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Tempo Story: The Grossmans Hit the Road

Perel Grossman

What if I take my sneakers and my Shabbos flats and my cute Keds slip-ons and my Crocs and my soft slippers and then we get invited to a wedding while we’re on vacation? What then???! So I pack heels as well. My gray heels are the prettiest but my black pumps are the most versatile … AAHHHGGH!!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

 Mishpacha image

 

H e says we never go anywhere. Never.

He says a trip to the grocery store doesn’t count. He wants to go on a real trip.

“A real trip?” I repeat, my voice escalating dangerously. “We’ve gone on plenty of trips! Trips to the doctor, trips to the emergency room, trips to school when you miss the bus …”

His look of derision says it all.

“Look, pal,” I tell him. “In a week and a half, you’re going to camp. Camp. That’s an expensive trip far, far away in the Mystical Catskill Mountains. Where else do you need to go?”

“On a family trip,” he explains patiently, to his slow-on-the-pickup mother.

“Oh no. We avoid family trips,” I assert, in a slightly less patient voice. “That’s how we stay so successful as a family.”

He doesn’t even laugh. He’s getting his father involved. They start scheming.

“Anyway, where would we go?” I ask. “There’s nothing we all like to do! Name one activity that involves sports, classical music, Torah, reading, shopping, historical sites, and chocolate?”

My husband, always maddeningly logical, suggests that we go somewhere and do different activities each day to please us all.

“But we only have a week to get him ready for camp!!” I shriek. “We don’t even have most of the 84 items that are Strongly Recommended by the Camp Mother for a Happy Camper!”

Now they laugh. At me.

The next day the guys are busy poring over maps and leafing through AAA magazines that magically appeared in our kitchen. It’s all giving me quite the headache. The kind that drills through your eye socket and beams through your head to your neck — a.k.a., a sinus headache.

I’m kind of a baby when it comes to sinus infections. I can deal with them up to a point, but once I get to the every-time-I-cough-my-head-feels-like-it’s-going-to-explode stage, I go running for medical attention. This time, I come home brandishing a prescription, a triumphant smile on my face. Now we really can’t go away. After all… I am SICK.

My husband picks up the medicine and assures me I am going to be fine — there’s no need to cancel Our Big Road Trip. Nobody wants to hear about my dizziness; nobody cares that my son doesn’t have enough socks for camp.

I know when I’m outvoted. I start packing.

Fifteen minutes later, the men in my life haul their modest overnighters into the car and wait for me.

I have two steamer-style trunks propped open on my bed. I toss an assortment of apparel, medications, shoes, and cosmetics into the cavernous openings, frantic to finish before they go and leave me behind in my hour of need.

“Almost done, dear?” calls a sweet voice from below.

“Nope. Could take hours more.”

Male sighs follow.

Why do I pack so much, you ask? Two reasons:

1.  I am the Queen of “What If.” What if I take six pairs of knee-highs for a three-day trip, and numbers three and four have runs, and numbers five and six are different hues?

As it is, every morning when I get dressed, I solemnly recite my own version of the Serenity Prayer:

Dear Hashem: Please grant me the ability to recognize which of my knee-highs are tan, and which are beige, and to be able to distinguish between them. And, at the very least, Master of the Universe, may my knee-highs coexist in the same general color family.

Quick! Say Amen!

What if I take my sneakers and my Shabbos flats and my cute Keds slip-ons and my Crocs and my soft slippers and then we get invited to a wedding while we’re on vacation? What then???! So I pack heels as well. My gray heels are the prettiest but my black pumps are the most versatile … AAHHHGGH!!!

Okay. I’ll pack both.

2. The more medications and emergency equipment I bring, the less likely I am to need them — kind of like a shemirah. So I pack a lot of medicines: three or four to correct certain digestive ailments or their reverse, decongestant, cough suppressant, antacid pills, antacid chewables, a sinus rinse bottle, and 48 packets of medicinal salt, (hey, ya never know), allergy meds, eye drops, Tylenol, Advil. I’m not kidding — if I leave just one item out, I always end up needing it. Scout’s honor.

I hear the car engine revving.

“Ma? Are you almost ready?” He sounds so hopeful it breaks my heart.

“Yeeees! Just gimme a minute!”

I race around my room, throwing spare tichels and costume jewelry into the suitcases. At the last minute I remember my lens case and solution and glasses. And another bag of cosmetics. And my travel zipbag filled with travel-sized things I never use; most are rancid by now. But they come in such cute little bottles!

“Almost done!” I bellow, as I take a flying leap and land squarely on top of one of the suitcases in an attempt to shock it shut. My husband comes to the rescue, closes both valises, and drags them downstairs and into the car.

“Sure you need that anvil?” he teases. I don’t even dignify his remark with a response.

“Okay, are we ready?” he asks, smiling in a brave attempt to smother his yekkish tendencies.

“Yes! Wait a second, NO! The FOOD!”

“I put the cooler of food in the car already,” Kind Husband quietly reminds me.

“Not that kind of food! I mean NOSH!”

My son groans. My husband takes out a sefer. I run through the kitchen flipping snack bags, gum, and old Pesach cookies (waste not, want not) into a shopping bag, darting into the garage once or twice for additional supplies.

“Now are we ready?” they ask, clearly exasperated.

I nod and we all strap in.

But suddenly, a ghastly gasp is heard. I think it’s me. They roll their eyes. I beg their indulgence for one more minute.

I dash back into the house for a last-minute pit stop, wash my hands, then zoom in and out of each room in the house, kissing each mezuzah. (This is the kind of thing you do when you don’t even know how to use your burglar alarm, yet you continue to pay monthly for it to be connected to the police department.)

Finally, we are on our way.

My son has a map larger than the interior of our car spread across the back seat. The menfolk enthusiastically discuss routes (“Waze is for sissies!”) while I moan softly, muttering about the injustice of dragging an ill woman from her sickbed to go gallivanting around.

Father and son argue good-naturedly about music.

“Son, this is a no-Shwekey zone,” intones my spouse solemnly.

“But I like Shwekey,” counters Ari valiantly. “And I’m not listening to horrible classical music for the next five hours! “

I have weightier matters on my mind.

“I hope you’ll both be happy when Ari goes to camp with a half-empty duffel bag!”

By their response, they seem exceptionally happy.

As we pass vast fields of dried grass, a few rangy cows, and the ubiquitous auto body shops, I alternate between blowing my nose gustily, poking a finger between my nose and eye socket to ease the pressure, popping pills, and snacking messily.

“Are we there yet?” I whine, in misery.

“Sure. Only three hours more!” my husband replies cheerily.

I sleep fitfully. Every time I sink into a good shluff, someone loudly asks my opinion about some insignificant issue like World Hunger or what nosh is left.

Finally, finally, we pull up to Yenemsvelt Suites Inn. My husband and son jump out, clearly invigorated by our arrival. I pull my limbs from the car one at a time, joints audibly creaking, accompanied by my groans.

They open the trunk and start unloading the luggage.

“What are you doing?” I demand, shocked by their presumptuousness. I insist on inspecting the room before we schlep in our luggage.

The woman at the front desk smilingly requests a credit card for incidentals. I turn to my son and hiss, “Don’t touch anything in your room without asking first!” The receptionist then offers us six pages of 4-point font and hands us a pen so we can sign away our life’s savings to Yenemsvelt Suites International. We gladly do so, desperate to get into our rooms.

We gratefully accept the electronic keys and make our way to the two-bedroom suite. I catch my son in flying leap formation, about to mess up the bedding.

“Don’t jump!” I shriek.

“Why not?” he counters.

“I haven’t tested the air-conditioning, and I need to see what the bathroom looks like. We may have to switch rooms.”

The two men execute a simultaneous eye roll, in exact timed precision. If I had a card with me, I’d flash them a “10.0.”

I ignore their obvious inexperience — amateurs. I, on the other hand, have the benefit of my father’s z”l wisdom amassed after spending several years of his life traveling on a weekly basis.

I walk through the suite flipping lights on and off, and set the heat, then the air-conditioning, to meshunadikeh settings. I run the faucet, then the tub, flush the toilet, and examine the carpet and mattresses. Finally, I allow the guys to move us in.

I flop down onto a comfy armchair and prop my feet up. Thumbing through a popular Jewish magazine, I come to a really juicy-looking story with all the fixings: Child at risk? CHECK. Older single? CHECK. Financial issues? CHECK. Unhealthy friendship? CHECK.

Ahhhh … vay-cay-shun … so nice to just relax and reeeaaaad … 

Yosef and Ari drag my huge suitcases into the room, then nimbly toss their tiny bags onto the couch.

“So what are we doing first?” asks Yosef brightly, addressing himself mostly to our son.

“Doing? I can’t do anything yet,” replies Ari.

Finally! Another voice of wisdom.

“I can’t do anything,” he continues, “till I eat! I’m starving!!!”

For those of you who haven’t had the zechus of raising a teenaged yeshivah bochur, let me point out that they are almost never hungry. Instead, they are either starving, famished, ravenous, or experiencing stomach pains due to being on “empty.” Then, minutes later, they are (in our family lingo) “stuffed to the bone,” lying on the couch moaning and calling for Tums.

“No problem. Take something from the cooler or the nosh bag,” I advise, returning to my story.

A lot of rustling ensues, and then the kid reappears. “There’s nothing to eat,” he announces glumly.

I am about to explode with “What do you mean??!! I asked you what I should bring along and you said, ‘Nothing special!’ ” But my husband silences me with a warning glance and suggests we go to the local shawarma store.

Thirty minutes later (a record for me!) I’m ready, having visited the powder room, taken my antibiotic, touched up my makeup, finger-brushed my birds-nest-of-a-sheitel, bagged a cornucopia of nasal remedies, and grabbed a wad of tissues.

The shawarma place is small and quaint, by which I mean squishy, dirty, and cramped. I try their Shmueli Shawarma Surprise which was swimming in oil and redolent of tens of spices I never want to encounter again.    

On the way home I tilt my seat way back and announce, “I am ill.”

“Didn’t you take your antibiotics?” my husband asks, concerned by the reddish hue of my face and the hand I place on my heart.

I inform him that this kind of illness might necessitate a ride to the ER. My son asks if he can be dropped off at the hotel first so he can do some learning.

Seriously?

My husband drives like a madman, scanning for “H” signs.

“Is it your heart?” Yosef asks, his brow furrowed with worry. 

“No; it’s the shawarma.”

Baruch Hashem I recover enough to stagger into our suite and collapse onto the couch, where I lie till morning.

 

“Good morning!” calls Yosef in that annoying top-’o-the-mornin’-to-ya voice that early risers use to provoke night owls.

“Nrmllmdrbr,” I mumble, shielding my eyes from the brightness of his smile.

“I’ve just come back from shul. Brought you coffee!”

I put the pillow over my face, but when I remove it they are both staring at me. At their urging I get up, do the Golem Walk to wash negel vasser, dress, daven, swallow a bunch of pills, and grab a quick breakfast.

“What are we doing today?” Ari asks, raring to go.

“Can’t we just stay in and relax?” suggests Guess Who.

“NO!”

“Okay, how about we find a mall and get Ari some camp supplies?” I suggest.

Those two cruel people hustle me out of the nice, cool, comfortable motel room and into the stifling hot SUV. Dizzy and nauseated, I pray we are heading for a quiet, staid exhibit in a well air-conditioned building with lots of benches. My hopes evaporate when we drive under the banner welcoming us to Screaming Acres Amusement Park: Home of the Stomach-Dropping Maniac Ride.

In his pity, my husband parks in the closest available spot, a mere two towns away from Screaming Acres. It’s 102 degrees in the shade and, no, it’s not dry heat. I shuffle along, trying not to make any sudden head motions for fear of being overcome by vertigo.

Yosef and Ari try almost every ride. Twice. I refuse to participate, citing sinus pressure, inner ear danger, and common sense. Hence, I spend all afternoon desperately seeking a slim iota of shade to avoid melting. My intrepid husband, who is old enough to know better, decides he cannot continue his life without participating in the Stomach-Dropping Maniac Ride, which entails walking up 24 stories of steps, sitting in a small dangerous-looking “car,” and basically being thrown down the self-same 24 stories, head-first, on a tiny rickety wooden track that looks like it’s in worse shape than our succah beams.

I try to reason with him, but he won’t be dissuaded. Ari “selflessly” offers to stay with me. He was always a smart boy. I warn him, sternly, not to tell me when his father is about to be launched, and I refuse to look up until he returns.

“There he goes!” bellows Ari, the smart yet disobedient son.

“Aaaahhhh!!! I told you not to tell me! Where are my Tums?!”

Finally, Yosef returns, grinning sheepishly, his back slightly bent.

“You hurt your back, didn’t you?!” I cry, just a teeny bit triumphantly. He waves off my concerns, but I know I’m gonna hear about that aching back for weeks.

The men insist I join them for at least one ride, especially as the entrance fee was kind of high to just sit in the sweltering heat, schmaltzing away.

Reluctantly, I agree to the monorail, which encircles the park high above the rides. We glide around the park at a top speed of three mph, and I cautiously peer out the window, then draw back quickly, grabbing my head and trying to restore my equilibrium. Baruch Hashem, I manage to keep the contents of my stomach where they belong, but it’s a close call.

A guy with a beard, cleverly disguised as a non-Jew in a baseball cap with peyos tucked up beneath it, grabs my guys for a minyan and I finally get the chance to just sit and be — absolutely lovely!

On our way back to the motel, I beg to stop at a store and buy our son some camp supplies, but I’m voted down. They’re too tired to go and I’m too exhausted to object.

 

The next day finds me laid out feeling “oogy” and weak. My husband promises we’ll take it easy and spend most of the time viewing historical sites from the comfort of our car. Girded with Mucinex, Ceftin, Flonase, and Sudafed, I allow myself to be led to the car. I’m docile when I’m sick.  

If I thought yesterday was hot, I was terribly, sadly mistaken. Today makes yesterday look like midnight at the North Pole. The air conditioning is pumped to the max and I’m fanning myself with a clutch of tissues.

We drive for what seems like an eternity. Yosef tries to coax the GPS into giving us a hint as to our next set of directions, while Ari amuses himself by switching the voice and language on the device. This inexplicably makes it even harder to understand the directions.

“I don’t like the female British voice. She’s very condescending,” asserts Yosef. 

“Yeah, but she speaks such a cute Korean!” counters Ari.

I’m drifting in and out of sleep, yet need to add in my two cents. “I can’t stand the male voice from New Jersey! He’s so judgmental!”

“I am the male voice from New Jersey!” points out my husband.

Oops!

“We’re here!” announces the judgmental voice from New Jersey.

The sign at the entrance indicates that the grounds are dedicated as a Civil War memorial. My son moans. Ignoring him, Yosef goes on (and on and on…) to explain the significance of this huge cemetery-like expanse. He puts the car in park and runs out to sign us up for some kind of tour.

“I am not getting out of this car!” I yell out the window, then shut it quickly to prevent the steamy air from entering. He returns and quickly assures me that this will be a driving tour, and we will stop at particular points for the guide’s explanation. Anyone who wants to get out and listen can do so.

Yosef, of course, hops out at each stop and Ari sometimes joins him. I make believe I’m taking photos through the car window.

Hours later, the sun begins to set and I venture out and hear the guide describing the valiant troops who gave their lives to defend and unify our country. I lift my eyebrows in an attempt to look absorbed in his tale and keep my eyes from glazing over. When he finishes that particular soliloquy, I suddenly spot something of interest.

“Excuse me!” I call to the guide. “Yoo-hoo! Hellooo! Can you tell me what that is, a little to the left and over the ridge?”

“Oh, that monument honors the 34th Regimental Army of Philadelphia.”

“No, not that one, the thing to its left!”

“Ma’am, you must mean the statue of General Longstreet.”

“No, not that! Farther down, over there. In blue!”

“Blue?” The man is genuinely confused. “Sorry, I am not aware of any blue monuments in this vicinity.”

“Monument! No way! That blue letter … could it be? Yes! It’s WALMART! Let’s go, guys! Take me to that W!”

Reluctantly, Yosef and Ari follow as I skip to the car, newly energized. We run through Walmart’s aisles, grabbing socks and sundry items off the shelf.

Then we head back to the motel to pack, load up the car, and return to Monsey.

On the way home, Yosef and Ari reminisce about our trip. Predictably, my husband’s best moments were at the high-water mark for the Confederacy and the geshamke shawarma he ate. Ari had a hard time deciding which ride he enjoyed best at Screaming Acres, but that was definitely his favorite activity.

“What about you, Ma? Which ride did you like best?” he asks, with a barely smothered snicker.

“Me? I’d have to say…. the ride home.”

 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 597)

 

 

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