Monthly Archives: July 2013

How to Devastate a Jewish Mother


Of all my boys, LL comes in for punishment the most often–mostly because he does the most foolish things, like order a pizza all for himself, decide after it’s been delivered and paid for that he’d rather have an omelet, and then, when told it was pizza or bust, take the pizza and smear it all over his face and head rather than eat it (and that, my friends, is what ended the promise not to yell at my kids).

So, how does LL react to his three-month pizza ban (as well as the scolding for losing the awesome Original 6 hockey hat we bought for him–twice?).

“Mama, when I grow up, I am never getting married. And what’s more, I am never, ever having kids.”

So there you go, parents–just when you think you’ve got the upper hand, they hit you where it hurts: right in the vagina balls.





One teenage summer, I took a job as a counselor at a summer camp in a Jewish cottage colony. All the campers slept at their cottages, which surrounded the camp, and all the counselors, who also had cottages nearby, slept on-site. The set-up made the camp very exclusive, as rare was the counselor who had not been going to the camp his or her entire life. Still, my BFF, Geddy Lee, whose cottage I had visited many times over the years, convinced me to join her. So, though a bit nervous about how I would fit in, I did.

The camp was (and is) about an hour from the city, and on the day we started our pre-camp training, we threw our sleeping bags and duffel bags in the back of Geddy Lee’s mom’s station wagon (a wood-paneled artifact from around the time Geddy Lee was born) and headed out to the country roads. About five minutes into our drive, Geddy Lee’s argument with her mom began. I think it was about Geddy Lee’s supershort cut-off shorts or maybe her boyfriend (the neighbor’s gardener) or perhaps it was about the clay penis she had sculpted and insisted on leaving out on display in their house. I’m not sure. All I know is that it escalated and escalated and that 70s wagon was vibrating with their voices (OK–or age). I tried to distract myself by thinking about what a fun time I would have at camp.

Finally, the fight hit its climax. “I refuse to have my daughter to talk to me that way!”
“I refuse to have my mother talk to me that way!”

“If you don’t like it, you can get out of my car and walk to camp!”

“We will! Come on, PP!”

The car came to a screeching halt in the middle of nowhere. Geddy Lee’s door flew open. I sat in the back quietly, pretending to be invisible. “Let’s go!” Geddy Lee repeated.

“Do I have to?” The sky was black. I slowly dragged myself from the car.  By the time I was out, I discovered Geddy Lee’s mom had already tossed my stuff out onto the gravel and was gone. The rain began to fall almost immediately.

“Sorry,” Geddy Lee said sheepishly as the rain soaked us. “But I figured you would understand.” Huh? “I mean your house is always high drama.” It was? “It’s just like mine–a yelling house.” She then proceeded to do a perfect imitation of my mother shrieking my name.

It took us about 3 hours to walk to camp. The duffel bags were heavy. I held one handle on Geddy Lee’s bag, one handle on mine, and she did the same, walking in front of me. It poured the whole time. I was starving. And I was thinking. My house was high drama, it would seem. My house was a yelling house. I made myself a promise: when I grow up, and I have kids of my own, my house will be so calm, people will be sure we’re WASPs. No one will call us high drama. No one will call us a yelling house.

So, it turns out that I failed.

That voice Geddy Lee imitated over 20 years ago sounds eerily like my own today.

In truth, I forgot all about that high drama episode between Geddy Lee and her mother, and my internal promise, for the longest time. It was obliterated from my mind by all the fun I had at the camp (and also by a high drama incident of a wholly different kind that happened that very night, involving a drinking game). On Monday, however, staying at my in-laws’ cottage, with my kids attending a similar day camp filled with Jewish kids who summer in nearby cottages, I had a flashback to that stormy day years ago. I remembered, and in so doing, I had a painful realization: I yell almost every day. Sometimes it’s a safety yell (Get off the road!), which I think is OK, but too often it’s a mad yell (Go to sleep already! Who peed all over the floor?).

After dropping off the kids at camp, I was reading this great blog post about Tisha B’av. Now, I actually had no plan to fast (or if I did, it was so fleeting it doesn’t really count), but I decided that to commemorate the destruction of the Second Temple, which has been chalked up to baseless hatred, I was going to do a very unhateful thing: I was not going to yell. All week. No matter what. I was going to have a low drama house. I was going to be a WASP.

Wish me luck, will you? I am on day 3, and so far doing pretty well. Mind you, the kids have been relatively well-behaved. It’s possible (highly likely) that will change. And I will have to keep saying to myself: I will not yell this week. I will not yell this week. I will not yell this week. Of course, I didn’t make any such promise about not leaving them by the side of the road in the rain . . . It’s a good thing their camp bags aren’t too heavy.





These bags were made for dancing–not schlepping in the rain.

LL Encounters The Canadian Healthcare System


“Let’s do the weekend plans simultaneously,” says The Scientist. “You book tickets for the waterslide park for tomorrow online while I call the mountain for the Sunday morning rock-climbing trip.” “Sure,” I say, flipping open my laptop. But before The Scientist can dial out, the phone rings. I hear one word: “Ambulance.”

To date, each of the kids has been in the hospital for his own birth and for each birth that came after his, if any, with one exception. Cool J was rushed–in The Scientist’s arms–to the ER after falling out of the attic and then showing signs of head trauma 2 years ago (the kids love to reminisce about it — they both remember exactly what scene they were up to in Star Wars 2/Attack of the Clones when The Scientist came home to see how Cool J was, and Cool J, not a puker, sat up and projectile puked all over The Scientist).

Today it was LL’s turn. He had been playing Capture the Flag at camp when he coincided with one of his opponents. How that head-to-head crash turned into a giant open wound on LL’s forehead I don’t understand. But it was obvious that he was going to need stitches. So for the second time in our parenting lives, we rushed to the ER.

We rushed — and then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And. And. And.

At one point the nurse approached us, though it turned out she wasn’t looking for us, but for the Agudah kid also sitting in the waiting room. I guess all we Jews look alike.


Cool J, LL, and the kid who was apparently interchangeable with LL

After 6 hours, we complained. We accused the hospital administrators of favoring the Francophones over us. We said that people who came up with similar or lower triage scores were being taken to the doctors first. We said they hated us because we spoke English, because we came from the US, because we didn’t have medicare cards, because we were noisy. They were unfazed. “Please sit down,” they said. “The doctor will be with you shortly.” Sometimes they said it in French, and sometimes in English.

Another hour went by.

When they took us into a room and put LL onto a bed, we thought our waiting was over.

Then we waited.

Not that we didn’t keep busy at all. We did dance competitions that LL judged:

Cool J performing the winning dance. LL awarded him with the "Stanley Cup of dance competitions."

Cool J performing the winning dance. LL awarded him with the “Stanley Cup of dance competitions.”

We swiveled in the swivelly chairs. We lowered and raised LL’s bed to give him a ride. We looked on the charts to see which doctors had big hands and which had little hands based on their glove sizes.

And finally, the doctor came.

LL didn’t mince his words. Before the doctor could finish his introduction, LL cut in. “Why did we wait for 8 hours?” he asked.

The doctor, who could see on LL’s chart that the boy was coming from the US, used the opportunity to give LL a thorough response. “In the United States,” he said, “You would see the doctor much faster. Much faster! You would see him and go home. That would be great, right? But it would only be great if you had money. You see, if you didn’t have money –lots of it to give to the insurance companies or the doctors who charge much more there– you wouldn’t be waiting because you would never get the treatment. Do you know why? Because that’s how they do things in America. If you’re rich, you can have everything, but if you’re not, you can go home with a hole in your head. Here in Canada, on the other hand, we don’t ask how much money you have. We treat everyone.”

LL: “I have no idea what you’re talking about. Am I getting stitches or what??”

He did:



And the doctor, who was very nice, and explained everything in careful detail to the kids, did a great job of it.

By the time we got home, LL was in high spirits, his hours of waiting behind him. He was excited to tell his story. Canadian system, American system, whatever.

We called my mom. “Gramma–Guess what? I got stitches!” Before she could recover from her heart attack, he continued: “So isn’t that good, because now I can be in the NHL because now I know what it’s like to get stitches. I got my practice and now I’m ready! I’m so happy! Bye, Gramma!” All’s well that ends well.