemade bread. (We’re excited to sign up for his baking tips and updates at his site) As you enter the home, on your left, you see this huge flat drawing table covered with paint-filled glass jars(wipeeh!) and other clues that an artist is about. Barbara paints on canvas and silk, creates colorful clay jewelryand mezuzahs [Jewish doorpost blessing holders].
I spent much of my evening just walking around in a daze. Not because Barbara, Mort, and Ricardo were not fascinating; not because the Shirley Temple movie Little Princess (which inspired me my year abroad to buy gifts for the group members on my birthday) was too loud; not because every bite of the food was anything less than marvelous. I walked around in a daze because I was mesmerized by how much creative expression was around me. Art, in every form, filled the air. Mort’s baking and building; Barbara’s paintings, jewelry, and cooking; talk of Ricardo’s inspirational guitar music and song.
I was mesmerized, and jealous. I asked Barbara how they managed to be so fully immersed in a life of creation.
“My kids are grown, I don’t work, and I am inspired by the beauty all around me”, she says.
Her words “My. Kids. Are. Grown.” clung in the air for a thick moment.
Gabi: Oh. You mean one day my kids will grow up and I’ll actually have time to pursue my hobbies and passions? I’ll really have that time?
Barbara: (smiling knowingly) Yes!
And then, it starts to churn. It does that from time to time. And though I desperately try to stop him, I can’t. I’d been debating for years now whether or not I want to have any more children. Let’s get pregnant while on the road; let’s have the baby when we return to Israel. Another child to give his older siblings a chance to care for and love another, without the need to compete. Another child to add more joy, more spice and beauty to our lovely Klaf nomadic tribe for the rest of children’s lives. Another child, or two, to enriches us, to allow us to be young parents again, but this time with ten years more experience, wisdom, and maturity. Yes, no, yes, no, yes, no.
And, last night at Barbara’s was one of the those very strong “no” moments. I says to me-self:
“No, Gabi, don’t you dare! Raise these three with all the love, patience, and wisdom you have; and be done with it. Raise these three, with the best you and Kobi have to give, and then leave room for you and Kobi, without kids”.
Our good friend Tal back home always said, “We don’t sacrifice anything in life. We simply decide. When we say “no” to one thing, we’re merely saying “yes” to something else”.
So today on the to-have-more-children-or-not debate table, I say “no” to having more kids, and “yes” to having more of us. I say “yes” to leaving room for me and Kobi to travel the world, without kids, to take classes and pursue passions. I say “yes” to getting up, going to bed, and napping; to investing in ourselves and our souls, and our undeveloped creative genius. I say “yes” to raising the child within me, that child who wants time and attention, love and patience, and the permission to spread her wings.
Ever since we’ve started this marvelous, nomadic family, around-the-world adventure with our children, I have felt unbelievably blessed. I have felt honored to have this time with my children- to get to know them, to influence them, to go through magnificent adventures together which have bonded and enriched us. I have also felt that I want to do it again, someday, with just Kobi. I want to have five hours a day to write; I want us to take Latin dance classes together and go dancing at nights; I want to do those really hard mountain treks in which we talk for hours on end without interruption; I want to feel the freedom I feel while traveling the world today, without the obligation to be responsible, and patient, and give to the very legitimate needs of three beautiful, growing children.
So, Barbara and Mort, thank you. Thank you for feeding our stomachs and souls with the delicious flavor of what could be. Thank for reaching out to our family with such love. Thank you for giving a point to the no-more-children side occasionally surfacing in my thoughts. And above all, thank you for inadvertently inspiring my right to ‘say yes to something else’.
Orazi made a picture for Barbara and Mort
Barbara’s painting on silk
Barbara arranges the beautiful flowers from Ricardo
Orazi plays with sweet, sweet Maggie
Shabbath Wine Goblet
Solai gift to Barbara. She bought the flowers for $1 from her own money
The ladies arranging the table with all the new handmade gifts
Mort and Barbara bless the Shabbath challah
Isn’t this the prettiest challah?
Orazi decorates Ricardo with a playdough mask
Solai and sweet, sweet Maggie
Saying goodnight (took forever cuz the kids didn’t want to go!)
Mort’s breads. Dear God I would be a blimp if I lived with them!