It was one of those fond anecdotes that was told and retold dozens of times until all of our family members smiled and nodded at its mere mention. But its underlying message was not lost on them.
It had become an annual custom: We always spent one wonderful Chol HaMoed day enjoying the glorious weather while sampling the multiple attractions at a sprawling local amusement park. Each year, a frum organization rented out the entire facility for one day of Sukkos, and throngs of frum youngsters and their parents reveled in the freedom of enjoying the rides from morning until night in a heimishe, secure atmosphere. There was a variety of kosher food for purchase and Sukkos-required arrangements in various locations throughout the park. In addition, the event featured kid-friendly entertainment, a raffle, and a huge bustling arcade.
Every Sukkos, at the end of a fun action-packed day at the park, we would gather our happy, albeit exhausted, children and prepare for the long ride home. Needless to say, the first item on the list was a visit to the restrooms. This became our yearly routine and the kids would comply without protest, often before being reminded.
One year, however, our youngest daughter decided that she absolutely, positively, 100 percent did not “have to go” and consequently refused to follow our usual protocol. We tried convincing, cajoling, bribing and threatening – all to no avail. Finally we set off on our return journey, with one final menacing look in her direction.
No sooner had we pulled onto the highway and passed the first exit than a tiny voice announced from the backseat, “Uh, oh. I’m dead!”
That story became a highlight of our family lore for many years to come. And not one of our 10 children ever repeated that mistake. As I mentioned earlier, the underlying message was well ingrained in them all. At least until one day, several years later, while we were on our annual summer road trip. That is when history unexpectedly repeated itself.
We had just stopped at a designated rest area off the highway and, aside from stretching our legs after hours cramped in the van, we all took advantage of the facilities before resuming our journey. All but one of our young sons, that is. In an eerie echo of that long-ago family legend, he announced that he was fine and did not “need to go.” So we reluctantly continued on our way, determined to hope for the best although that distant memory kept reminding us to expect the worst.
Sure enough, shortly after we had regained our momentum and were cruising down the highway en route to the next destination on our itinerary, another hesitant voice squeaked from the back of the car.
“I’m so sorry – but I really have to go!”
All the “I told you so…” speeches would have to wait for later; for now, we scoured the horizon searching for the next exit. When we located it, we quickly signaled and exited the highway, stopping at the first gas station we found. Before the little culprit had even scampered inside, however, there was a loud explosion and smoke billowed out from under the hood.
The drivers and attendants in the vicinity all concurred that our car’s battery had exploded and needed to be replaced. One good samaritan offered my husband a lift to an auto part shop and the rest of us straggled into the service station to buy cold drinks and ice cream while we awaited Abba’s return.
An hour later we were back on the road with a new battery and an equally new perspective. The consensus was unanimous. Had we not serendipitously exited the highway and parked, the battery could have, chas v’shalom, exploded while we were speeding along the highway. The results could have been disastrous and devastating in the extreme.
So instead of being rebuked soundly for his infraction, our son became the incongruous hero of the hour. And yet another story made it into our family lore.