Photo Credit: Jewish Press

My birthday fell on a Shabbos this year, which serendipitously coincided with my delightful new grandson’s “birth day” in New Jersey – some six thousand miles away from my humble abode in the Holy Land. Which left my husband and me with a small window of time and minimal options to make it to the Shabbos bris, at exorbitant eleventh-hour airfares.

Surprise! One of our two suitcases was lost; the other was missing one of its four sets of wheels. Thus began the whirlwind of non-stop activity, and Baruch Hashem an overflow of simcha and nachas (along with looming deadlines and nail-biting stress).

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We helped our kids plan and prepare the shalom zachor, bris, and family Shabbos meals. We shopped till we dropped. In between, we entertained our toddler grandchildren, and held the newborn prince to afford the exhausted Mommy some much-needed respite.

Thunderstorms were forecast for Shabbos, and we were doubtful of even making it to shul with the new baby, so contingency plans were set in place with the mohel. Our other daughter in New Jersey had already started her ninth month, and decided not to risk being so far from her hospital over Shabbos.

In the end, we had a respectable representation from both sides of the family, and the Friday night seudah was lively and lovely, a delectable potluck of everyone’s loving contributions and purchases, albeit slightly rushed to allow for the first shift arriving for the shalom zachor. Followed by the second and third, etc., until well after midnight.

Shabbos dawned grey and drizzly, without a clap of thunder or lightning bolt in sight. We donned our rain gear and headed to shul, grateful for the pleasant break from the protracted heat wave. Baruch Hashem, all went smoothly, although my emotional brother-in-law found it exceedingly difficult to articulate the baby’s assigned name – that of our beloved stepfather, a prominent rav and talmid chacham, who had been niftar several months earlier.

B’chasdei Hashem, baby Raphael was healing and growing nicely, and after three hectic days of no school, the first day of camp was blessedly on the horizon for his two rambunctious siblings.

Meanwhile, daughter number two delivered a few weeks early by emergency C-section. Our beautiful and healthy, albeit petite, princess made her debut a bit sooner than planned, thereby saving her harried grandparents another grueling overseas flight. And, not to be outdone, that second bundle of joy serendipitously arrived on my beloved sister’s birthday.

Then, after just one day of the much heralded grand opening of the camp season, our other little grandson developed a fever and was home for the next two days, and I was recruited to babysit and keep him from chas v’shalom infecting his newborn brother. “Big brother” and Savta had a wonderful bonding experience, playing with toys, doing puzzles, and reveling in the huge backyard and its colorful swing set.

Although my visions of stocking my daughter’s freezer never did materialize, I thoroughly enjoyed the rare opportunity to get to know my adorable grandson. Among other treasured moments, I found myself laughing hysterically each time he wanted to activate an electronic toy or book. First he would turn to me, with an uncharacteristic serious look on his impish, dimpled face, and inquire, “Is it Shabbos? Muktzeh?” – only turning it on once I assured him that it was not Shabbos.

An hour-plus away, our daughter and son-in-law decided that, although she was just after surgery, they preferred to make the kiddush for their new arrival that Shabbos, mere days after the baby’s birth, so that we could be in attendance. Not to mention help provide for and organize it.

So the whirlwind kicked up once again, and the two middle-aged shoppers set out to buy paper goods, nosh, and everything pink. Then I cooked the basic Shabbos menu for both daughters, and we picked up the requisite cholent, kugel, and herring for the kiddush. With the car loaded to the hilt, we left last minute instructions to one daughter (“Remember to lower the cholent!”) while setting off to spend Shabbos with the other.

Our daughter from the West Coast surprised her sisters and delighted us by flying in for the weekend to join the festivities and meet her new nephew and niece. And my husband’s mother, still “kvelling” over the first great-grandson named for her late husband of 30 years, likewise joined us for Shabbos to greet her newest great-granddaughter.

Which brings me to my brief but memorable detour into the alternate universe of Harry Potter…

I had ordered a dozen or more newborn girl stretchies online, and had them sent via two-day shipping to my daughter’s address: # 134. However when I rushed over to her home early Shabbos morning to help her set up for the kiddush, # 134 was nowhere to be found.

I traversed the block back and forth several times (wearing formal black in the 100-degree heat), and began to fear that an alarmed neighbor might call the police to report a suspicious woman canvassing their quiet community. I spotted # 132, followed by # 136. Again and again I checked. But there was no sign of # 134 whatsoever.

In desperation, I ultimately decided to search house by house for the entire length of their street. Half an hour later, I finally spotted it – next door to # 68! Seemingly everyone else in the family was already privy to this unusual address placement; sadly, I was not.

Fortunately, I still made it in plenty of time to assist with setting up an impressive, balabatish kiddush well before the guests arrived. So, once again, all’s well that ends well.

Before departing on Sunday night, we first drove over five hours roundtrip, on a fast day no less, to visit our son and his family before our return to the Holy Land. We had a meaningful, albeit short and sweet, reunion – and even made it to the airport on time, breaking our fast on chocolate and soda.

A fair amount of cleanup and laundry still await me, but we returned home overwhelmed with gratitude for the shefa of bracha, simcha, and nachas we experienced over the course of ten glorious days.

Now all we desperately need is another ten glorious days (and nights) of round-the-clock sleep, and b’ezrat Hashem we should soon be as good as new!

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