Socks, pajamas and jackets in each child’s size; check. Kid’s shoes that can survive extreme dust and gravel; check. Extra-large mouthwash and shampoo bottles; check. The duffel began to fill but somehow there was always room for a little bit more. After it was stuffed to the brim with necessities, I decided that I wanted to bring something special with me this time. What could I bring that would keep the children busy and help their imagination grow?
I called my daughter and asked her if she thought the kids would enjoy a kitchen set.
“Of course they’d love it, but are you sure, Mommy? What a huge schlep that is for you. How are you going to bring it here?”
“Don’t worry,” I replied. “Bubbies have a way of making things happen for their einiklech.”
The day of departure finally came. I felt so good as I carried the huge carton to check-in. As the colorful box was being labeled and sent with the oversized luggage, I was asked, “Which lucky children are getting this?”
I couldn’t wait to see the delight on my grandchildren’s faces.
Many hours later, I unraveled myself from the long flight and waited patiently for the kitchen set to emerge. After watching the carousel go round and round, my carton arrived at last. Hoisted onto my cart along with my precious duffel, I could barely see above the huge box that lay before me. I gingerly maneuvered my way out of the airport and found my cab.
“Wow, wow, mah zeh?” Even the Israeli taxi driver was impressed. He attached the box to the roof of his cab and tied it down securely. Wiping the perspiration from his forehead in the overwhelming heat, we were finally off to Yerushalayim.
There are no words that can describe the feeling as one enters the holy city. Coupled with that intense emotion, I anticipated seeing my loved ones, with whom I hadn’t spent time for quite a while. My heart was full.
We pulled into the parking lot of my daughter’s building. The kids were all on the mirpeset, hands clenched to the iron gates, faces peering through the small gaps. The kitchen set had been bouncing on the roof of the car the entire trip and I was relieved to find it intact. They started jumping up and down. “Bubby, Bubby!”
Once again, I lugged the huge carton up the flights of stairs as the driver took my luggage. The little ones shyly smiled and cooed as the bigger children ran into my arms. At long last, I had reached my destination.
We settled down on the couch and shared laughter over cold drinks.
“And look what we have here, my sweet kinderlach,” I said. I pointed to the kitchen set. The kids jumped up and down as my son-in-law took out his toolbox and began to assemble all the different pieces. I was smoothing the authentic looking stickers onto the stove and cupboard when I heard squeals of delight.
The kids had taken the empty box and started crawling through from one end to the other. My granddaughter took out a bag of crayons and magic markers and started to color on the cardboard.
“Bubby, we love this box!”
“But look,” I replied. “There’s a kitchen set here. Tatty just set it up for you. I brought it from America!”
“Yeah, but this is our clubhouse, Bubby. We always wanted a fun clubhouse to play in. Look how we can hide inside. Come, Bubby. You can hide too. And we can decorate it together!”
And so we spent the afternoon in our new clubhouse as the kitchen set stood on the side. We each took a magic marker and covered it in colorful designs.
I had to laugh.
After all the schlepping and anticipation, all my grandchildren really wanted was some time together in a cardboard box.
As summer arrives, so does the opportunity to create magical memories with our children and grandchildren. It is easy to get caught up trying to plan grand trips or action packed days. Camps are searching each year for newer, bigger and better activities. Somehow, the joy of easy summer days has gotten lost. Yet what our children truly relish are the moments when we spend time with them. These are the memories that last a lifetime. When we take the time to make a child feel heard, teach a child to explore the wonder of Hashem’s beautiful world, help a child see the beauty that lies within their soul, create a bond between family and friends, then we have taken the days of summer and truly made magic. Let us not disregard those small moments that we often take for granted and believe to be insignificant. The walks, the talks, the bike rides, the games, the swings and slides, the melting ice cream cones under a shady tree, and the laughter all help our children feel loved and alive. A sense of belonging strengthens our children and sustains them throughout the year.
One more thought. Many parents look forward to summer as their time to escape the many responsibilities that burden us throughout the school calendar. True, there are no homework assignments, tests or science projects looming. But let’s not forget that being a mother and father is a privilege from Hakodosh Boruch Hu that continues to exist throughout the summer months. It is a privilege that we often don’t take the time to ponder; days just seem to pass into nights, months into years.
I was incredibly moved to read the words of Rav Gavriel Sasoon, who tragically lost seven of his eight children in a fire on leil Shabbos that burned through his Midwood home this past March 21.
“On Friday night, I still give them brochot. I hold up my hands like they’re there and I have each one in mind as they pass by,” he said.
How can we not take this father’s pain into our hearts? How can we not stop and think of him and of his family as we bentch our children?
As the long days of summer approach, let us use these days as Rav Gavriel Sasoon implores of us. Over and over, he begs us to see what is truly important in life, to recognize what is real, to love our children and our spouses, to love one another, to be sensitive to each other’s pain and to genuinely care about Am Yisroel.
If we are able to remember this message each day then we have truly taken the summer months and created magic.