New Year’s Resolution


My sister and her seven kids came in this summer for the first time in five years. It was actually the first time we had met my youngest nephew who is 3. They came in for my son’s wedding. We decided that if they were already going to come in, a huge treat in and of itself, they might as well make a real trip out of it and stay for a good amount of time. So, we did just that. They came in for almost a month. We were all so excited. What a treat. What a blessing!

We could not wait for the great arrival day to come and marked each day as the date grew closer. Finally it happened. We all piled into Ben Gurion arrival gate (thank G-d corona restrictions are a thing of the past and we were able to wait for them inside the arrival gate as we used to). My parents, my sister, my cousin, some of my kids, some of the cousins kids and of course the dog all waited anxiously watching each person exit that most exciting of doors.

And then wow! The screaming and jumping and hugging and happiness and love that we all felt at that moment when they came out. I know I cried — I do get emotional like that sometimes. Somehow, and I am not sure how, we figured out who was going to take which kids in which car and how we were going to get an additional eight people, three duffel bags and a double stroller to Modiin.

Mind you, it was about 11 p.m. at this point. We unloaded at my house. The house was now fuller by about 16 people. Once we cleared out all citizens of Israel who had homes to go to, we remained just myself, my husband and some of our kids, plus my sister and her kids. My husband went out to get pizza, yes, it was one in the morning, yes, that’s ok, and I went with my sister to the house she was going to be staying in for the first two weeks of the vacation. (Thank you to our most wonderful and generous neighbors). Eating and setting up we did not get to bed until after two. But it was fine. I was energized by adrenaline, excitement and love. I can do this, I thought. I can handle the craziness that life is going to be for the next four weeks.

Let me backtrack and explain. I am a very orderly person. I like things to be the same. I like things to be clean. I like to be in control. Are these good qualities? Not sure. But they are mine. Knowing this, I kept telling myself over and over, this is a once in a lifetime experience. Appreciate it and don’t get annoyed when things are out of your control. Don’t get annoyed when things get messy, cereal gets poured and not eaten, and sticky fingers touch every surface in the house. After all, of the seven, five are boys. Healthy, fun loving and, might I add, high energy boys.

To top it off, much of the time we were together we had cousins around too, throwing a few more boys into the mix. Breathe and smile I kept telling myself. And in the beginning it worked. I was able to really and truly enjoy and let go. Happy and appreciative of every moment. But then it started to get a little bit harder as the days went on. Each day a tiul or outing, each day some physical boy brawling I am not used to. Each day packing up the cars, figuring out where to go. Mostly we knew what we were doing but those days we didn’t there was the added stress of figuring that out too. And me, trying to be heard, trying to be calm and not succeeding as much as I would have liked. I admit it, and I am embarrassed by my admission, but I did lose my cool a bit, I did pass judgement on others who might not parent the way I do (how could they?? Don’t I have the perfect methods!!??) And there were times, one time being too many, that I regretted my tone or my words, even if I was trying to keep things as level as I could. (One time at Superland after an amazing afternoon, I lost it completely. I still regret this.)

And then, too soon, the trip was over. Too soon, bags were packed and we took a last trip to Palmachim Beach to see the glorious sunset that Hashem duly presented to us that evening before the dreaded trip back to the airport. There were too many to count “one last hug”s, and tears that wouldn’t stop. There was waving until we couldn’t see them waving back through the glass doors that now swallowed them back into the now much less cheerful and exciting Ben Gurion and there was the quiet and lonely drive home.

And now the recovery. And as I recover I go back over the hundreds of pictures we took and sent back and forth on family WhatsApp groups. And I cry. And then my wonderful, beautiful niece sent a 13 minute video of highlights of the trip. And as I watched it, reliving the magic, the tears dripped down my face.

Isn’t it true what we all say about pictures though? Everything looks so perfect in the picture, but wait until you see the before and after. Then you know the truth and it is not all smiles and pretty poses. Except in this case. In this case, on this trip, the pictures tell the truth. The smiles, the poses, the magic moments captured. These are what will stay with us from this trip. Not my neuroses about the kids jumping on the couch (replaceable), the hitting each other with sticks or just fists (boys are quite sturdy), the staying up till all hours (we can sleep when we are dead, right?) , the half-eaten apples (He keeps on growin em), the whiny, hungry and tired kids at the end of a long day (by the next day the long day is remembered with laughter and smiles the whining forgotten), the split lip (didn’t even show for the wedding pictures) and the bloody head wound (funny story that one).

I looked at those pictures and watched that video and decided to learn a lesson. Life is the pictures. Life is the moment. Life is watching the kids jumping and playing in the Kinneret –despite at the same time hearing the screams and cries of the two little ones who only wanted ice cream. Now both of those moments make me smile.

Life is a camping trip that the kids will remember forever, sitting around a campfire singing songs and playing the guitar — despite the marshmallow stickiness absolutely everywhere and the constant organizing and cleaning up after everyone. Now both of those moments make me want to go back.

In my mind, I play the pictures over and over, the first hugs at the airport, the who knows how many pies of pizza we consumed over this trip, watching the kids write “kvittelach” at Mearat Hamachpela and finding a place to leave them (pretty sure we just invented a new “thing”) , the awe of davening at the Kotel and Kever Rachel, the rides they rode over and over and over at that crazy Superland outing , Savta jumping off the raft into the Jordan River (chants of “savta savta savta! still sound loudly in my head) the songs they kept singing and the jokes they kept making.

And I tell myself, Chani, learn this and remember this: At the end of your days (may it be till 120), you will not remember the things that annoyed you. You will not remember the tiredness, and the repetitiveness of the mundane things in life. You will remember the smiles and the laughter in the pictures. You will see the video with the music that makes you so emotional and cry happy tears and you will try to live life so as not to act on and then regret your knee jerk reactions. If I can take these lessons with me then maybe there will be less regret. To all the participants on this trip (Israel Summer 2022 and all others in my life’s journey) know how much I am loving every minute.

About the Author
Chani Turk made aliyah with her family in 2004. They have been living in Modiin ever since.
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