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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Our Upgraded Mommy Camp (as appeared in the Bina)

“Look, there’s another one!” My daughter quickly jumped up and threw her shoe at it. But before she could sit down, my daughter-in-law screamed, “Over there! Get it quick!”

It was another cockroach. Yup, a huge, shiny black makak.

Every year I host a “mother-and-daughter retreat” for my daughters, daughters-in-law, and, more recently, married granddaughters. It’s usually an overnight affair, in our house, in which we all sleep (or to be more accurate, don’t sleep) on mattresses spread across the living room floor. This year, I didn’t feel up to hosting so many people, so when I saw an advertisement for an overnight women’s retreat with a full program of top-notch lecturers, I decided to splurge.

I was looking forward to a delicious combination of ruchniyus and gashmiyus. And I was not disappointed. The food was delicious and the lectures were both practical and inspirational. That night, after we retired to our hotel rooms, instead of discussing the latest child-raising fad, or the pros and cons of using a microwave, our conversations centered on bringing the concepts discussed at the lectures into our daily lives. I was humbled by my children’s s desire to grow in their Yiddishkeit.
Let me add just one more detail: many of the lecturers talked about how challenges are good for us, as they act as an impetus for growth. Well,we certainly had our share of (minor) challenges that night. The cockroaches; the shower faucet that fell out of the wall the minute the water was turned on, bruising my daughter’s foot; the hotel room door that would not close. Oh, and the bath that was clogged, so that instead of going down, the water went up…and up.

After killing the seventh cockroach, we realized that we were vastly outnumbered and phoned reception to bring in reinforcements. Dudi arrived bearing a huge can of bug spray. He moved furniture, killed cockroaches, and the promised that the hotel would fix the shower and front door the next morning.

“Don’t bother,” we said with a laugh. “We have to return the keys by ten a.m.”

By the time Dudi left, it was after midnight. I tickled my two infant grandchildren, said goodnight to my two daughters, and returned to the adjacent room that I shared with two other daughters. And then we stayed up until close to two in the morning, laughing as we reminisced about the “good old days” when they were growing up (it’s amazing how we view our past with such rose-colored glasses!).

The next morning, I slipped out of the room and sat outside on the grass to daven. When I finished, I quietly opened the already partially opened door (the one that couldn’t close) to see how my two other girls and their two babies were faring.

The room was empty! Even the suitcases were gone. After they were found in the dining room, eating breakfast, my two missing daughters told me that after killing several more cockroaches, they realized they had no choice but to accept the hotel’s offer to move them to a different room without “pets.”

The crazy thing is that despite the cockroaches and the showers that didn’t work, the blister on my foot that made walking difficult, and the colicky baby that had to be held the entire time, we all felt that the getaway was a real success. We had been together for close to two days, spending quality time bonding and creating memories.

I don’t know about you, but my life is extremely busy. Between writing articles, running my organization Tikvah for Parkinson, taking care of the house and spending time with the grandchildren, I often find that I don’t have the time to just sit and talk with the people I love the most. Yes, my kids come for Shabbos, but between the seudos and being busy with the grandchildren, there’s little time for deep, meaningful conversations, the type that comes so much easier when it’s the middle of the night and you’re half asleep!

So take your own family on an upgraded mother-and-daughter camp. If you’re really lucky, you’ll also get to stretch your spiritual muscles with a few cockroaches and blocked drains, creating zany unforgettable memories that will leave you giggling at two o’clock in the morning, as you spend some real quality time bonding with your daughters and granddaughters.

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