Ten years ago, I was the overwhelmed, under-rested, barely-bathed mother of newborn twins. Getting out of bed was a daily challenge, staying awake past 6 pm was even harder. So it was a rare and much-needed treat when my friend Wendy and my cousin Amy came over for dinner and a night of gabbing and girl-talk.
"You must be exhausted," Wendy clucked with compassion.
"I'm fine." I lied.
"How are you getting through the days?" Amy asked, her voice filled with rachmanos.
When my older brother Scott was a senior in college, he wrote home about the new woman he was dating. Three pieces of information stuck out: 1) she had the same first name as his sister (that's me), 2) she was from Minnesota (where's that?) and 3) she was Jewish. While many Jewish families would have regarded that third detail as cause for either relief or celebration, our family took it as evidence that his new girlfriend was in a cult, and would certainly try to get my brother to drink the (kosher) Kool-Aid.
While I was secretly hoping that Kate and William might need a keynote speaker for their big day, I was not surprised that my invitation to the royal wedding never arrived. I can also say that, as a cheerful and frequent host of many Shabbat dinners, I am far from astounded when my family gets invited out to usher in the Sabbath around someone else's dining room table.
It was supposed to be one of those mother-son experiences that memories are made of.
I was invited to be the keynote speaker for a fundraising event at a midwestern Jewish Federation, and, since it was within driving distance of my alma mater, The University of Michigan --Ann Arbor, I decided to bring my then-seven year old son Jacob. While I got excited to show him where I had gone to class and bought my books and partied hard (well, maybe I'd skip that part), I discovered what was to be the icing on the cake as soon as we got to JFK airport: We'd been upgraded to First Class.
Imagine driving your kids to drop them off for a month of sleep-away camp. Imagine that the energy in the car is a combination of anxiety and excitement, anticipation and celebration. These are the times that normal parents bring up benign conversational topics to pass the time, such as “do you think you’ll be in the same bunk as Sammy again?” or “Remember to stay out of the poison oak on the overnight.” Nothing deep. Just idle chatter.