A mother poem published in Earth's Daughters
Cheering for Anat Hoffman

Conversation with a doctor

"Do you smoke?" the doctor asks as he peers into my ears.

"No," I tell him, truthfully.

"What do you do?"

For a moment I wonder: does he mean what are my vices, if smoking isn't one of them? But then I realize he's probably not fishing to find out whether I have a beer with dinner. "You mean, professionally?" I ask. He nods. "I'm a rabbi."

"Really?" He looks surprised.


"Good for you," he says, absently, and presses the stethoscope to my back. "Breathe like this," and demonstrates how he wants me to inhale and exhale. So I do.

"My youngest daughter and her friends used to play dress-up," he informs me. "They would go up to the attic and get prom dresses, of which we at one time had quite the collection, and they would play all sorts of games."

I make some noncommittal sound and he continues.

"Sometimes they would play wedding. One of them would be the bride. Another would be the minister. They'd throw flowers. You know how it is."

Perhaps noticing the question in my eyes, he detours for a moment to say, "this has nothing to do with your sinuses," and then he goes on with his story.

"Not long ago I went to a wedding in Lenox, at the little church there. One of my daughter's childhood friends was getting married, and the minister was another one of the girls who used to play wedding in our yard."

Okay, I say, prompting him to continue.

"It was so beautiful," the doctor tells me, earnestly. "The bride was all grown-up. I think she's going to be a lawyer. And the homily was poignant and well-written. And I realized, these aren't little kids playing dress-up anymore! This is real life. And maybe," his voice is wistful now, "they really will carry something forward."

I'm not sure what he means, but I think it's something like: maybe the lessons we hoped we were teaching our children really got through. Maybe they'll make a better world than we did.

I imagine what it will be like when Drew is old enough to be thinking about marriage. When his little buddies from preschool are standing beneath the chuppah or at the altar. It's impossible to picture, but I know the day will come.

"That's beautiful," I tell him.

"Anyway, you're fine," he tells me in response, tone entirely businesslike again. "No sign of anything bacterial. Stick with the over-the-counter stuff."

I shrug. "Okay. I'm mostly just here because I've had a cold for a month and my husband said, 'you've had a cold for a month, go see a doctor!'"

He laughs. "Keep it up," he tells me, and opens the door.