Today I grew up. Maybe I grew up last week and hadn't
noticed. But most likely it happened today because, after
all, growing up is not something one can easily hide.
Someone stole our baby-stroller. Once I got over the
disappointment and guilt (having been the one who left it
unlocked), I ventured to buy a new one, leaving the buggy-
less baby at home with his father.
I found one I liked, bought it and headed home, pushing the
stroller in front of me. I felt funny pushing an empty
stroller down Malchei Yisrael Street, and more than one
passerby did a double take. I waited for someone to gasp and
tell me I'd forgotten the little guy somewhere in Geula, but
no one gasped.
Until I got to the pharmacy.
The lady behind the counter gave me an awkward smile and
asked me how she could be of assistance. I told her what I
needed. When I was almost out the door, she finally
exclaimed, "Where's the baby?"
I smiled and said, "At home."
She waited for an explanation. I offered none. She looked at
me with that confused but polite look in her eyes. I walked
out the door and continued on my way.
I know it's wrong to mislead people. If I'd just bought a
stroller, well, why not be up front about it? There's no
reason to make people suspect I suffer from some kind of
On the other hand, I answered her question, didn't I? If she
wants to know more, she can ask.
I was elated. I knew this had been a big day.
Someone once said: What other people think of you is none of
The truth is, I do care what other people think about me;
and there is merit in maintaining a good reputation. But
there is also merit in not caring too much.
Legend has it that the talmidim of Navardok were
instructed by the Alter to approach a local fruit vendor or
enter a pharmacy and request some nails. Naturally, the
vendors would scorn the talmidim, laugh at them or
call them fools. The point was to teach them humility. What
more humbling experience is there than to be ridiculed?
Perhaps, however, the point of the exercise goes deeper. I
imagine the poor young man red as a beet the first time he
makes his request. The second time, less so. And by the
third or fourth time, I envision the effect wearing off.
After several humiliating scenes, the talmidim would
discover that although it's painful to be reckoned a fool,
in truth, it doesn't matter what anyone thinks. Eventually,
one discovers that "I am me" and no one can take that away
or diminish it. Not with laughter and not with shame. Only G-
d can do that. Wherever I go and whatever I come up against,
I'll always have me.
It was the usual morning rush to make sandwiches for school
and I was doing my best to satisfy the varied tastes and
habits of each of my children. In record time, I completed
the last sandwich, my four year-old's favorite kind, the
kind she has insisted upon eating ever since she grew teeth:
A ketchup sandwich. Nothing inside, just bread and
When my little girl looked at her sandwich, she nearly
cried. "But I said I want peanut butter!" It was true. Today
she had requested peanut butter, but I had forgotten. It's
hard to make the switch after years of ketchup. With tears
in her eyes, she asked if I would please make her a peanut
butter sandwich for gan. I agreed.
That night, our family shared with each other the events of
the day. My four year-old was very happy. She said, "Gila
didn't say yech when she saw my sandwich today.
Because today I brought peanut butter."
Yech? Who made Gila the culinary genius? "What does
Gila bring in her sandwich?" one of my children asked.
"Peanut butter," she replied. Wasn't it obvious? Well, I
thought, at least Gila doesn't bring sardines.
The truth is I'm glad that my daughter is finally eating
something different. It's just sad that it's for the sake of
being the same.
Well, maybe that's how it goes. We begin by seeking ways we
are the same. I'm a girl and you're a girl. I eat peanut
butter and so do you. Later, we see how we are different.
And it scares us. One "yech" and years of ketchup-devotion
go out the window. In time, however, we discover that that's
That is called growing up.
I shared my own baby-buggy victory with my four year-old. I
wanted her opinion of whether or not it was okay that I let
someone think I'm a little funny.
She listened intently. "Wow," she said, "what a
I wrapped her in my arms. "Someday," I said, "you can be a