Would You Change The Past If You Had The Chance?
A moment in time
How's this for an introduction to a class on Genesis: the professor hands each student an apple.
"Close your eyes," she says, "and remember the happiest moment of your life. Now imagine yourself back in that moment. Now, imagine you have a choice. You may opt to stay in your moment forever. Should you do so, time will stand still. You will not age; anyone alive now will not die. If you are pregnant, you will stay pregnant forever. The weather will never change.
"Your other choice is, you may eat your apple. In which case, you will move on from your moment, leave paradise. You and others will age and die, experience all varieties of weather, all aspects of life."
If given the choice, I'd forgo my apple. I'd let time freeze on Oct. 30, 1999. My friend Elaine got married on that day. Here is a picture of the whole party: bride and groom in the center, surrounded by bridesmaids, groomsmen and the obliga-tory kids, flower girl and ring bearer.
In our snapshot, Mary, the maid of honor, stands to the left of the bride. She is all smiles. She has all her hair. Five months after the wedding, Mary will be dead, her hair lost to chemotherapy treatments. On that October day, she does not know she has cancer. If I could stop time, Mary would still be here. If I could stop time, Dan, the bridegroom, would not have lost his job and fallen into a severe depression three months after the wedding. He would be as he is in the photograph: grinning as he towers over his bride. The bridesmaid to the bride's right is pregnant with her second child, just beginning to show. I am that bridesmaid, and if I could stop time, I would not miscarry two weeks from the day of this wedding.
This is the story of that child who was not to be.
It is late on a Friday afternoon in September. I am at home, preparing for our family's Sabbath, or Shabbat. Although we are not Orthodox, my family and I keep Shabbat regularly. Every Friday afternoon I buy my challah on standing order from a local bakery. Sometime before evening falls, I turn off my computer and do no writing until Saturday evening. My family and I say blessings over candles, wine and bread. As often as possible we have guests. We do this not only because it is fun, but also because in doing so we keep two commandments: making Shabbat and welcoming people into our home.
Tonight is Erev Rosh ha-Shana, the eve of the Jewish New Year, as well as Shabbat. Our guests are my friend Shira and her three children, who are friends of our four-year-old son Gabriel. After dinner, my husband Wade and I serve challah and apples dipped in honey, a wish for a sweet New Year. Then we all go to temple to pray with the community; afterwards, we hug our friends and wish them "Shana tova," a good year. We linger outside the temple. Although it is September, it feels like late May. The perfect night to conceive a second child.
I should explain, because I am proud of this. We Jews are not an ascetic people. It is actually a mitzvah, a commandment, to make love with your spouse and a double mitzvah to do so on Shabbat. If a child is conceived in the process, what could be better? So after we put Gabriel to bed, I pray that God will bless us.
Two weeks later, it has happened: a positive pregnancy test. To say I am ecstatic would be a gross understatement. The next day Wade and I take Gabriel out to lunch.
"Mommy is going to have a baby," Wade tells him.
"Good!" says Gabriel.
It is a hard pregnancy, harder than with Gabriel, but that's OK. Everyone
says there is a much lower incidence of miscarriage among women who have
morning sickness than among those who don't. I repeat this as a mantra since
I feel pretty green most of the time.