|courtesy of dreamstime.com|
“Guess what!” Sophia excitedly told her mother.
“What?” Mimi cradled the phone on her shoulder and continued sorting papers.
“Avi’s mother’s giving us the greatest present for his birthday. A long weekend in Greece!”
“Isn’t that nice,” Mimi exclaimed but inwardly she braced herself for what she was sure was coming.
“So we need to know when you can watch the kids.”
“Ah-ha,” Mimi said, but just to herself. Out loud she calmly stated, “Let me talk to Abba and I’ll get back to you.”
Later, over dinner, she told Shimon about their daughter’s plans.
“You told her we’d watch their three kids for three days when they’re out of the country?” He stared at her in shock.
“I guess I should have talked to you first,” Mimi said in a small voice. “I can tell Sophia we can’t do it. I can’t manage if you’re not on board.”
“No,” Shimon took a deep, resolute breath. “We’ll do it. It’ll be fine. And this birthday present won’t cost us a dime.”
“We’ll see what it costs in wear and tear.”
Mimi was nervous. The three boys aged three, four, and five, were adorable but, boy, did they have a lot of energy. Already in their sixties Mimi and Shimon didn’t have all that much energy any more. Sophia was oblivious to her parents’ misgivings. She went full force with her plans and sent lists of instructions to her mother.
The first command was to pick up the boys from their afternoon program no later than five o’clock. That was easy enough. Sophia and her family lived a thirty-five minute drive away from her parents. Mimi and Shimon decided they would set out an hour earlier so they wouldn’t be pressured.
“Just send us a couple of backup numbers in case we have trouble finding the nursery school,” Mimi instructed her daughter. Sophia did as she was told and explained to her friends that her parents would be coming for her kids and might be calling for assistance.
Thursday at exactly four o’clock Shimon and Mimi were in the car and on their way. At four fifteen traffic came to a halt. Waze was unable or unwilling to give an explanation for the standstill. Its map showed that in just a couple of kilometers all would be clear. But it wasn’t. First Mimi and then Shimon came to the realization that they wouldn’t be on time to get their grandchildren. What would happen? Would social services be called in? Before they could totally panic Mimi pulled out her emergency number.
“Hello, Efriam, this is Sophia’s mother.”
“Hi, how are you?”
“Well, we’re stuck in traffic and we’re not going to get there in time.”
“Oh, so do you want to reschedule?”
Reschedule what? Mimi began and then a horrible thought hit her.
“Are you Benny’s father?”
“No,” the man on the line answered calmly. “She must have given you the number for the wrong Efriam.” He calmly hung up.
It was hard to say who was more panicked now, Shimon or Mimi. Would the police be called in when no one came to pick up their grandsons? If only they could call Sophia but she was on her flight.
“Wait,” Shimon cried out. “She sent another backup number to my phone.” He handed it his wife. “Try calling.”
Taking a deep breath and saying a prayer Mimi punched in the number. Sophia’s friend answered and grasped the problem in a moment.
“Don’t worry. I’ll get two of the boys and I’ll call a friend to get the third. It will be fine. Here’s my address. I’ll see you when you get here.”
At five-thirty they pulled up at the friend’s house. Their grandsons greeted them happily but then there was the problem of the car seats. Neither of the friends had had room for them inside their cars. They’d doubled up kids in seat belts since they were just driving in their village and left the car seats locked inside the nursery school. There was no way, though, that Shimon and Mimi could take their grandchildren on the highway without car seats. Even if it wasn’t illegal they were too nervous to do so. However, Sophia’s friend, a real ball of fire, thought on her feet.
“We’ll loan you our car seats,” she declared. “Sunday morning when the nursery school opens we’ll trade back again.”
That’s what they did and they made it home safely. Although the boys missed their parents from time to time their grandparent’s house was full of toys both inside and out. Mimi and Shimon lost track of the times they wiped bottoms and noses, poured juice and handed out treats, told stories, played games, and settled fights. When Shabbat was over Saturday night they realized the end was in sight. There was one big bath, another story, and bed. In the morning they’d be returning the children to the nursery school’s responsibility. What a liberating thought!
Mimi finished the bedtime story. “I love you,” she told each of her grandsons.
“I love you, too,” the three-year-old and the four-year-old responded automatically.
“I love you so much,” the five-year-old replied enthusiastically.
As exhausted as she was Mimi couldn’t keep from grinning as she told Shimon what their grandson had said.
“So,” her husband asked as he stretched and rubbed his eyes. “Does that make it worth everything?”
“Maybe,” Mimi yawned. “But there’s a reason HaShem gives children to the young.”
“And we’re not young,” Shimon said.
“Not anymore,” Mimi agreed.
“Do you want to watch them again?”
“Only after I’ve forgotten how tired I am now,” Mimi yawned again. “Let’s go to sleep.”