Every weekday morning, there are about 15 minutes when I am alone in the car with my 13-year-old son, on the way to school.
The landscape on the ride is breathtaking: rolling Judean Hills descending from Ma’aleh Adumim toward the Dead Sea, as we head to the peak near Kfar Adumim. We pass shepherds herding goats and sheep, and regularly spy packs of wild camels stoically perched at high points along the way.
Less frequently seen – but even more breathtaking – are bounding gazelles or ibexes, as they traverse the area looking for water and food.
We see familiar people on the route as well, faces we’ve come to recognize over the last few months: Over there is workout guy, the whitehaired mustachioed exerciser favoring one leg as he burns down the main road in our direction. We don’t know where he started, but if he’s headed back to Kfar Adumim, that means he’s already been walking an hour or so, trucking along at a good clip.
Then there’s walking guy, a black-skinned young laborer who ironically also favors one leg, whom we used to see every morning going one way or the other on the winding Kfar Adumim road. We were never sure if he was coming or going, or perhaps headed to a potential job at the horse stables or the plant nursery on the way. But since the big snow storm in December, he’s been out of sight. We miss him.
My son and I talk about anything that comes up: commenting on the morning news items we hear on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet, or the cinematic and moral virtues of Gladiator; he teaches me the fundamentals of Google Glass (he’s the techie in the family), or he’ll practice the blessing before the Birkat Kohanim (priestly blessing), which he’s decided to learn and perform at his school’s optional morning minyan. Sometimes we’re silly, imitating Monty Python routines; or we plan ahead, hatching ideas for family trips; or we get serious, wondering how the family with three kids living across the street who just lost their mother at age 37 is able to carry on.
Sometimes he’ll put on music from his MP3 collection on his phone, and he’ll educate me on the teen pop world – better than we old-timers give the younger generation credit for – of Miley Cyrus, Ed Sheeran and One Republic. And sometimes I’ll put on one of my ‘70s classic rock CD compilations and enlighten him (our latest favorite is Heart’s “Barricuda”).
And sometimes we simply look out the window, taking in the life and scenes around us, lost in our own thoughts.
I cherish those 15 minutes.
Having already raised three adult children, I embrace my son’s 13-year-old self, trying to take in every second of his youthful essence before the onset of puberty will inevitably change everything. If only this age of semi-innocence and pre-interest-in-girls openness about everything could be captured in a bottle and preserved.
Instead, I make do with those 15 minutes, for just as long as they last.