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Danita and Michel Aziza


by Danita Aziza, March 30, 2011

As Benji’s draft date is now merely days away, images of my Grandma Bea keep popping into my memory.  Gram, as I always called her, never wanted me to live in Toronto.  It was just too big and too dangerous, she would always tell me.  Moose Jaw, the sleepy little prairie town where she lived for so many years and where I was born, was her idea of an ideal place to live and to raise children.

So, I wonder, how would Gram feel about her great grandson living in Israel and about to enter the IDF and more importantly, what would she have to say to me, the mother.  I can’t imagine quite frankly, but I do hope that she’s taken a short reprieve from looking down on me right now, because I have no doubt she would not be pleased.

At the same time that I’m thinking of Gram and trying to grapple with my conflicting emotions, I pull out from the shelf, a book that I took from my parents' bookshelf years ago.  Ironically it is the book, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, the Lebanese philosopher, artist and poet whose writing about children I have always remembered by heart for whatever reason.

“Your Children are not your children, they are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.  They come through you, but not from you, and though they are with you, they belong not to you.  You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts.  You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.  You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.  For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”

I’m not sure how it is the at this juncture when I feel that my role as a parent, my Zionistic ideals, my own personality and character is being stretched, my Grandma Bea and Kahlil Gibran are figuring so prominently in my thoughts.  Perhaps it is that my Gram was one of the wisest people I have known.  She was smart and sophisticated on the one hand yet was a simple woman who believed the best way to see the world and have new experiences was through reading books taken out from the local Moose Jaw Public library. In my earlier years I though her advice archaic and overly protective, but as I’ve aged, I’ve learned to appreciate her wisdom more and more .She would be thinking, I have no doubt, that I was very wrong to bring my family here to leave the quiet and peacefulness of the prairies. And now look what I’ve done, Benji’s going into the Israeli army. 

Gibran’s words, on quite the other hand, allow me the comfort of knowing that my son’s choice to make Aliyah and serve the Country was part and parcel of the values and ideas he was raised with in our home, but a part of the evolution of children stretching beyond their parents in a physical, mental and emotional sense.  True, Michel and I laid the foundation, but clearly, Benji was the one to make the decision and now must go beyond and pursue something that we, as his parents, have absolutely no experience with.  It is scary and unnerving that’s for certain, but taken in the context of Gibran’s writing, is part of the natural progression of life, of relationships of children reaching beyond their parent’s capacity.

There is definitely a different spirit in our home these days.  In some ways it feels like Benji is getting ready to go to camp.  He and Michel went yesterday to Ra’annana to go and purchase the list of things that the army says he needs to bring with him.  I smirked when I saw the list written in Hebrew and thought about packing my camp duffle bag for the first time in 1970 and checking off the items and making sure that I had the exact number of socks on the list. The socks that he brought home last night are certainly much thicker and I can’t imagine how warm those are going to be out in the wilderness when the temperature soars to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Benji’s impending enlistment has also caused an evolution in his relationships with his siblings.  He and Tali have seemed to be closer establishing a different kind of bond and connection whereas Rachel seems to be the outlet for all of his beneath the surface apprehension and nervousness.  Fortunately she’s as tough if not tougher and can hold her own although Coco and Rocky find the pitch of the banter a little unsettling. I’m trying not to fret about the piled up dishes in the sink from Benji’s snacks and lunches and his endless hours of watching Grey’s Anatomy on the couch and just as I’m about to open my mouth, I catch myself and think about the hard days, months and years ahead for him that will be void of luxury and ease.

Michel and I are keeping ourselves extra busy and are planning the traditional “Messibat Giyus” pre-enlistment party that parents here host for their kids a few days prior to their draft.  We’re busy planning the menu, cleaning the backyard, making desserts and it serves as a worthwhile distraction. The traditions in this country, like many other things here, make a lot of sense.  You demonstrate your pride in your child by celebrating with family, his friends and yours and it also is a wonderful way to keep your worry and trepidation from overshadowing all the positives that, G-d willing, will come out of the experience.

As I lay awake at night thinking, I’m taken back to the Moose Jaw Public Library.  I walk through the big oak door and turn to the right where the comfortable red chair sits surrounded by the stacks of  books, many of which I know my Gram read. In my mind I can see her sitting there reading, relaxed and totally content. Come to think of it, I never once recall sitting myself in that big chair in that library and, in fact, it never would have been enough for me to spend my hours in the Library reading the way she did.. 

The image calms me.  I’m sure my Gram worried endlessly about me living far from the security of the world that she knew so well and even though miles away and ever so different, it will be, in many ways the same for me as I see my children go on to pursue dreams and ideals that exceed what is a part of my world.  And as I drift into sleep, I remember those words of Gibran, “You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.  For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”


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