Wednesday, June 25
This year our vacation is a ten-day kosher tour of Spain. Our plan is to stop in JFK and spend the weekend in New Jersey with our son, daughter-in-law, and infant granddaughter and see our Brooklyn based daughter and her husband. After much deliberation, we elected to redeem a gazillion American miles so that we can sit in business class all the way to Spain and back. The extra leg room is great. The kosher food, mediocre. On the flight I watch two films: "Definitely Maybe" (very cute; I especially like Isla Fisher) and "27 Dresses," which isn't as bad as the reviews indicated. For all the criticism Katherine Heigl has been receiving about her not-so-diplomatic comments (I actually commend her for her candor, though to be honest, I was begnining to cringe at the self-absorption and selfishness of the character she plays on "Grey's Anatomy"), she does have comic timing, and I enjoyed her performance. And Ed Burns. I really like Ed Burns.
Thursday, June 26
I sleep late while my husband does several errands, including stopping in at the company where we ordered our international phones to pick up a missing item. We intended to leave for New Jersey around one to avoid the rush hour traffic, but by the time we pick up our daughter from her workplace in Boro Park, it's past three. Getting to Manhattan isn't the problem. Getting out of Manhattan is. Our son phones to report that traffic on FDR is congested. So is the West Side Highway. And the George Washington Bridge. We opt for one of the tunnels. Apparently, so does everyone else in a car. After almost an hour of creeping along a side street, my husband changes direction, makes several maneuvers, and manages to reach the other tunnel (I can't recall whether it's the Lincoln or Holland). Several hundred yards before the tunnel opening I notice a kiosk. The woman running it is doing brisk business with drivers who, thanks to the not-so-brisk traffic, have ample time to buy hot dogs and drinks. Smart woman. In New Jersey we stop for gas, much cheaper on the east coast than in L.A. And we have earthquakes.
After a delicious dinner and delicious time with our eight-month-old granddaughter, whom we last saw in February in L.A., my daughter, daughter-in-law and I watch "27 Dresses" (yes, I saw it just yesterday, but I'm doing Sudoku at the same time). Then off to bed.
Friday, June 27
In the afternoon we drive to one of the sprawling New Jersey malls, where we stop at Bed Bath & Beyond, Ikea, and The Christmas Store. The latter has little to do with Christmas, but does offer "metzias" (Yiddish for "bargains; it literally means "finds," as in the noun). Inexpensive candles of all kinds; towels, bric-a-brac, framed poster art; furniture; food, including a large selection of kosher items that find their way into our basket. There is no Christmas store in Southern California (I Googled it). If there were, it would be one of my favorite places to shop. I pick up two spiral-paged notebooks with floral covers (I plan to use them as journals during our Spain tour) and a long cotton tube with a print design used to store plastic bags. (My husband, who rarely comments on things I bring home, actually likes the bag.) The Ikea store, by the way, is huge and overwhelming. It, too, has much of offer and I make a mental note to visit the store nearest us when I'm back in L.A.
Our son-in-law arrives soon after we return to the apartment. He has reaaranged his schedule so that he and our daughter can spend the weekend with us in New Jersey. There is the usual Friday afternoon flurry of activity. Then we light the Shabbat candles, and the men leave for shul.
Saturday, June 28
The shul is about half an hour's walk from the apartment, but the humidity is oppressive. We find seats (and air-conditioning) in the downstairs minyan. During his drash, the assistant rabbi talks about the week's torah reading ("Korach"), which deals with Korach's unsuccessful attempt to unseat Moses as the leader of the Israelites, and his grim fate. (The earth opens; Korach and his followers are swallowed.) Korach, the rabbi says, wasn't an evil man. But he was dissatisfied with his lot, and he allowed that dissatifaction to destroy him. The rabbi then tells us about his recent trip to Israel , where he and his wife peeled and sliced vegetables at a "restaurant" that caters to Jerusalem's poor. The idea, he explained, is to provide help while preserving the dignity and pride of those in need.
At the kiddush following the service, I reconnect with a woman who was a classmate at Stern, meet another woman who is related to a good friend of mine in L.A., and a third whose husband went to yeshiva in Denver with my brother. The Jewish world is wonderfully small--two or three degrees of separation, not six, a la Kevin Bacon.
We count the blocks until we are back in the apartment. Lunch, a Shabbat "shluf" (nap), playtime with our granddaughter, who is on the verge of crawling and has mastered a stately hand wave and who slurps my face.
Shabbat is over too soon. It always is.