With heavy rain, it is understandable that the annual Rosh Hashanah services Under the Stars, an outdoor event ringing in the Jewish New Year, with a service alongside a picnic dinner, was moved inside. Since the inception of this spiritual, casual, community event, I do not believe that my family has ever missed one year. Mother Nature broke our streak.
For many, this gathering, is a time to reconnect with former neighbors, old school friends, their parents, and their kids. Old camp bunk mates attend. My kids’ teammates, preschool teachers and current teachers attend. We ring in the New Year as a community, about 5000 people from the Baltimore Jewish community. We gather to hear the first sound of the shofar.
Dinner is a big part of the Holiday
I am always amazed that for a three hour event, the outdoor Congregants drag lawn chairs, Bridge card tables, tarps, coolers, enough food for a banquet, and wine to celebrate the Jewish new year. Even if the rained stopped, I can’t see our people dragging the gear and food through the mud. Our cars wouldn’t survive getting out of the fields – we struggle with the parking lot on dry land.
Dinner is a big component of this evening. Some people get carryout. Some people partake in the food trucks. Some families cook. For my family, my father often makes the main dish which varies from year to year: filet mignon, salmon, flank steak, deli, masculine green salad and more. I bring the traditional Jewish favorites including Dr. Brown’s diet black cherry and cream soda cans, rainbow cake, chocolate tops, and the balance of dinner.
Many families have three big dinners and luncheons over this holiday. My daughter and I cook for the second dinner. Because of the rain, this year, my family is swapping out the second dinner menu in lieu of the canceled picnic dinner. We will figure out tomorrow’s dinner later. I have heard that some of our friends will be eating their Royal Farms’ fried chicken intended picnic dinner in their dry and warm homes. I am racing against the clock and hoping that the traditional brisket, matzoh ball soup, kugel, and apple cake are cooked before for sundown. We already polished off the chopped liver.
Memories From Past Rosh Hashanahs
While I am disappointed that our family’s traditional evening will be different this year, and as I continue to procrastinate getting dinner ready, here are a few good stories from the past:
The year that the selfie emerged, my mother and I discovered we could not get our heads into one photo. We have photos filled with laughter and our heads are cut off. We bought a selfie stick that week.
One time my father made an 8 pound flank steak and brought it into the park whole. He brought an industrial grade butcher’s knife and I had to slice it on the picnic blanket sitting on my knees.
My Mom couldn’t open her folding chair and kindly asked surrounding neighbors if they had KY Jelly while wishing them a good New Year. We intervened after the third inquiry.
The year my dad prepared filet mignon. We were already to eat and it was discovered that my mom forgot to pack utensils. My dad and I walked around the park wishing everyone a Happy New Year and begged for a spare plastic fork here and an extra plastic knife there. We may have had to share a spoon or two during dessert.
We went light one year with an extravagant deli spread. There must have been 8 different mustards. Mark asked my Dad if he brought any other condiments. My Dad who is generous and flexible responded with a tone, “Mark, I picked up all of the deli. We have a lot of options. Can you figure out something else?” Mark, “Sure, Freddie, but the mustard is expired. One expired about 12 years ago.” Our first born son wasn’t born the year that mustard was manufactured. We have never looked at mustard the same since.
Yes, my mother’s beautiful Jewish Apple Cake fell out of the container and rolled down a hill. We pulled the grass off it, and ate it anyway.
My kids remember when they were little, that they used to receive apples and honey sticks on our way out for a sweet new year. When our son was about 9, a relative didn’t come with us. My son asked the volunteer for an extra apple and honey stick to bring home. I am still proud of my son years later for his empathy.
Music, Rain & Wishes for a Sweet Year
Music is always my favorite part of this service. I tear up each year when we all sing Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” in unison. This one event of the year is when I feel the most spiritual and community strong. It is incredible to hear your community, religious or not, sing the prayers of the high holidays together. And Bob Marley just adds a little extra.
As the rain keeps us inside this year, and the menus abruptly change, it feels like Passover when the Jews were forced to flee and the bread didn’t rise, we got matzoh. I will look at the Rosh Hashanah matzoh balls with irony this year.
From our table to your table we wish you another sweet year filled with good health, peace, happiness and humor no matter what you are eating, and however you are celebrating. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life.
Celebrating Tu B’shevat – A New Year for the Trees
My family celebrates Tu B’shevat, the new year for the trees, the trees’ birthday. This is a Jewish holiday not widely celebrated in America, but it is in Israel. The Brody Bunch has our own family traditions around this festive holiday. When the kids were in preschool through last year, each received a Graham cracker with green frosting and M&Ms to depict a tree. This dessert tree was introduced to us through a preschool teacher. We sing “Happy Birthday” in Hebrew and English. And, we read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Treeand ate a tasty tree. We were happy.
Often we go through the motions as we manage our busy school and work schedules compounded with theater and sports schedules and life. I thought that our celebration of the trees would be nothing short of checking off another obligation from the calendar. The Brody Bunch has been more than colorful with their 11, 12, 13 and 14 year old selves. Holidays are important in my family, but we often spin out of control on our self created hamster wheel. Yet, this Tu B’shevat, my family rose to the occasion and made me the happiest mom during our little celebration.
Tweaking Tradition, A Pinterest “Nailed It”
With healthier eating choices, I did not buy Graham crackers, frosting and M&Ms. It was strongly noted how disappointed people were without their frosting trees because it is our tradition. Instead, I went to a high end grocery store, bought fresh veggies and successfully mimicked a vegetable design in the shape of a tree as seen on Pinterest, really a Christmas tree, and served the vegetable tree with a holiday tray of traditional dry fruits and nuts. The vegetables, dried fruit and nuts were all eaten as the Brody Bunch reminisced about the days of their frosting trees.
We gleefully sang Happy Birthday in both Hebrew and English. And, our youngest son read to us, The Giving Tree. Our copy of this book, which was mine and my younger brother’s, from our childhood, has been on my bookshelf for more than 40 years. The story has had different meanings to me at different stages in my own life. However, this year’s dramatic reading of The Giving Tree was different with the character voices given to both the Boy and the Tree by our theatrical reader. And, like the Boy and the Tree, from the book, I was happy.
I went up to bed ahead of everyone else, and I was happy. My head it the pillow and I heard my oldest son declare, “This is the first year that Mom didn’t make us line up on the couch and take a picture. Probably because she didn’t make us frosting trees.” I jumped out of bed, grabbed a camera and rallied (bribed) the troops for our annual Tu B’shevat picture. I was met with resistance. And like any mom with a low moral compass trying to preserve pictorial tradition, I offered my son a few extra dollars for the weekend if he went along with photo. I had to shake on it. Thankfully he negotiated poorly and requested a specific amount of money after the handshake.
The Photo Shoot is part of our Traditions
We went downstairs, to regroup on the couch for the photo. And, also like tradition, there was arguing during the photo shoot, people sitting too closely, face making, inappropriate fingers in the air. I promised only to use one camera and not a camera and a phone combo. We captured some sort of photographic memento. I have heard the kids say that they are so happy that we have pictures from throughout the years, though their gratitude is forgotten when going through the effort.
It Was a Joyous Night and the Frosting Was Missed, But Like the Tree, We Were Happy
Again, I climbed the stairs and put my head back on the pillow. My husband then inquired, “Did you look online to create that vegetable tray?” Indeed I did! It was my first Pinterest ‘Nailed It’! My family ‘nailed it’ it, too. Their participation and appreciation makes the effort worth it.
I fell asleep hearing, “I have known you for a long time and knew that you found that online, it was great, but not really you … I missed the Graham crackers with frosting.” Like the Tree and the Boy, from the book, I was happy. We were all happy. Perhaps part of celebrating holidays is to create traditions that are special to each family. Kumbaya to celebrating the trees as a tradition.
Winter break 2017 is about to come to an end. I am pretty ready to resume the Brody Bunch’s hamster wheel of school and extracurricular activities, family pressures, and it all restarts tomorrow. I don’t feel too revived from the break. I live and survive in chaos, and on the first day of the New Year, I have enjoyed being at home in PJs, writing, binge watching bad TV with my daughter, doing a puzzle and not being anywhere, until a New Year’s Day birthday dinner later tonight, before the first day back to school – timing is not our specialty.
Traditions, Disappointments and Surviving on Coffee, Dry Shampoo and Thermal Underwear
Over the holiday season, I navigated our family calendar with traditional things that the Brody Bunch, rather I, like to do over winter break. Our festivities begin the week prior to Thanksgiving with two birthdays and conclude on January 2nd with another birthday. I try to do it all, Monument lighting, parades, a trip to Pittsburgh, 8 crazy nights of Chanukah, Christmas in New York, train gardens, “The Nutcracker,” art museums, high tea, lights at the Miracle on 34th Street in Baltimore and more. I felt disappointment when the weather didn’t cooperate, it has been so cold. We canceled our day trip to DC. Bagged an NFL game. We saw three movies in the movie theater, which is not my favorite activity, I like being out and about and not sitting still. Surprisingly, all of the movies were great. Our kids felt disappointment when we didn’t host their friends for big dinners. We navigated our kids’ heightened social desires whereas I was a professional chauffeur but without their sports gear. We didn’t watch my favorite Christmas classic movies. I promised ice skating, but not all of the kids went. I said we would go bowling and we couldn’t get lanes. I said we would go to a jump zone place, and I got my days of the weeks messed up, I never knew what day it was, that is winter break. I survived on coffee, dry shampoo and thermal underwear as pants.
This winter has been tiring, cold and hard. I struggled with my kids pushing limits and my own desire to keep traditions on the calendar – not all of their plans included me. That was my own growing pain for the winter combined with four kids going through puberty at once.
Resolutions Turned into Bucket Lists
As the New Year approached, one of my kids scrapped resolutions for bucket list items. WOW, bucket list items, this is brilliant. My own simple goal is just to put the Chanukah decorations away before going back to work, I still have about 48 hours. Everything from standard to extravagant made their bucket lists: exercise goals to catching a foul ball at Camden Yards. We reflected on being better people.
Ready for the Hamster Wheel in the New Year with Memories, a Bucket List and LOVE
My mommy bucket overflowed last night at 11:49, PM, on December 31, 2017. One of my kids texted a sibling, and I received the notification on my phone, “I love you! Goodnight.” All of my planning is so that the Brody Bunch has good memories. Their growing up is tough, for me. But, this simple text, highlights that the important things are going well. Tomorrow is the first day back to school and theater practice. I am sure we will be rushed, unorganized and grabbing salad bar for dinner. Fortunately, everyone has clean underwear for the school week, which is a huge accomplishment here. For me, it’s time to resume wearing a bra and get back on the hamster wheel with overflowing buckets and love. Happy New Year!
Tis the season for the Festival of Lights, Chanukah, Hanukkah, the Miracle of Lights … 2018/5778 (Jewish Year) is down in the books. Here are the Brody Bunch Chanukah Chai-Lights in no random order. For those who celebrated, may the new wax you accumulated from your candles add to the good memories from years past. For all, may there always be light.
Pulling out Rubbermaid boxes filled with preschool made Chanukah art from when the Brody Bunch was little, signifies that Chanukah is upon us. Seeing their little projects displayed brings much happiness.
Hearing Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song” kicks off the festivities for 8 crazy nights.
Four kids x eight nights = 32 gifts. The Brody Bunch tells me that we don’t have to exchange gifts, just light candles, but they have much gratitude, expect nothing, appreciate everything and indulge me in a nightly sibling photo. We give them things they need or little things we know they want. Though, it was an epic fail when I let our 13 year old daughter order a book off Amazon on Black Friday featuring her favorite teeny bopper heartthrob like entertainer to discover that I paid for a book about Jeffrey Dahmer’s youth. Thankful for free return shipping.
For the first time, the Brody Bunch created a candle lighting schedule regarding who strikes the match which lights the Shamash candle (the tallest candle in the menorah, the candle helper) and kept to the schedule allowing each sibling to use matches twice. Four siblings x two nights each = 8 nights. I didn’t mediate once. That is considered a miracle, too.
Playing dreidel. Dreidel is a Hanukkah game using something like a spinning top, is similar to gambling, and we use Poker chips instead of Hanukkah gelt (chocolate candy coins) as money. There were no high stake tournaments, but lingering problems such as if the dreidel falls off the table and lands on a good jackpot side, how is that counted? After all these years, we are still in need of clear rules or players become like the Maccabees (the victorious Jews who won the battle) back in a modern battle.
I had so much fun buying boxes of frozen store made latkes, I ran into old friends and we had a great time. But homemade latkes taste better even though they are a lot of work and stink up the house from the oil. We were gifted with a family friend frying latkes at our house. And now will be eating the frozen latkes throughout the winter.
We finally used all of my mother’s circa 1970s Manischewitz brand candles. It was a miracle that the jumbo roll of Chanukah wrap, purchased three years ago, the extra long tube that is really hard to store, finally depleted. I marked my calendar with a reminder to go to the supermarket and restock clearance candles and Hanukkah wrapping paper for next year. Toilet paper and Chanukah supplies, you never stop using either.
Amazon Prime IS Hanukkah Harry. I will miss my daily visit with our mailman as the last delivery was today. Our mailman is funny like Newman, the Mailman, from Seinfeld.
We festively go through the motions of the holidays for Tradition and to perpetuate our heritage with our children. The kids waited each night for their Dad to come home from work, late, before lighting the menorahs. It was a family ritual each night.
My favorite night was night 6. With more family, we had good laughs, lit lots of menorahs, ate too many homemade latkes, sang Christmas songs, told jokes, used my parent’s very old China serving platters, and the Brody Bunch was full of personality. My kids keep asking what gift I would like to receive and I tell them “just behave”. They tell me it’s easier to buy a new purse, but on night 6 everyone behaved, that was my gift. Not all gifts are materialistic. I have a new memory to always treasure.
On the 7th night of Chanukah, my daughter lit her Great Grandmother’s menorah. The menorah has been my daughter’s since she had the fine motor skills to place the candles in the holes. And, this night was special because it would have been my Grandmother’s 98th birthday. So, I saw the the passing down of traditions from generation to generation literally unfold both in our dining room and in my heart.
On the 8th night, and final night, of Chanukah, I finally located our large dreidel collection and found all of our Jewish themed paper products, it’s like finding your Christmas decorations on December 26th.
Irony ended with the Baltimore City Fire Department. While celebrating the miracle of lights our circuit breaker kept tripping off. The electrician didn’t fix the problem, but instead tripped our smoke detectors and left with the smoke detectors chirping. So, without my family at home, I celebrated the 8th night of lights early when the Baltimore City Fire Department came over with the big truck and lights blaring to help this damsel in distress. What a way to close out the miracle of lights – with fire truck lights.
This Chanukah, I received great memories and new smoke detectors. Like the Israeli dreidel symbolizes, “A GREAT MIRACLE HAPPENED HERE, it was a great miracle that I survived 8 crazy nights.
It’s the holiday season. With an abundance of traditional and festive options, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker is one of the most popular winter seasonal highlights for many. And, I admit that I was not a fan of the beloved Nutcracker, until now. My mom and my daughter Blanche have made an annual pilgrimage to see this beloved ballet throughout the years. I am invited each year and decline.
Rising to the Occasion Because Your Kid Asks You To
This year, my mom was unable to take Blanche on their traditional outing. So, I made arrangements for Blanche to see the show, but Blanche wanted me to come, too. I had no interest. I saw it once as a child, and that was enough for me.
Though, when your kid asks you to go to the ballet, and her Grandmother can’t go, you rise to the occasion. For two hours, I was mesmerized. I loved everything in this holiday treasure. We saw a stellar production at the Baltimore School for the Arts. From the costumes and makeup to the dancing and the facial expressions, we were given a beautiful gift for the holidays and beyond. I tried to understand deeper meanings of The Nutcracker. But deeper meanings pertaining to the story were unneeded. The meanings in my own story is what unfolded. It was beautiful, and draining, and a gift received from self reflection. It was like believing in the magic of the Clara’s dream and the magic of the holidays.
The Magic of The Nutcracker Gave Me Gifts, Too
For the first time, I was engaged in the actual event. I usually photograph events so I miss being in the moment as I am “focused” on my job. I never realized this. But I enjoy it. And, I usually watch the expressions on my kids’ faces when we are sharing an experience, but I am never in the moment of the activity. My happiness is gained by watching my kids experience the moment. I don’t remember how I experienced things before they were born, but as they grow older, I am sure that I will need to relearn how to be in the moment for myself. Perhaps, The Nutcracker gave me a gift, too.
Several days have passed since the ballet. And, I don’t recall watching my daughter’s expressions during the performance. I was most engaged in the actual performance. She doesn’t understand that my experience differs from her experiences. She doesn’t know that I receive much joy out of watching her and her siblings experience happiness rather than enjoying the actual outing itself. She feels that we went to the show together and shared that journey, which is also true. For her, it is that simple. The moment I treasure most from this outing is that my daughter so much wanted to be with me, and I experienced actually being in the moment. We were both happy. We supported the arts. And perhaps the arts supported me in my personal growth.
I Understand the Best of the Holiday Season
I finally found the love that many have experienced through The Nutcracker thanks to my daughter, my mom, and the talented performers. Perhaps this journey of being in the moment, for myself, and with my family, represents the best of the holiday season.
Baltimore City Firefighters handing out candy to the kids
Pre Brody Bunch Halloween
It’s odd that I love Halloween. I grew up in the cyanide poisoning and razor blade scare era, in a neighborhood without many kids, and with a little brother who seemed to get Croup on many Halloweens. And, whatever costumes I had, always with a plastic mask, which made seeing and breathing difficult, I had to wear my big winter coat over my costume because it was cold.
Early Brody Bunch, Post Halloween = Clearance Finds!
The day after Halloween was another “holiday” chasing 50-75% off candy and costume clearance sales. I no longer eat candy, and sadly, the older Brody Bunch kids no longer play dress up. As my friend told me, October is all about kids planning the very perfect Halloween costume and then completely changing the said costume choice on October 30th. True.
Halloween Traditions Didn’t Go According to Plan
This Halloween season, things were pretty hectic. The Brody Bunch missed screening the entire It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. We didn’t honor anyone’s specific costume wishes. Our car broke down outside of the pumpkin patch. We finally purchased pumpkins at the grocery store, five days ago, and these uncarved pumpkins are taking up real estate on my kitchen floor.
Pjs Doubled Up as Costumes, That was my Intended Plan
Smartly, I welcomed each kid to pick out new warm onesie pajamas with the understanding that these pjs would double up as Halloween costumes. Brilliant! All went well until one daughter requested a $5 racoon mask and wore dark lipstick with the mask and was happy. Another daughter wore a $400 leather jacket, and decided that with her friends, she would be in a biker gang. My older son, for the first time, wasn’t a Baltimore Oriole. Instead, he was a rooster, thanks to his pajamas. I love that he had a costume rather than his beloved baseball jersey because the shirt reminded me of what older kids wear in the spirit of still wanting to trick or treat, but not dress up, and I wasn’t ready for that. My younger son, he didn’t want to be a Minion, but we ran out of time, so he was a Minion. I never dress up, but was sick of being cold, even while wearing my winter coat like I did when I was a child. So, I wore my daughter’s monkey suit onesies and I was warm. Moving forward, I will now be a monkey on Halloween, or a Minion.
We gave up our cute Halloween totes and resorted using our pillowcases. Between team jerseys, dark lipstick, and pillowcases, these are Halloween signs that the kids are getting older.
Present Day Brody Bunch Halloween – Our Plan
Fast forward to Halloween with the Brody Bunch. For several years, we have been meeting at one family’s home, quickly eat pizza, tweak costumes, and split into predetermined groups, do a photoshoot and then leave. The older kids, for the first time, got a ride into a neighboring area. And, we all agreed upon a time to stop where we were, and walk towards a specific house to end the night together. The meet up house is very welcoming and hospitable whereas the grill was hot, the chili was simmering, drinks were flowing, and kids traded candy while parents mingled on the front lawn around the bonfire. We hit perfection. As crazy as life is, and the world has become, these few hours are perfect.
Reflections While Candy Hoarding, Thanks to the Firemen
As we walked the neighborhood streets with friends, I was sad to recognize, that the Brody Bunch is getting older. We won’t be trick or treating forever. So between that and our local fire department, I was quite reflective. The neighborhood fire department, hit with budget cuts, had the trucks out driving around with their lights on. Every few houses, the truck would stop and firefighters handed out candy. It was the kindest gesture which now motivates me to help “fill the boot” at future firefighter fundraisers. Our firefighters went above and beyond being good neighbors.
Our Kid Found The Perfect Halloween Spot, Because Their Friends’ Families Are So Welcoming
The history of our great Halloween stems from my then 9-year-old daughter hearing of a spot where we should trick-or-treat, just a mile away from our home, and near their school friends. We were quickly embraced and became part of the Halloween landscape. Pounds of candy for the kids and red Solo cups for the parents to have a cold one or a glass of wine. Wow, my kid knows how to scope out the good spot!
Most of these friends, we met through Little League baseball. Many of the dads coach. And, those who don’t play ball, are the neighbors. This is a great pastime in modern history – neighbors visiting, kids having their independence roaming the streets and friends being together. Kids have a night to explore neighborhoods independently. Something kids today really don’t do in this world. Neighbors were outside, people were visiting, eating and drinking. Being free, social, and euphoric seems like a pastime too. Again, it is a perfect few hours.
Candy Sorting and Trading, It’s a Ritual
When we got home, pretty late on a school night, our three younger kids organized their candy and started sorting and trading. They have always done this as a Halloween ritual. Our oldest child left his candy untouched, hopefully brushed his teeth, and went to bed. Without any requests, the kids handed over about 50 pounds of candy for me to donate excluding a mango and Chanukah gelt (chocolate candy coins).
Halloween, It’s a Wrap
I miss the days of matching sibling costumes. I recognize that our trick or treating days are numbered. I will always treasure the Halloween candy sorting and trading. Being with my family and many of our friends at the end of the night, reminds me of the sweetness (pun intended) of being part of a wonderful village. Candy, independance, family and friends, traditions and the sweetest of old and new memories with the Brody Bunch.
When the Brody Bunch was younger, Fall signified pumpkin patches, jumping in leaves and slow walks picking up acorns. Traditions are now memories that I try to keep going each Autumn, albeit watered down. As Autumn seems to arrive faster and faster each year, I try to schedule all of my favorite Fall pastimes, which now all happens the Saturday or Sunday just before Halloween. As the leaves change, my heart yearns for pumpkin patches, acorn finds, but not so much raking.
Fall Season With Older Kids, Life is Moving Fast
The weather is getting chilly. The Brody Bunch is super busy. Weekends are not our own. We are on this incredible hamster wheel: homework projects, multiple sport tournaments, baseline goals of having clean underwear for the week, grocery shopping, paying bills and aging grandparents. The aging grandparents part is new because the “sandwich generation” is kicking into full speed for me. There have been highs and lows, but mostly highs. I love the time I am spending with my Mom and the harder and life lessons conversations with my Dad. The kids spend even more time with grandparents visiting and being shuttled to extra curricular activities. We all need more help and everyone is pitching in. And, everything seems to be pumpkin spiced. I never liked pumpkin spiced anything, I know that is considered blasphemy to some.
I loved the times at the pumpkin patches and being in awe by the changing colors seen in nature. As the kids get older, I am getting older, too. The seasons seem to change more rapidly and the memories seem so long ago. We are at the point where the Brody Bunch can use knives to carve their own pumpkins and a landscaping company blows the leaves. When the Brody Bunch was little, I thought those were really hard days. Imagine being in pumpkin patch with 2, 3, 4 and 5 year olds and being hopeful that we could round up all of the kids and their pumpkins before the last tractor hay ride headed back to the parking lot, also known as civilization.
“Puff the Magic Dragon” Syndrome
The changing of the seasons and how we mark time reminds me of Mary, Peter and Paul’s classic song, “Puff the Magic Dragon”. This song is about a little boy, Jackie Paper, who had a great imagination and believed in the pretend Magic Dragon named Puff. One day, Jackie made way for other things, and Jackie moved beyond Puff. This lyric sums it up: “A dragon lives forever but not so little boys/Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys/One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more/And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar!”
Believing in the Magic of Fall, Make it Happen, Again
The memorable magic of Autumn has shifted because we have made way for other things. The Brody Bunch is Jackie Paper. And, I still want the Brody Bunch to hold onto the magical moments before growing up. I am hopeful that as the seasons change, that the Brody Bunch still finds time as a whole Bunch to explore a pumpkin patch, look for changing colored leaves and collect acorns throughout the season. We may even stop on the way home for a pumpkin spiced latte and sing “Puff the Magic Dragon”.
Nature, love, memories, tradition, aging, and pumpkin spice and everything nice.
It is 5778, the Jewish New Year. I read several times On Rosh Hashanah that it is written and on Yom Kippur it is sealed… how the year will be for us individually. We want to be sealed in the Book of Life. It’s a time for reflection, prayer and giving to those in need. Part of my nontraditional traditions for the Jewish New Year and every other holiday and event include: grocery shopping at several locations, realizing last minute that we don’t have appropriate synagogue clothing and shoes for all of the Brody Bunch, arguing about cleaning, and serving the same brisket dinner each and every year – even the kids at their young ages recognize that if there’s a holiday, there’s a brisket. I had hoped that this year I would be more organized, but I was not. Life got in the way. My level of self created procrastination and things out of my control escalated my level of chaos, and I came out on top like a champ, I usually do. I like the chaos, I thrive on it, but it’s not for everyone, and it takes a toll on those around me, they are still neophytes.
First Night of the Holiday, Reminiscing of Past Gatherings and Siri Maps
We started the holiday Wednesday evening with an outdoor service and picnic dinner. My family has been to this outdoor service each year since its inception about 12 years ago. Usually, Mark (my husband for those of you new to the Brody Bunch Blog), the kids and my parents attend. We are surrounded by a few thousand of our friends and their families. It is a very meaningful event, especially for our family. We reminisce about family jokes such as the year my Dad (Freddie) brought an incredible deli spread with everything one could want (think Carnegie or Katz’s Deli in New York), and Mark complained about the mustard. Freddie said, “Mark, we have about 6 mustards, mayo, horseradish, find something or pass.” Mark said, “Well, I was hoping that we could have mustard that didn’t expire in back 1996.” That’s fair. The mustard was about 4 years older than my youngest child who was about 8 years old at the time. Then there was the time that Freddie grilled a London broil and we had a major gourmet meal. And, my mom forgot to pack the cutlery. Freddie didn’t slice the slab of meat and we had no utensils. So, my Dad and went from family to family, wished them a happy and healthy New Year, and gathered one knife here and two more forks there. This year, I was belted over laughing when this happened: “Rube (that’s what my dad calls me), I am fine. I was lost but I am set.” WTF, I am thinking in my head, we have been here for 12 years in addition to several concerts. Freddie continued, “Well, Siri told me to go this way. And, I did. And, she said to look for parking and walk. So I did. I parked. And I walked. And then I realized I still had a long way to go. So, I got back in the car and drove the rest of the way here.” This story was told as Freddie is walking into the park grounds with three folding chairs and a large mescalin greens salad, which, he announced needed to be tossed. Again, WTF? I brought the main dinner, drinks, four folding chairs, a blanket, a soccer ball and the Brody Bunch was on my last nerves … toss the salad?
Same Prayer with My Parents at Different Times – Tears
As services were underway, I sat on my folding chair in between my Dad and Mark. We sang a prayer called Avinu Malkeinu (Hebrew: אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ; “Our Father, Our King”) a Jewish prayer recited during Jewish services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as well on the Ten Days of Repentance from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur. Freddie, an established musician, and somewhat of a local celebrity, and I were singing the prayer in unison as part of the participating congregation. I was holding back tears because I have memories of this annual service with my Mom and she always cries during this prayer. This time, I held back tears because my Mom was not with us due to health issues. And, I could see the Brody Bunch in the corner of my eyes – some participating and some giggling.
Making A Memory with My Youngest Son, Depending on Rocky to Keep Me on Schedule – and I Knew How Many Hours Remained as We Moved Through Different Stages of our Holiday Plans
After services, it was time for bed. But, I loved spending time with my youngest, Max, 10, still in the kitchen as he cut carrots for the brisket. Yup, we were still prepping a brisket at this point for dinner which was in 19 hours. I set my alarm clock to 1AM, which rings to the “Rocky” theme, so that I could pull the brisket out of the oven for Thursday Night’s Rosh Hashanah dinner. After slicing the brisket until 1:45AM, I discovered that I forgot to order high holiday tickets for the service seating, which was 7 hours later. Sigh, I had so much time to do that.
Showtime – Getting Dressed Like It is a Fire Drill, A New Makeup User Wearing Sneakers and A Photo Shoot
I went back to bed and before I knew it, it was time to get up and ready for services. It was at this point that I realized that we never put away dress clothes from Blanche’s Bat Mitzvah in August which would double up as this year’s high holiday outfits. Giving myself a break, her Bat Mitzvah was four weeks ago, but it seemed like a lifetime ago. Anyway, we were smelling items, shaking out wrinkles, and hoping that we could share items from my magic closet. It was a struggle, but this is also part of the tradition, and somewhat parallel to getting dressed during a fire drill. Unprepared with what 6 people, four of whom are still growing, have to wear that is appropriate, comfortable and not a battle is the worst part of the day, and this is a happy day. We had one defiant child absolutely refuse to get dressed for synagogue. I had to ignore my almost 13 year old who decided that today, of all days, would be a great day to start wearing makeup. So, she was wearing the darkest lipstick and Adidas kicks with her high holiday dress. Another part of the chaos is that I do a photo shoot before we leave for services. There is bickering, but I have a photographic treasure of the annual holidays and traditions, and this is my expectation.
Traffic, Community and The Meaning of the Holiday Clicked For Me
High Holiday traffic in Baltimore trumps Thanksgiving traffic on the New Jersey turnpike, somewhat, use your imagination. When we finally arrived at services, we saw lots of community friends and greeted each other for a happy and healthy New Year. I recognized someone handling seating questions and apologized for my lack of planning. We were fortunate to secure three seats in a standing only Sanctuary, it felt like we needed a scalper for more seat options, but then again, I was seated when we weren’t getting up and sitting down repeatedly throughout the service. I was grateful. My daughters, wandered off and had their own “services” with lots of other kids in the hallways. For the first time, the text that we read each year, FINALLY clicked for me. I sat in the service and reflected upon Teshuvah (repentance), Tefilla (prayer) and Tzedakah (righteousness or justice – giving to those in need) and annoyed that I could not locate the Brody Sisters, and was in self conflict because I was proud that they were together, despite not being where I wanted them to be in services with me.
Dr. Brown’s Diet Black Cherry Soda and Matzo
After our long morning of deprived sleep, getting dressed up, etc, I needed to get out alone. So, I made an emergency Dr. Brown’s diet black cherry replenish run for the Rosh Hashanah dinner. When I saw Passover matzo on sale, I helped the grocery store manager with placement and sales recommendations that Passover matzo, especially on sale, is irrelevant to the Jewish New Year. Look at me, I started the new year doing a Mitzvah, or being a maven, however you want to look at my effort.
Napping and the Hermit Crab (see a previous blog) Disturbed my Rest & As Always I Think We Need More Food
Now, I needed a nap. I was out like a light, and Rachel’s new hermit crab, SHELdon Brody started making noises in his Hermit Crab Hotel. His scratching woke me up. So, with about an hour left before this dinner, I called Mark with a menu report: “We have matzo ball soup, potatoes, carrots, brisket, Caesar salad, challah, acorn squashes, fresh fruit and a large assortment of hors d’Oeuvres from Susan (my former step mother whom I love dearly) and I think I should make a few more vegetables.” The homemade applesauce that Rachel, 11, made, had a hint of garlic to it because apparently I didn’t get all of the garlic out of the food processor from the brisket rub. Oh my goodness.
The Second Night of Rosh Hashanah Falls on Shabbat (another Dinner) and the Chaos is Coming With Me!
We have enough leftovers that I don’t have to cook for the second night of Rosh Hashanah dinner, which also falls on Shabbat. May we find love, laughter, good health, happiness and light on the first Shabbat of the New Year.
This year, I had a lot of personal reflections and recognized that aging parents changes the meaning of the holidays and the way the old chaos worked. I also know that with a lot of love, the new chaos, some self created, and some life changes, works well, because I have a strong support system when it’s time to rise to the occasion. At the first night of Rosh Hashanah dinner, Mark, my parents, Susan and I did lots of planning while the kids called their grandparents in Pittsburgh and Aunts and Uncles have been called over the past few days, family is what this is all about.
Intellectually, I recognize that I shouldn’t be rushing and unorganized during holidays but I do enjoy the mishigas (the craziness) and I already brought that into the New Year, with the help of the Brody Bunch. From my family to your family, may it be a sweet New Year for all!
Just returned from a long trip to the beach. It is usually a time of reflection, laughs, tears and traditions. Sure we hit the usual family benchmarks of eating in all of our favorite beach restaurants on the Bay, people watching on the boardwalk, playing manic rounds of skeeball, and riding lots of amusement rides. We practiced baseball in the park. We watched all of the Orioles’ games. We watched bad movies on demand. We swam in the rain and saw dolphins enjoy their ocean like we never saw before. We flew a kite and fed the pigeons and ducks. We did a lot of the pastimes that I experienced myself, and at the same locations, as when I was a kid with my own brother.
New Agendas Mixing in with the Old
We passed on mini golf. The kids finally had a generous amount of their own beach money thanks to grandparents, and while we still pay for everything, they finally had freedom in the souvenir stores which unfortunately became a new favorite way to pass time. We played Monopoly once, and I still don’t like board games.
The kids explored their own ideas including taking longs walks without a parent, buying YouTube sensation branded T Shirts reflecting people/groups I have never heard of. Then there was connecting with other tweens and young teens also wearing such branding, I noticed this while waiting in lines while buying ice creams, or popcorn or fries or whatever other poor nutritious beach treat was requested and my daughters along with stranger boys would give each other a mutual hand greeting and giggle. I hate those new expensive shirts especially because I wasn’t ready for boys.
One of our daughters beamed from ear to ear when a “free” hermit crab made her way home because she bought the (large) cage, thanks to her grandparents! The guy selling us the hermit crab told me that he never had someone ask him so many questions. I needed knowledge about life expectancy, feeding instructions, cleaning suggestions, socialization recommendations, etc. And, I scared away the other potential customers. For the 5th year in a row, the Tooth Fairy, should have paid us a beach visit, but she didn’t come because I am the only one who still believes…. And yes, I was the Brody Bunch’s Tooth Fairy, and it was one of the best jobs I have ever had. We used to buy the kids donuts for one junk breakfast, but now, a sibling used her Grandparent money and crossed the main street to bring back donuts for the family, they don’t need our money or our help crossing the street.
Seriously, Not Funny
This trip, things were just different. I had personal reflections in 10 days that I never gleaned therapy. I would learn of several adults in my family with significant illnesses. I would be pushed by my kids and would watch my husband change up our strategy on handling how we respond to challenges. His brilliant ideas came out of nowhere, and I hoped that they would transfer back to the home-front. I would be spoken to in such a firm and loving manner by someone who cares deeply about me in way that hit my core personality and I cried so hard that my daughter hugged me until I calmed down. Apparently my edge that served me well for so long wasn’t serving me so well after all. I look for humor each day, and we did have some funny moments, but our family’s pendulum was way off. Ironically when I was packing up the beach house, I found a joke book that someone brought with us, and it didn’t even help. The best we got were these two situations: my husband took me to Seacrets on Saturday night for dinner. It was a cross between the Baltimore Preakness infield crowd, MTV’s Spring Break coverage (not even sure if MTV still goes on Spring Break) and us. And, a “sweet” man (selling caramel popcorn, no pun intended) told my kids riddles and he asked for a riddle in return. One of my kids shared an unkind riddle. I was mad and made that kid leave. After the joke offender and I spoke about what’s funny and what’s not, he wanted to go back and give a good riddle. The man loved the made up joke and asked if his GRANDMA said it was okay to tell jokes. Then that “sweet” man, gave me snake eyes and my jokester knew that his new joke was not funny and the man got the last word. Karma is a bitch.
The Hamster Wheel versus Nature
While I am usually surrounded by laundry, carpool charts and game brackets for little league and soccer games, I embrace the chaos. During beach week, all of my issues that keep me on the hamster wheel were non-existent, except for the laundry. Instead, I was surrounded by nature. I would find much peace and happiness being on the beach in the rain. Dolphins were eager to perform in the waves, seagulls were beautiful, one even flew across a full moon and paused. The sunrises would shine in beautiful shades of pinks, purples or oranges depending on the morning. And one night, an orange moon filled the horizon. I even saw a baby toad. One kid would quietly wake me up at all hours with a whispering “let’s watch the sunrise” or “you have to see the moon!” During my time outside, I would come to terms with the “stuff” that is really life. And, I would learn to be much more aware.
Timing – We stink at the calendar
We decided two weeks before our daughter’s Bat Mitzvah to go to the beach for 10 days, that’s how we roll. Most of the Bat Mitzvah details, even 5 days out, aren’t nailed down. We didn’t care – well, I did, a little, especially when we learned that one of our venues went out of business days ago. We were in beach mode and that’s what was at the center of our purpose for 10 days. Beach, boardwalk, arcades, rides, waves, dining, baseball, that’s what we signed up for. The beach is a time for reconnecting and growing. My Dad, who phoned it in a lot, had the best jokes, reminded me to update this blog, which I did not, and it was his priority to keep me focused on time with my family at the beach … maybe because my Dad remembers how important time at the beach really is.
There were glimpses of siblings holding hands. Siblings bonding over inside jokes (probably at my expense). We had beach clean up one night where we annually walk and pick up trash left behind by others. Arcade games and rides were the same from when I was a kid, but at today’s prices. We were showered with much gratitude for our money leaving in exchange for pure happiness. As, siblings pushed new limits, some about the struggles of being in a big family and others about just growing up, they would control the balance of being independent or spending time with us. it was a balance that the adults did not control and one that I struggled with. During our first night of eating dinner at the beach house, I lost my mind when everyone didn’t want to sit at the same table, though we were all on the same deck. That’s how I am. The lesson gleaned from that experience appeared to be that everyone checks the seating arrangements with me now, first. So, when I am asked “where should I sit” I answer “on your ass” we have all moved along.
Times Past/Times Present
Nothing really changes at the beach. I kept hearing music from when I was a kid. Music easily brings me back to specific memories or times from my life. Though now, I am with my own family and thinking of times when I was their ages or time before they were born. My favorite night was a date night where 60+ aged rockers performed live and I danced and sang up front for a whole set. I was one of the youngest in the crowd, but the songs just bring me back to a simpler time. A time where white supremacy wasn’t what it is today here in 2017 (let that sink in).
Beach Week Ended, and I Am Ready to Keep Growing
There were hugs, tears and lots of growing. There was personal reflection and lots of sass. Plenty of kid free dates on the bay during lunch. And, daily trips to the supermarket because four growing kids eat like piranhas. I kept looking for the humor, but there wasn’t much on this trip, and that is unusual for us. This was a time of growing, seeing faults in ourselves and in each other, and trying to do better.
Most people go to the beach to relax, drink, get a tan. I seem to have my most reflective experiences at the beach. It was a draining trip, in a good way. Perhaps one of the most symbolic moments was recognizing that the ocean covers a lot of Earth, and our four kids, whenever they were in the ocean, they were all as physically close as could be. We are each other’s home base. The Brody Bunch, we are all growing.
It is customary in the Jewish faith to name your child after the deceased. Our first daughter Blanche, is named in blessed memory after my maternal Grandma Blanche. As the younger Blanche grows, we recognize that she shares similar connections with the deceased Blanche in their candid humor, a sweet tooth for cheap candy and a love of music. Grandma Blanche’s namesake helps keep my memories alive, from generation to generation..
Passing it Down – Tradition!
In celebration of Blanche’s upcoming Bat Mitzvah, my aunt and uncle gave Blanche a little box. When Blanche opened it, she saw something shiny. I saw it too. And, tears filled my eyes. I recognized the shiny bauble as my beloved Grandma Blanche’s initial B charm that she always wore around her neck. Over the years, I forgot about this necklace. But seeing the charm in the gift box reminded me of when I was a young girl, my Blanche’s age, and Grandma Blanche always wore the B hanging out of her shirt neckline. She draped the necklace over her cowl neck sweaters, she wore it with her bathing suit, she kept it on when adding costume jewelry to her accessories. Though, I don’t know the history behind the necklace itself, it brings back memories from my youth of time spent with her. And, despite such an unusual name, it is easy to lovingly recall why my daughter is named after my grandmother because it was her love, caring, generosity and time from my Grandma that helped shaped me today which helps shape my role as Blanche’s mom..
While we were standing around the bar waiting for our dinner table, I believe that Grandma Blanche was smiling down on all of us. Four of her great grandchildren, were inspecting this shiny treasure. One of the kids told me that I can wear Blanche’s B necklace too because B is also for Brody, though Grandma Blanche was not a Brody.
My aunt and uncle have their own granddaughters. For them to give my daughter the necklace means so much to me. I will wear my Grandma’s rubies to the Bat Mitzvah service and I am hopeful that Blanche will wear the necklace. The gems are materialistic but when we talk about L’dor va’dor, which literally means from generation to generation, the trinkets bring strong memories which link one generation to the next. Unfortunately, Grandma Blanche never met any of her 12 great grandchildren, but the kids feel like they know her from the stories, jokes and memories we share. Naming someone after the deceased, retelling stories, wearing inherited jewelry, etc helps keeps the soul alive from generation to generation, L’dor va’dor. Tradition! … cue the music from Fiddler on the Roof.