A recent life cycle event left me feeling a little blue. After I took my children to do their back-to-school shopping, I realized that for the first time in over 15 years, I didn’t have to buy crayons for anyone. Crayons have a special place in my heart. Having used them as a child and then being reunited with them as a parent, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sorrow. You see, crayons, which are not as unassuming as they seem, have taught me some of life’s greatest lessons. Peering up at us with their colorful pointy faces, they stand soldier-like in their box, lined up next to their nearest relative in the color spectrum, waiting anxiously to see what the world has to offer. As often is the case, it is only after they’re gone that we realize the impact they had on our lives.
Upon hanging up the phone, Rochel went into her living room and plopped herself down on a chair.
“What am I going to do?” she wailed.
“What’s the matter?” her unsuspecting but concerned husband asked.
“I just got off the phone with Sima, you know, my best friend from seminary. I haven’t seen her in 20 years, and she happens to be in town. She said she wants to stop by to see me tomorrow.”
“I’m not really understanding,” her husband replied, shaking his head in confusion.
I was recently scanning the front page of a reputable newspaper when I came across this headline: “Brazilian Officials Searching for Stolen Items Find Two Tanks.” Yes, we’re talking about real tanks – you know, the kind that have steel treads and shoot at people. After clearing my head, my first thought was, “This country could really use a good Pesach cleaning.” I mean, I’ve come across some crazy things, but this was tantamount to saying, “I was cleaning the den for Pesach and I stumbled upon an elephant. Correction: make that two elephants.”
But putting elephants and tanks aside, the article did help me to gain perspective. See, most people grumble and groan about the pre-Pesach shenanigans that are called “preparation.” The cleaning, scrubbing, organizing, and rerouting of kitchen items tends to throw many a household into a cyclone-like environment. The dirt swirls around, furniture gets upended, and food is scarce (despite the cauldron-sized pots filled with food that are boiling away day and night). Many an unsuspecting husband has been seen wandering around in a confused state mumbling, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.”
As the winter months get underway, many a wistful glance is cast out the window. People from all walks of life look forward to the first snowfall of the season. Children yearn to fling themselves down a hillside of snow, while others look forward to building a snowman complete with a carrot nose. What most people don’t know is that the group of individuals who most look forward to the upcoming blizzards or any form of inclement weather, for that matter, are teachers. In contrast to the mailmen and mailwomen who follow the creed, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” we teachers have established our own motto: “Pray for snow, pray for sleet, because that will keep us off our feet.” We rally, albeit quietly, right along with the students, check the weather reports and secretly hope that during the wee hours of the night a blanket of snow will quietly fall, keeping us snug in our beds – not that we don’t love teaching, of course!
So, I have this friend who holds a position as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. It came as no surprise to any of her friends or family that she rose to the level of Chief Prosecutor in the Narcotics division. After all, she graduated from Harvard Law with the intention of making the world a safer place. So far she has not disappointed. As her life continued along, she met her husband, and they started a lovely family. After a few years she hit a bump in the road (I suspect there were a few before that), and whom did she call for advice? Me.
Imagine my surprise when, one afternoon, I got a call from her while she was at work. She was calling to ask me for help. I couldn’t imagine what a person in her position would need from me. After all, she spends her mornings supervising a staff of 20 other lawyers and then dedicates her afternoons to putting criminals behind bars. I soon found out. After a few minutes of uncharacteristic hemming and hawing, she finally blurted out, “Okay, how do I get my three-year-old to pick up her toys?” Before I could recover, she proceeded to tell me that she had tried almost every tactic, including charging her daughter with destruction of property (her husband made her to drop the charges), but so far nothing had worked.
As an American citizen, I have to say I am grateful to the Food and Drug Administration for the efforts they make to ensure that the food we eat adheres to the highest level of safety. Although they exercise their authority in food venues and factories across the continental United States, they have not yet established their presence and authority over the local lemonade stands that one sees when driving around in the summer time. Let me just say, “Woe to the ignorant.”
You see, there are two kinds of people who buy lemonade: those who drink it and those who don’t. The people who actually drink it are either too young to understand the concept of hygiene, or simply have no idea what goes on behind the scenes. Let me tell you, as an experienced parent of lemonade sellers, you don’t really want to know. That’s why I’m going to tell you.