My son Matty is 9 years old. He is the third of our six children -- so he is well into the middle child mode.
His older sister, Atara is 13 and does terrific in school, getting straight A's. Atara is serious, tough, and responsible, and when not in her teenage mood, can be relied upon for any task.
Then comes Moishy who is 11. Moishy is full of charm -- everyone who meets him is quickly engaged by his wit and intelligence. Although I have successfully passed on the great tradition of Maple Leafs hockey to him, he has gone way beyond my interest in sports and can talk intelligently about any of the four major sports. He has a dry wit and quick tongue. Once when my wife was exasperated at his dilly-dallying, she blurted out, "You are just like your father." Without missing a beat, and with a straight face, Moishy responded, "I will take that as a compliment."
Matty is a different story. He has a couple of hard acts to follow. Too often he is compared to Moishy. This is not helped by the fact that he is pretty much the same height as his brother who is a year and a half older. He is not as athletic or social as his big brother. He does not get the grades that Atara and Moishy do, and indeed finds school a challenge. He happens to have knockout good looks, but he is a bit young for that to be a factor working to his advantage.
Matty did something with such ease and confidence that I could not help but be impressed and proud of him.
While the street hockey games are in full swing on the driveway with the neighborhood kids, including my tomboy daughter, Tzippy donning the goal pads, Matty will sit out, off to the side. Knowing that he is the odd man out, he will sometimes attempt to get attention in other ways like being a bit of a nudnik. I have never envied his position.
Recently Matty did something with such ease and confidence that I could not help but be impressed and proud of him. All year he had said he wanted to visit his grandparents in London like his older sister had the previous summer. We bought the ticket and endured weeks of people questioning the wisdom of our choice to send a nine-year-old across the Atlantic by himself on a nine hour flight.
As the day approached I was wondering if he would get cold feet. But no, he was more excited than ever to go. Even in the car ride to the airport, and through all the steps of baggage check and security, he did not express the least bit of anxiety. Not like his father, who 32 years earlier, and pretty much the same age as Matty is now, was only one of two wimps in the fifth grade class who refused to participate in the class trip of a short plane ride.
As they announced the early boarding for unaccompanied minors, I took my son and I gently placed my hands on his head as he bowed it ever so slightly, and I pronounced the blessing as I do every Friday night. "May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe…" Ephraim and Menashe -- the sons of Joseph who did not live with their many cousins and relatives back in Canaan, but alone in Egypt. And yet they remained loyal to their Jewish values.
Ephraim and Menashe -- the odd men out.
I asked God to watch over and protect Matty. And just like that, he was off as he followed the British Airways stewardess down the jet way glancing back once to smile and wave goodbye.
He had no tears of anxiety or fear; the only tears were those of his father proudly watching him spread his wings, fly and go his own way.