A few years ago, I did a crap load of cooking. I was preparing for Passover, so I was doing what Jewish mothers do — cooking up a storm. I was Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray and Betty-freaking-Crocker — except the Jewish version.
So picture frizzier hair and a bigger nose.
That year, I made 3 times as many matzah balls as I usually would, to make sure that my family would have enough to eat for the entire week. It took hours, but no big whoop, right? These are the things we do for love.
After the brisket went in and the noodle kugel was finished, I realized I didn’t have enough room in my freezer. So, I asked my kind neighbor if I could use a little space in the freezer that she keeps in her garage. She said of course.
Passover comes and so do all the guests. I’m serving the soup, and I’m like where are all my matzah balls? I look in the freezer, in the refrigerator, in the garage. It’s cold enough. I’m thinking, maybe I stashed them in the trunk of my car. Sometimes I stick things there. I look everywhere. I only have 18 matzah balls. The thing is this: that year? We have 24 people at the house. Picturing, standing in the kitchen, confused and cutting matzah balls in half.
I believe it is written in the Torah.
Thou shalt not run out of matzah balls.
But I did.
I apologized to our guests.
Time went by.
Spring came and went.
Months after the holiday ended, I was sitting on my driveway in the sun when my neighbor asked if I would like to have my matzah balls.
“Because isn’t Passover coming up?” she asked.
You guys, I didn’t even remember giving them to her.
Suddenly I was like: Should I be worried? Should I call the doctor? Do I need to check about early dementia? Seriously, how did those balls get over there? Did they roll across the street on their own?
I followed my friend into her warm garage. She opened her freezer and next to the ICEEs, there was my long-lost Tupperware container filled with frozen balls. All 9 bazillion of them.
This year, Spring Break fell on the same week as Passover – the Jewish holiday which commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. (Think Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments.) This year there seemed to be so many similarities between Monkey’s heinous April “staycation” in Western, New York and the oft-repeated, seemingly never-ending Passover story that I simply could not ignore it.
During Both The Exodus and Spring Break, People Got Creative: When Pharaoh, the King of Egypt, made a law that every male, infant Israelite be killed, Moses’ mother got busy. She wove a little basket, put her son into it, and floated him down the river, hoping he would be found among the reeds.
The first few days of April vacation were fine, but by Sunday evening, Monkey and I were done with our Game-a-Thon. We had played dozens of games, but after thirty-two arguments about his iPod Touch usage, Hubby and I decided to confiscate Monkey’s Touch for the remainder of the week. From that moment forward, we had conversations so similar in content, I was ready to stick Monkey in a basket and float him down the River Nile. They went something like this:
Monkey: Can I go on the computer?
Monkey: Can I Skype someone?
Monkey: Can I use my iPod Touch?
Monkey: Can I watch TV?
Monkey: Were you born this mean?
Me: No, I minored in mean in college.
In an effort to keep Monkey away from screens, on Monday, I took him to the library. We brought home Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane. I figured he would read while I rolled matzah balls for the chicken soup. After 40 minutes, Monkey set down his book and wandered over to me.
Monkey: Colin’s really good at Super Smash Brothers Brawl.
Me: Cool. Wanna help me cut some carrots for the soup?
Monkey: If I cut carrots, can I get my iPod Touch back?
During Both The Exodus and Spring Break, People Were Tested: On Monday night, we had the first seder. There were only nine of us this year. We got to the part about how God spoke to Moses in the form of a burning bush.
Monkey: If someone came down from a mountain today saying he had talked to a burning bush, that person would be considered insane.
Me: There has always been a fine line between mystical experience and mental illness.
Monkey: There’s this cool computer game called Portal. Can I get it?
Me: Not in the middle of the Seder.
Monkey: Well, can I show it to you on the computer after the Seder?
Two cups of wine later, Moses and his brother, Aaron, go to Pharaoh to explain to him that the Lord has commanded that he let the Israelites go. Pharaoh becomes furious, sends the dynamic duo away, and proceeds to treat the Israelites worse than before. At this point, Monkey announced to everyone: “Mom’s kind of like the Pharaoh. She won’t let me have my iPod Touch.”
During Both The Exodus and Spring Break, There Were Bizarre Events: In the Passover story, after the Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go, God inflicted ten horrible plagues on the Egyptian people, most of which involved weird supernatural weather. I mean, The Lord turned the water into blood; He made skillions of frogs hop all over the place; He brought on boils and swarms of locusts and – gasp – lice. He even caused the Egyptian’s animals to get sick and die.
Well, weird shizz happened here over the vacation, too. First of all, it was mid-April. Normally, by mid-April it is usually kind of warm. And by warm I mean, it is not ridiculously cold. But it was cold. Ridiculously cold. Over Spring Break, it snowed twice, hailed once, and – not for nothing – but it actually rained so hard that people’s basements flooded. The creek in our backyard (which never overflows) overflowed and nearly took out one of our trees, dragging a bunch of soil and mulch into our neighbors’ yard.
During Both The Exodus and Spring Break, There Was a lot of Hurrying: When the Pharaoh finally decided to let the slaves go, the Jews did not wait around. They grabbed what they could carry and got out of Dodge, guided by a cloud (provided courtesy of The Lord). When the Israelites reached the Red Sea, they saw that Pharaoh was pursuing them with a large army. The Jews were afraid, but God commanded Moses to raise his rod and the waters parted so the Jews could reach the other side in safety.
When the Israelites saw that they were safe, they sang a song of praise to God.
Monkey: Wanna hear a song that will get stuck in your head?
During Both The Exodus and Spring Break, People Complained: After the Jews escaped and had traveled for some time, they started complaining to Moses because he brought them to a land where they did not have enough to eat. (I imagine it was a little like Survivor without the camera crew. They probably formed alliances and wore buffs made out dust and rocks.) But God was good and sent the Jews quails and manna. And when the people were thirsty, God commanded Moses to touch a rock with his rod and water poured out of the rock, so the people would stop their bitching.
In our house, after several days of matzah consumption, everyone began to complain of gastrointestinal unrest. Such moaning, you would not believe.
Monkey: Do we have any raisins?
Me: I think we are out.
Monkey (moaning): Prunes?
Me: We can put them on the grocery list.
Monkey: How about my iPod Touch? Can we put that on the list?
During Both The Exodus and Spring Break, People Got Frustrated: Just as the Jews wandered the desert – in the heat, without showers, without a GPS to guide them – Monkey wandered the neighborhood looking for something to do and someone to do it with. It ain’t easy being Jewish during Spring Break. Especially when Spring Break falls the same week as Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Monkey was frustrated to learn that most of his friends had gone to visit relatives or jetted down to warmer climes. I got to hear about it.
Monkey (pleading): Can I please use my iPod Touch?
Please note, Monkey never once said that he was “bored.” He made this mistake once when he was in 3rd grade and he quickly learned that – if a person announces he is bored – well, there is always a toilet that needs a good scrubbing.
Anyway, the Jews wandered for forty years in the desert. Having sand in your underpants for four decades is enough to make anyone cranky.
During Spring Break, I tried to take care of Monkey’s needs just as God (via Moses) took care of the needs of His people. One day a friend called, and we discussed taking a road trip with our sons. (Read: My friend was going insane with the “staycation” crap, too.) On that day, we packed up our three boys and took them to the Corning Museum of Glass where they proceeded to act like the proverbial bulls in a china shop. During a short glass blowing demonstration, our children so pestered the artist, he actually dropped the delicate, glass elephant he had been crafting for fifteen minutes, and the little pachyderm broke into three pieces. Most people left the demo at that point.
Monkey’s Friend : Can we wander around now?
Monkey’s Friend’s Brother: Can I have that elephant’s legs?
After being constant companions for nine days, Monkey and I maxed out on each other. We glared at each other from across rooms. K’Nex creations began to look like viable weapons.
During Both The Exodus and Spring Break, There Were Miraculous Moments: Spring break wasn’t all bad. There was one particularly endearing moment when Monkey and I were wrestling – something we like to do during commercials (especially during long vacations from school). Anyway, he’s getting stronger now that he is almost 12 years old. It wasn’t as easy to take him down as usual. But I got him. I managed a completely ridiculous totally smooth backward roll, and I pinned him to the floor. We laughed hysterically until our show came back on the air, and we returned to our couch-sitting silence. As my son adjusted his hair (good hair is very important at almost age 12), Monkey said, “Mom, you are a really good wrestler.”
It was a tender moment.
Both The Exodus and Spring Break Ended. And then suddenly, magically, it happened. Just as God said: The Israelites arrived at the Promised Land.
And Monday morning, the middle school in my backyard lit up like… well… like a school. And I thought to myself: Huzzah! The Promised Land. And as Monkey set off, I watched him until he disappeared around the corner of the brick building, then I took his iPod Touch from out of the cupboard, plugged it in, and thought to myself: Amen.
I was prescribed Klonopin for insomnia in 2005. Seven years later, after a slow, medically supervised wean, I became cognitively impaired, and after 30 months of intense suffering, I have been resurrected - a phoenix, come from the ashes, ready to battle doctors and big Pharma, while offering empathic support to those still suffering protracted withdrawal symptoms.
A perfectionist by nature, I'm learning to find beauty in the chaos. I'm the girl with the big ideas and the big hair. And words. Always words.
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