It was a typical spring evening. The kids all sat around the kitchen table. Two of the boys fought and argued and burst into tears, as per usual. The baby cried. The toddler repeatedly shouted for Mommy to help her with her food. The older sister helper the toddler with her food. The middle sister (that’s me) spooned her food into her mouth on autopilot, using only her right hand, eyes focused on the book propped up in front of her plate by her left hand. Mommy moved back and forth from the stove to the sink to the fridge to the table, getting food and drinks and dishes for everyone and making sure the seven of us were all fed and satisfied, breaking up fights when they got too intense.
Finally, Mommy snapped.
“I can’t do this anymore!” she shouted, and stormed out of the kitchen, opened the front door, and slammed it behind her.
We all got quiet and stared at each other. I even looked up from my book at my silent siblings. Well, besides the baby. She cried louder. My older sister picked her up and held her in her lap.
A minute or two passed. The baby grew quiet in my sister’s arms. Another few minutes passed. We were all frozen in our seats.
My brother got up and walked to the kitchen doorway, peered down the hallway at the front door. He looked back at us, his brow furrowed, then crossed the threshold and went to the front door. He opened it, and we all strained forward in our seats to see and hear what was happening.
A few moments later, he came back inside, accompanied by my mother. She was laughing.
“I was just sitting on the porch!” she said. “I just needed some air and some peace and quiet. What did you think, that I would run away? Where would I go?”
I’ve been thinking about this evening a lot lately. Where would she have gone? Where could she have gone? Where could a woman go, when she has seven children at home and two more who are at late-night seder in yeshiva, when her husband will come home shortly, when she’s responsible for all these people and is bursting with frustration at not having time or space to herself, is bursting with pent-up desires and has to constantly push them aside so as to serve others?
Where could a woman like that go?