Photo Credit: Jewish Press

In our home, we have developed a new ‘Covid’ minhag. Being suspicious that the day may come when we will be put into lockdown once again, I have been trying to take the kids out for a picnic once a week to take advantage of the beautiful summer days.

Our picnics aren’t fancy affairs. We throw a meal together, add a blanket for sitting on and off we go. Last week I decided to combine a few activities together. I had been pining for the Kotel while also wanting to get some fresh air. I offered the kids to make our picnic at Teddy Park just opposite Jaffa Gate and then head over to the Kotel. Everyone agreed it was a good idea. Due to conflicting schedules, we chose Wednesday as our picnic day.

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I was recovering from strep throat together with feeling the ‘end of the week’ tiredness. My knee had been hurting for the last couple of days as well, and I wasn’t receiving much cooperation from anyone. As a result, I was feeling grumpy and unappreciated. I put together a meal made of odds and ends in my fridge and freezer including just-in-season grapes and cut up vegetables. When I requested some help, everyone thought someone else was supposed to offer that help, so I ended up doing most of the packing alone.

The ride over to the Mamilla parking lot reverberated with the echoes of similar selfishness. Arguments about who sat where in the car and other such important topics accompanied the music flowing out of the radio. Upon exiting the car, one child, we will call Dovid, noticed that his sister, Kaila, was using HIS MP. “Give it to me,” Dovid demanded. He practically ripped the earbuds out of Kaila’s ears and placed them in his own.

Kaila’s face fell as she walking close to me on our way to the park. It didn’t take long before her good-natured spirit returned. There was a difference of opinion as to where the best spot to have our picnic was. I wanted shade, nice grass and distance from other park visitors. It is still Corona times after all. Finally we agreed on a spot and set ourselves down. Two Jerusalem cats kept their eyes on us. Or rather they must have been hoping we would leave behind some of our food for their enjoyment. My daughter, Tammy tried scaring one of them away, but this cat didn’t scare easily.

Realizing we didn’t have much time left to daven mincha at the Kotel, I hurried everyone along and packed our bags. Tammy and I took a studious look to make sure we hadn’t left a mess or anything of value behind. The kids got interested in a water trail flowing down the park and I repeatedly reminded them that there wasn’t a lot of time till mincha. We wound our way through the Old City until we were descending the many stairs to the Kotel plaza. With time pressing, I promised the kids to buy their time-honored slushy on the way back up.

The sun was sinking fast. I looked at the lineup of women waiting to enter the Kotel plaza. One could only enter when a different lady exited providing space. I opted to daven up on top of the men’s and women’s sections.

We were now going back up the tall staircase back to the Old City. The kids got their frozen treat and I rested my knee. We were exactly on time. I would be able to put the kids to bed at a reasonable hour. I pulled the car out of the parking lot when Dovid said in an anxious tone, “My phone… I must have left it in the park.”

“Are you sure?” I asked tiredly, my annoyance growing. We called his phone, but there was no ring in the car. I knew Dovid had been fooling around with it in the car on the way over, so it wasn’t at home.

“I think I remember putting it down in the park,” Dovid said worriedly. I took out Waze to find a route to the park. It took me to the back end of the park. Tammy and Dovid got out with Tammy’s phone to see if they could find it. The problem was the park gate, which is only supposed to close at 11 pm was already closed at 9 pm. Tammy called Dovid’s phone and they could clearly hear it ring.

Frustration boiled over inside of me. There is no end to the aggravation from this kid I thought, fuming. I caught myself and muted the anger in a flash. He is a kid. Don’t ruin things more, I thought. If Covid is from Hashem, then so is the additional aggravation. Calmly I told him, “Perhaps if you hadn’t been so busy grabbing the MP from your sister, you would have your phone.” Dovid silently agreed.

“The park is supposed to open at 7 am in the morning,” Tammy announced. If I took Dovid to the park at 7 am, I would be back in time to take care of Kaila before school. It would mean getting up early. Dovid was eager to be reunited with his phone so, the next morning, he was up by 6:30 and getting dressed. Traffic was minimal at that hour. I waited in the car while Dovid went off to search for his phone, taking another one with him to ring it. I wasn’t even 100 percent sure the park was actually open.

Within minutes he was back in the car with a grin. He had found his phone a short distance above the place where we had eaten. The grin melted away with the realization that the phone wasn’t working. It was wet from the nightly dew.

“We will put it in rice when we come home,” I said gently seeing his disappointed face. “Rice often dries out devices that get wet. I could see shades of hope on Dovid’s face.

When we got home, the phone was placed in a container of rice and I went off to salvage the rest of my day while Dovid left for school. A number of hours went by and when Dovid returned home, he tentatively took the phone out of the rice. “It works!” he cried.

I think staying calm works.

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