We’ve all heard the saying regarding the best laid plans of mice and men, and most of us have likewise experienced the awry conclusion. That reality has featured quite prominently in my own life, often with tragic/comical results.
The past week-and-a-half has turned out to be a perfect example.
Our number ten, AKA our (twenty-two-year-old) baby, was due to be’H have her first baby on Shabbos. Aside from being our youngest, she’s the only one of our children, all of whom, b’H, already have one or more children, to request that Mommy be with her for her baby’s birth.
Whether by design or hashgacha pratis, our other kids uncharacteristically decided not to invite themselves to us for the Shabbos meals. And, although it was also the Shabbos immediately following my (Thursday) birthday, my husband and I understandably did not even consider escaping for the weekend alone.
A congregant in my husband’s shul was hosting a gala Bar Mitzvah for his son, and had generously invited us for the lavish kiddush plus Friday night dinner and Shabbos lunch. We accepted the dinner invitation, but were not at all sure how things would play out.
And, in deference to my birthday, we expected to be home alone for lunch, a rare occasion indeed. However, my dear husband, being my dear husband, had scheduled a class-wide seudah shlishit in our home for the 10th grade of his newly-opened yeshiva high school.
Since it was a fairly last-minute decision, (again my dear husband, being my dear husband), he was kind enough to do the shopping for that meal on his way home from work on Thursday.
And because he had a very long day on Thursday, we went out to my favorite restaurant on Wednesday night, in advance of my birthday on Thursday. I consciously tried to do more pleasurable activities on my ‘bo bayom,’ relegating the cooking and Shabbos prep to Friday instead.
The kids threw a sweet ‘surprise’ birthday party for me after my husband returned from work, and, as evidenced by the grimace on her face, our youngest had either eaten too much cake, or was experiencing painful contractions.
The answer to that came at 5 a.m. when she called to say that she had been admitted to the hospital and was anxiously awaiting the anesthesiologist to administer an epidural. She advised us to get some sleep while we could; she wanted Mommy to be with her when the time came to push.
Things began to accelerate soon after we awoke on Friday morning, and we set off for the hospital at 10:30 a.m., arriving about an hour later, blessedly just before our ‘baby’ got the green light to begin pushing her baby into the world. It was a highly emotional experience, and I found myself crying softly for the next hour until we b’H held our beautiful son/grandson in our grateful arms. The whirlwind continued with a flurry of activity, including our son-in-law’s parents’ arrival, until we finally returned back home at 4 p.m.
And as I hurried to straighten up, set up, and prepare the food for our solitary Shabbos lunch, I realized how fortunate we had been, not just for the miraculous addition of another healthy neshama to our family, but also for all the seemingly minor things: b’H we had opted not to go away for Shabbos, and we had decided to eat out on Friday night and alone on Shabbos.
Our wonderful sister-in-law prepared some delicious cookies and bars for the shalom zachor, and brought them to our home already attractively packaged on blue plates encased in cellophane and adorned with a blue mazal tov ribbon. And our amazing friends from the shul hosted our shalom zachor in their home since we were eating at the Bar Mitzvah dinner.
Having the 10th graders for seudah shlishit was arguably not perfectly well-timed, but thankfully the leftover bagels, tuna, veggies, etc. I prepared were much appreciated by the famished young couple who moved in with us on Sunday, complete with their handsome ben bechor.
So, once again, unbeknownst to us, everything was perfectly orchestrated to afford us a rare relaxed and virtually stress free Shabbos, before the gloriously hectic week to come.
The kids and newborn spent the week with us as my husband and I brainstormed with our mechutanim about plans for the upcoming bris (and be’H pidyon haben!). Between the frantic research and ensuing phone calls, messages, and emails, not to mention having a wailing newborn and his sleep-deprived parents sharing our living space, I almost forgot to stress about making Shabbos immediately after a Friday bris. And I only belatedly remembered that this time my husband had invited the 9th graders from his high school to join us for seudah shlishit on Shabbos!
Under the circumstances, I calmly advised him to reschedule for the following week, but he assured me that he had never finalized with them, and the topic had not been mentioned all week.
Once again my dear husband, being my dear husband, convinced me that the boys had most likely forgotten all about it and would not come to our house while we were hosting the young couple, their newborn, and my elderly mother for Shabbos.
So I scrambled to finish my Shabbos prep (admittedly with a few minor missteps) and tried to focus on getting to the candle-lighting finish line on time.
Sure enough, soon after my husband left to daven Mincha on Shabbos afternoon, there was an unmistakable staccato knock on the door, and I opened it to see my front stoop crowded with smiling young faces, looking forward to joining us for seudah shlishit.
Needless to say, I graciously invited them inside (reserving the eye-rolling and throat-slitting motions for my husband’s eyes only), and quickly set to work defrosting more bagels, setting the table on our mirpeset, and repurposing the bris leftovers to feed our hungry 9th grade guests.
Fortunately I still had some homemade cake and cookies left over from the previous week, as well as a couple of pints of yummy ice cream. So, although the presentation and planning were painfully beneath my usual standards, we somehow managed to pull it off without the boys suspecting anything, and b’H a wonderful time was had by all.
Better still, I am now officially off the hook for this coming Shabbos! Unless of course, my dear husband, being my dear husband, decides to surprise me once again.