I don my trusty backpack for my early morning walk to the supermarket, stocking up for Shabbos cooking and tonight’s dinner before the sun even rises. This is how I start my day, while my husband is davening in morning minyan, while my teenage children catch the last moments of slumber. The calendar says that it is winter, but we’ve hardly had any snow except for that weird storm in October no one expected. Still, it is bitter cold this morning, and I walk slowly, navigating the icy, slippery sidewalks of Highland Park, NJ.
The weatherman warns of black ice, the hidden danger of a pavement that looks dry and safe, but it is really an ice skating rink in disguise. My morning walk is not enjoyable, nor at any pace one could consider it exercise. Having endured two serious sprained ankles and four different foot surgeries in my adult life, I am not eager to take an ill-fated step on black ice and find myself looking up at the sky. I find myself planting each step with care, never looking up from the ground, and for the entire walk, I keep thinking about black ice.
Black ice. Danger that looks harmless. Danger that can catch you by surprise in a moment’s notice, rendering you injured, or at least embarrassed, before you even have a chance to intelligently respond. Black ice, an oxymoron of sorts, as ice is supposed to be clear, crystal, colorless, yet this is not. Black ice, a winter nemesis.
Black ice. My teenage daughter who is learning how to drive is ready to take on the highways, the famous New Jersey mergers, even, be still my heart, drive one of my other children some place they need to go. She’s a good driver. It looks safe. Black ice. Be careful.
Black ice. My other teenage daughter wants to take the bus to Brooklyn to shop. She’s old enough, she says, to travel with her teenage friends into the city, to enjoy shopping with Mommy’s credit card, and without Mommy. It’s time, she says. It would be soooo much fun. She can handle it. But can I? Black ice. Who will be on that bus, in the city, how can I trust?
Black ice. My husband of eighteen years and I are two very busy professionals, and working day and night to care for children and household. We joke that we’ve probably been on five dates in the past five or even ten years. It’s not something we do, and as the children get old enough that we can see their imminent departure from the house, I can’t help but worry. Our marriage is solid, committed; we are kind to one another, always on one another’s team. We need to find our way back to each other again, to set aside the responsibilities that overwhelm us, and to reconnect. Black ice. I don’t want to be one of those women who marries off the last child, looks at her beloved husband, and doesn’t know him anymore.
Black ice. Two close relatives have entered cancer treatment in the last two months. You wouldn’t know it from looking at them. They visit the outpatient clinic every day for their daily radiation treatments. The doctors tell them their prognosis is good for a complete refuah. The radiation should do its job to shrink the tumors, and B’ezras Hashem, they will grow older with no return of the cancer. Except for the daily outing to the cancer treatment center, one wouldn’t even know that inside of their body, a battle rages on. It all looks so normal. Two old people still enjoying their life, and looking forward to the next simcha. Black ice. When will they fall? When will Hashem decide to take them, to allow the tumors to take control, to end a life still very much being lived?
Black ice. The secular family now consists of several secular teenagers. When we get together – infrequently, but it does happen – my teenage daughter is intrigued by the conversations she has with her secular cousins who have boyfriends, and a social life nothing like she’s ever experienced. How harmless are these conversations, as infrequent as they are?
Black ice. It looks like nothing, until in just a few seconds, you find yourself on your toucas, wondering what happened.
Azriela Jaffe is the author of 26 published books including, “What do you mean, you can’t eat in my home?” and “After the Diet, Delicious Kosher Recipes with less Fat, Calories and Carbs”, both of which are available directly from her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is also a holocaust memoir writer, privately commissioned by families who wish to write up the life story of the survivor matriarch or patriarch of their family. Visit www.azrielajaffe.com for more information about her work, and visit www.chatzos.com for more information about the worldwide movement she founded to bring more kavod into erev Shabbos.
Originally published Jan 17, 2012