“This year,” your newly inaugurated teen pleads, “can we please do something real? Like every normal family?"
The same thing happens every year. You plan and you plan, and in the end, you never do anything and never go anywhere, because you’re are the absolute nerdiest family on earth. But this year will be different. “This year,” your newly inaugurated teen pleads, “can we please do something real? Like every normal family? You know, rent an RV, take along a pop-up succah, travel somewhere far and exotic? Overnight, obviously.”
The nods and yesses are quick in coming. Everyone (okay, except you, the mother of the absolute nerdiest family. And your husband, who silently thinks, we say that every year) agrees. “Let’s.”
Your family makes plans. Really grand plans that you think are over-the-top ridiculous, so you tell the kids, “It’s not what you do, it’s who you do it with.” But your kids don’t listen, they’re off to tell all the neighbors’ kids about your really grand plans, and each of the neighbors’ kids goes home and complains that they’re the absolute nerdiest family on earth and never go anywhere.
You’re renting an RV; you are so perfectly cool.
“Dream on,” you mutter.
They dream on. And on and on, because it’s Chol Hamoed morning, there’s no school, and it’s the only opportunity to sleep in.
When your kids are finally out of bed and dressed in their best, brand-new Chol Hamoed outfits and shoes, your serve them breakfast. Not cereal and milk, they have that every day. It’s Chol Hamoed, they would like to have real breakfast for a change. Fresh rolls and omelets and guacamole and Israeli salad chopped up really tiny.
“Ma, can we make S’mores for dessert?” your kid asks you while you’re trying to figure out how to pack up five meals for 11 people, because, you know, overnight. “You said we’d make S’mores on Chol Hamoed.”
Before you leave, everyone needs to daven. So everyone davens. And says Hallel. And Mussaf. And hoshanas. Then you and all the davened kids wait for Tatty and the bochurim and your daughter Hadassah’s husband to return from shul, but they’re also davening, and saying Hallel and Mussaf and hoshanas. It’s Chol Hamoed, it’s a long davening. When will you be home? you text your husband. Everyone still needs to bentsh esrog before we leave.
When your husband arrives home, he washes for breakfast. And bentshes. And bentshes again, with yaaleh v’yavo. He checks the time and figures, “It’s half an hour after chatzos, it’s probably best to daven Minchah now and know that we’re davened, right?”
By the time the men return from shul, the baby needs to be fed. And changed. And everyone’s hungry again, so they ask you for lunch, and you prepare them lunch — they want something good, baked ziti and iced coffee, maybe?
By the time they’re done eating, it’s 3:30. And that’s when you notice your surroundings. The house looks like the zoo you’re not going to, since you’re the cool family who rented an RV and is traveling somewhere far and exotic.
“We’re not leaving the house in such a state,” you tell your beautifully dressed kids.
“I think we should go tomorrow,” your husband tells your beautifully dressed kids. “We’ll get an early night, wake up early, and leave right away.”
“We never go anywhere,” your kids tell you.
You don’t leave right away the next morning, even though your husband davened vasikin and finished his humble cereal breakfast before 8:00. You hadn’t gotten an early night because it was Chol Hamoed, and you’d popped popcorn with the kids and started a 1,000-piece puzzle and couldn’t go to sleep before it was done.
“Okay if I hop over to shul to learn with Elbinger for an hour?” your husband asks you.
He’s gone for three hours, because the learning is so geshmak, and isn’t this what Chol Hamoed is all about?
While your kids — dressed in their second-best Chol Hamoed finery — wait, you call up the Grand Place You Are Going To and find out that in order to enter, you need reservations, which you don’t have. You brainstorm a plan B with the kids, but by the time your husband arrives home and announces, “I have the RV outside! So? Where are we going?” nobody is on speaking terms with anyone.
Before your absolute nerdiest family on earth comes to an agreement, your married daughter Hadassah opens the door. “Hey, guys. I think you should all go ahead without us. We’re thinking the noise and schedule will be too much for Simcha. He needs to go to sleep on time, so maybe we’ll just go somewhere quiet on our own.”
“Well then, maybe we shouldn’t go somewhere that far and exotic?” you suggest feebly. “It’s not what you do, it’s…”
The kids glare you into silence.
Your children are hardly done processing the disappointment that their adorable nephew is staying behind when you discover that your two bochurim have somehow finagled tickets to a concert. There’s no way they’re passing those up. “Go ahead without us, we’re good.” They smirk.
Meanwhile, you go to your freezer to once again take out all the food you need to pack for the trip, and you make an astonishing discovery.
“I’m sure I had another 9×13 of French roast in here, 100% positive,” you tell the sharply dressed children nearby, who are suddenly looking very hard anywhere but in your eyes. “And who ate up the entire ice cream and put the empty pan back in the freezer?”
You go into panic mode and declare to your absolute nerdiest family on earth who are all dressed in brown even though brown is ugly but ugly is in so who are you to argue, “Go without me, everyone. I have a lot of cooking to do, I’m never going to make it to Yom Tov.”
Your husband tells everyone to put on their jackets, but there’s something in your five-year-old’s eyes that makes you inch closer to him and plant your palm on his forehead. Your intuition never fails you: He’s burning with fever. “Motrin,” you order, “and into bed with you.”
And then, when your newly inaugurated teen in her brown midi knit skirt and knit top has had it with your absolute nerdiest family on earth that she is unfortunately part of, her friend Huvi calls. “We’re going ice skating!” you hear the shriek over the phone. “Me, Batsheva, Suri, Chaya Blima, and Raizy. Do you want to join? We’re leaving now.” One glance at her absolute beyond nerdy family who never does anything cool and your brand-new teen answers her friend, “I’m coming.”
They arrive. At the park. Which is a three-minute walk from your house, but come on, the RV is the experience, and the point is that it’s a family trip, and — how did that go again? It doesn’t matter where you’re going, right?
Right. It really doesn’t matter. Your husband and toddler even get to wave goodbye to Uncle Moishy, who’d just finished his performance, right upon their arrival. They also get to practice saying “Gam zu l’tova” and “Thank You, Hashem” and “Maybe next year, it obviously wasn’t bashert,” after waiting on line for one and a half hours and having the ride operator tell them the ride is closed when it’s finally their turn.
Your brand-new teen doesn’t even greet you when she returns from the ice-skating rink. Her eyes are glued to her camera screen, family phone hitched to her ear, on a conference with Huvi, Batsheva, Suri, Chaya Blima and Raizy, and when you ask her how her trip was, she tells you the place was closed, but she had a blast anyway because, “It’s not what you do, it’s who you do it with.”
No, it really doesn’t matter, because you did it. You rented an RV and traveled somewhere. Okay, maybe not so far and not so exotic, but coming back from anywhere enables you to lose your absolute nerdiest family distinction, and gain admission to the nerdy, nerdy zoo next Chol Hamoed.
Like every normal family.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 760)
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