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May 27 2011

Friday Night: Shabbat is My Africa

By at 10:45 am

About once a day (or maybe once an hour, depending on the day), I take a moment and go to my happy place. This usually coincides with a trip to the bathroom—the only time when I can indulge in a few moments of daydreaming. My escape fantasies used to involve a tollbooth on the turnpike, a small little space with room just for me, no whining or pleading, no debate or discussion, just me and my radio and the cars whizzing by. But then I start to miss my family (Yes, they even invade my daydreams. Jerks.), so I had to find a new happy place.

I found it in the documentary Babies. It’s fabulous. This feature-length film follows four families around the world (Namibia, Japan, Mongolia, and California) through the baby’s first year of life. All of the babies are adorable, but my favorite is little Ponijao, from rural Namibia. In the movie, we see her crawling around in the dirt, playing with rocks, fighting with her siblings, and eating porridge whenever she feels like it. Her Mom is sitting on the ground with another mother, beading or talking or cooking or tending to Ponijao. It’s a calm, beautiful scene, and it’s where I go when I need a little head space.

There are no fights over chicken nuggets. No towering piles of laundry. You don’t see Mom frantically scanning her Google calendar looking for a free morning for a playdate. There isn’t a single bottle of hand-sanitizer to be found, no piles of toys that haven’t been touched in months.  There are no websites about developmental milestones, no warnings about BPA. The children just play and run and have fun with whatever they find on the ground. (I know I’m romanticizing things here, and that there must be challenges to life in rural Africa that I can’t even imagine, but this is my daydream, folks, so indulge me, will you?)

So there I was in the shower this morning, going through my mental to-do list (empty dishwasher, go to Target for 3T summer clothes, start dissertation research, buy challah), when I got overwhelmed. There was just too much to do in too little time. So off to Africa I went. And as I was imagining myself sitting in the dirt under a tree, I realized something.

I have my own Africa. It’s called Shabbat.

For one day each week, we turn off the computer and the TV and let the errands and shopping and folding and cleaning and writing wait for another day. Although I know they will all be there waiting for me on Saturday night, for now, they will wait. For now, I will sit on the floor with my daughters and my husband and play and talk. Later we’ll eat, and then we’ll nap. There’s still plenty to worry about, but that’s for tomorrow. Today, I’m in my own little Africa.


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