My least favorite question in the English language has always been: “Where was the last place you had it?”
Seriously? If I knew that, I wouldn’t have been on my hands and knees, my arm, stretched as long as Basya’s, wedged in the tiny groove beneath the couch.
A close runner up for my least favorite question was: “Any ideas where it might be?”
Well-meaning and helpful as those questions may be, I didn’t have time to respond. I had to put on gloves and dig through the trash, one dripping item at a time.
This very evening, I spent nearly three hours (!) searching my house for a set of missing car keys. I checked every nook and every cranny, but those keys continued to elude me. They had simply vanished.
I was exhausted and panicked.
It all started earlier that day when my cell phone died. I began looking for my phone charger, only to realize I had taken it to work with me and it was still in my car. All I needed to do was to grab my car keys and get the charger from my car. My car keys should have been right where they always are, on a hook at the entrance to my kitchen.
Except the little hook was bare. The keys weren’t there.
Hmmmm. Where could my keys be?
I did all the things they tell you to do when you lose something. I retraced my steps. Nothing.
I put money in the pushke and said the tefillah of Reb Meir Baal Ha’nes. Nothing.
My kids, desperate for their mother’s attention and for some supper, said the tefillah of Reb Meir Baal Ha’nes with fervent concentration. Nothing.
Three hours in, I was a wreck. My hands were red and scratched from sticking them into tiny places, and my shoulders ached from lifting things far too heavy for someone who hasn’t seen the inside of a gym for more than a decade
Here is the thing: we only have one set of keys for this car. I needed to leave for work bright and early the next morning, so the key hunt couldn’t wait until the sun came up. And after three hours of this failed search-and rescue mission, I didn’t have any more time to look.
I had to deal with homework and bedtime. I had an article due tonight (this one!).Who has the time to spend scrounging around, sticking my hands in dark spaces, for hours on end?
Wait a second.
I suddenly remembered a conversation I‘d had only the day before.
A friend and I had been lamenting together how hard it is for us to find the time to daven well every single day.
I informed my friend that a high school teacher had told us that an abbreviated version of davening is fine – we are busy mothers after all, and we needed to cut ourselves some slack. But my friend shared something she had just read in an article about Rebbetzin Kolodetsky, the daughter of Rebbetzin Batsheva Kanievsky, a”h. Rebbetzin Kolodetsky had urged women to carve out time in their day to daven from a siddur. In the name of her father, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, she had insisted that women should never think they do not have time to daven slowly and calmly.
My friend explained that Rav Chaim had assured women that tefillah will never use up time needed for other obligations of motherhood. Instead, the time women spend on tefillah will create zechusim to prevent them from having to spend their day busy with time-consuming, stressful things, like doctors’ appointments, or meeting with teachers, or unexpected traffic.
Or three hour searches for missing car keys.
I apparently had more time than I’d thought. Somehow, in my super busy life, in the life where my responsibilities and deadlines leave me precious little time to pour out my heart to my Creator without rushing through the words, I had managed to carve out three long hours (!) for an unsuccessful mission to find my keys.
My search was aborted. I served supper, signed homework sheets, drew baths, and tucked my kids into bed.
When the house was still, I refused to think about the keys. Instead, I reached for my oft-neglected siddur and davened Maa’riv, a tefillah I rarely squeeze into my schedule. I said each word slowly, without looking at the clock.
On an indescribable high, I went to tidy the kitchen. As I was loading the dishwasher, I leaned across the counter to retrieve a dish, and something silver caught my eye.
The glint of metal was unmistakable: it was the keys.
They. Were. Right. There.
In middle of the counter.
In plain sight.
My kids had searched. I had searched. But those keys had been kept from my grasp – to remind me that I was not in control.
Until tonight, I saw myself as the curator of my time – I had a schedule, and I needed to keep to it. I penciled in the slots and organized my commitments. I made sure everything got done.
But time is not my own.
If I slow down and take the time to give thanks to the One Above, I will never run out of time.
After all, Hakadosh Baruch Hu is always the One holding the keys.