This summer I spent a week in New York City taking a class at Teacher’s College about setting up successful writing workshops in classrooms. I was alone. Did I mention that my kids weren’t with me? It was hard for them, and at times it was hard for me, but mostly, it was wonderful. Sometimes missing each other is a good thing…

This post doesn’t have much to do with Elul, but I wanted an excuse the share the story I wrote for them while I was away, so here it is. It’s a little bit true, but not mostly.

Mama had been waiting all summer for her trip to New York. A week in the city all by herself! She couldn’t wait. She could read the newspaper in peace and quiet; she could cook anything she wanted for dinner; and finally, finally, a good night’s sleep.

When Mama got off the train in NY it was raining. Mama had left her umbrella at home because Ella and Zoe were using it to play Mary Poppins. By the time she arrived at the apartment, she was soaking wet. She put on her pajamas and crawled into bed. She was so tired, she didn’t even brush her teeth.

Mama didn’t wake up even once until the alarm went off the next morning. No one had woken her for one more hug. No one had asked for a drink. No one had wet the bed. So why did Mama still feel so tired? (And why did her mouth feel so funny?)

After brushing her teeth, Mama opened up her computer to the NY Times website. She started reading an article about a woman who was running for president. While she was reading, no one asked to play webkinz. No one begged to look for a new backpack. No one pleaded to watch funny animal videos. Even so, Mama had a hard time paying attention to the story about the woman running for president. So, she closed the computer and got ready for class.

After a long day in school, Mama was ready for a big dinner. At the market, she wandered up and down the aisles. So many of her favorite foods – the ones that no one in her family liked. She took a bag of brown lentils off the shelf, and scooped out some quinoa from the bulk bins. She chose the biggest bunch of kale, and added one jalapeno pepper for good measure. That evening, she made a giant pot of stew – spicy stew.

Mama sat down with a bowl and a spoon. While she was eating, her phone rang.


“Hi Mama, it’s Ella.”

“And Zoe!” shouted Zoe in the background.”

“I was just about to call,” said Mama. “I’m eating dinner.”

“What are you having?” asked Ella

“Quinoa and lentil stew. With kale.” Said mama. ‘It’s spicy.” She added. “Are you wrinkling your nose?

 “Yes,” admitted Ella.

 “What did you have?” asked Mama.

“Spaghetti” said Ella, brightly. “Papa is letting us have spaghetti every night! And ice cream.”

When they got off the phone, Mama packed away her stew in small containers. Eight of them. “Well,” thought Mama, “That’s enough for lunch and dinner. Every day. For the whole week.” Mama sighed, and served herself a big bowl of ice cream.

Soon it was Friday. Mama packed her suitcase and headed back to Massachusetts. When she walked in the door, Ella and Zoe cheered. “We missed you!”

“I missed you too,” said Mama.

That night, Mama made spaghetti for dinner. With ice cream. Everyone loved it – esp-ecially Mama, who was a little tired of spicy lentil quinoa stew. After dinner, she handed her laptop to the girls. “You can play,” she said. “I’m exhausted. I didn’t sleep well all week.”

Mama put on her pajamas and crawled into bed. She was so tired, she didn’t even brush her teeth.

By the time her head hit the pillow, Mama was sound asleep. A few minutes later, Zoe came in. “Mama?” she whispered. “Mama?” she repeated, no longer whispering. “Can I have one last hug?”

“Of course,” said Mama. She squeezed Zoe and fell right back to sleep; Zoe fell asleep too, right in her arms.

A few minutes later, Ella came in. Mama? She whispered. She poked Mama on the arm. “Mama?” Mama grunted. “Can I have some water?”

“Take mine,” said Mama, pointing vaguely toward the nightstand. Ella took a drink and crawled into bed in between Mama and Papa. 

Mama was woken up exactly three more times that night. The next morning when she woke up, the girls were both just a little bit awake, staring blankly at the ceiling. “Hey” said Mama softly. “How’d you sleep?”

“Great” they both answered sleepily.

“Me too.” Said Mama.

“I’m glad you’re home,” said Zoe.

“Me too” said Mama.

“But you were waiting all summer for your trip,” said Ella.

“I know,” said Mama, “I thought I was. But I was wrong.”

“What do you mean?”

“Really, I was waiting all summer for a different trip. The trip back home from my trip to New York.” She reached over to give her girls each a kiss.

“What’s that funny smell?” asked Ella, wrinkling her nose.

 “Oh that,” laughed Mama. “I’ve got to go brush my teeth.”

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