When my oldest son entered the army our family acted as if no one had ever been a soldier before. Proud is not the word. We took pictures. We bought presents. And when he came home on his first leave with an invitation for Parents’ Day at his base we were excited. Never mind that his base was at the ends of the earth, almost to Eilat. And never mind that Parents’ Day was five days before Pesach. We were going! We loaded our van with six kids, food, activities, and change of clothes and took off. The ride was long. There were food stops, bathroom stops, throw-up stops, and change of clothes stops, but we made it.
Our son proudly showed us around the base. He pointed to a door and told us that at three-fifteen we would have a conference with his commanding officer. I thought we had finished with conferences once he graduated from school. I wondered what his officer would talk about. How well he made up his cot. Whether he marched in time or not. At three-ten we were already at the door and as we opened it I understood we would not be having a personal conversation with any officers. The room was a small auditorium with rows of seats all the way to the ceiling. Standing on the platform in the front of the room was a group of officers. Each made a short, rather boring speech and then asked us if we had any questions.
There were a few questions about hot water for showers and the food. Then someone asked the BIG question. Would our boys be coming home for Pesach? The question was ignored. Another parent asked the same questions and was also ignored. A third parent tried and when he was ignored the chant began. “What’s with Pesach? What’s with Pesach?” Instead of answering the officers looked at each other and simultaneously turned and walked off the platform and out of the building, leaving all of us wondering what would be with Pesach.
The next day we were thrilled to learn that our son would be home for Seder night. It was wonderful having him with us.
Almost a year passed and my son began warning me not to expect him home for Pesach. “I got out last year. It won’t happen again this year,” he told me. I was disappointed, but understood. He would be out of the army in the summer and the following year, if all was well, he would be home for Pesach.
So Erev Pesach morning, while I was working in the kitchen, I happened to glance out of my window. Walking down the street was a young man in a green uniform. As he drew nearer I saw he had my son’s gait. Another couple of feet closer and I knew it was my son.
“I don’t believe it!” I shrieked and went flying out of the house and down the street with my apron on and happy tears running down my cheeks.
“What’s wrong?” my son asked, rather alarmed.
“Nothing,” I sniffled. “I’m just so happy to have you home.”
We all were. That happened fifteen years ago. I have yet to tell the story to a mother who has a son in the army without her getting teary-eyed. Now my youngest son is in the army and I don’t know if he will be home for Pesach.
May the day come soon that we will never have to send our sons to war and they can all be home for Pesach.