April 18, 2011 Issue: 12.04  
Kids do the strangest things
this is column

The sweet smell of freshly cut flowers filled the air as I pondered which ones I’d purchase for the Shabbes table. I purchase different kinds of flowers each week from our local Publix. My thoughts were refocused by the sound of a child crying. He and his mom were at the balloon display. “I wanna balloon, I wanna balloon, I wanna balloon,” he yelled as tears streaked down his cheek. His Mom softly said, “not today, I’ll buy you one next time.” “Mamma, I wanna balloon, I wanna balloon now.” Memories of similar situations flooded my mind of my children doing something similar. I don’t remember being calm as I spoke to them.

Mike, the produce guy, watched the scenario taking place. He works the produce, floral and party balloon area. He stands 6’5”, weighs 350 lbs, and wears a green apron and shirt. The Jolly Green Giant now has a full time job. As I glanced toward his department I noticed that he too was absorbed with the interaction of parent and child. He approached the crying child and asked the Mother if he could give the child a free balloon. Reluctantly she nodded yes. He said, “I’m giving you a balloon to take home.” The child watched as Mike took a deflated green balloon from his pocket and placed it on the helium tank to inflate. He tied a string to its end and he handed it to the child and said, “This balloon is for you.” The balloon had the word Publix written on it. The child took the string and turned to his Mom and began crying and shouting “I wanna Spiderman balloon, I wanna Spiderman balloon.” Angrily she instructed the child to apologize. Returning the helium filled balloon to Mike she proceeded towards the checkout dragging the child with one hand and her shopping buggy in the other. We looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders and smiled.

I had a quick flashback of Lewis (our youngest,) then four years old, in a department store with Arlene and me. Lewis moved quickly and he would disappear from sight if he wasn’t constantly watched. Arlene stood admiring a teal dress and I stood thinking that I’d really like to be home. “What do you think,” she asked. “I like the color; hold it up to your chest and I’ll give you my opinion.” As Arlene held it in front of her I released Lew’s hand and gave her a thumbs up and said, “you’ll really look hot wearing that.” “Lewis, what do …… Arlene where’s Lewis?” He was off on an adventure. I knew he couldn’t go far away. We began calling and looking for him. We searched the dress department and Lewis was nowhere to be found, so we began a store search calling his name as we looked. My heart began to pound and I felt stressed not being able to locate him. I lost my concept of time as we searched. “I’m going to the store security office and I’ll have them make an announcement; you keep looking and meet me there Arlene.” I remembered that store security was next to an ice cream stand. As I walked I heard an announcement coming from the store’s speakers. “Will the parents of a lost child please go to the store security office.” Upon entering the office I saw Lewis being cuddled by a female security guard. “Wow, what a relief!” “That’s our son, I’m glad you found him, I was really getting very worried.” Lewis had an ice cream cone in his hands and was smiling. “Lewis, come to daddy. Mommy and I were looking all over the store for you,” I said as I reached out my arms. “No not daddy, no not daddy,” he cried. Immediately the security guards asked me to step aside and to present them with identification. I was showing them my license as Arlene arrived. He reached out to her and began crying, “mommy, mommy.” The security guards looked at each other when one responded. “Looks like we have a mama’s boy here.” I stewed all the way home thinking about how I may have been arrested if Arlene hadn’t arrived when she did. Kids do the strangest things.

Camping at Jamestown

We were exhausted from the seven hour drive and tired of hearing “are we there yet?” for what seemed to be every five  minutes. We played a lot of games on the trip and Adam, who was eight years old, received a penny for every Volkswagen bus he spotted on the road. Lewis, who was five years old, had been cranky most of the trip and Arlene and I were glad we had finally arrived at the campground in Jamestown, Virginia. Before we left I bungeed the boys’ pillows on the top of my car. One loosened and I saw it flying behind me as I looked in my rear view mirror. I pulled the car over on the grass; we exited and walked towards the pillow which lay on the highway. I said that I thought it was Lewis’ pillow. At that moment a car ran over the pillow; it looked as if it were snowing in July. Lewis cried, “my pillow, my pillow, I want my pillow”. Adam laughed and rejoiced in Lewis’ misery. We returned to the car and as I tightened the remaining pillows I realized that it was Adam’s and not Lewis’ pillow that was destroyed. Adam began balling and Lewis began rejoicing, pointing to his pillow and singing “My pillow, my pillow, my pillow.”

When we arrived at our campsite in Jamestown, Arlene left to freshen up and find the location of the toilets. I stayed behind with the boys and began setting up the pop-up camper. We had been camping in a tent but it became a hassle; nothing had gone right since Adam was determined to play tricks on me. As I’d set up the tent Adam would pull out the ropes causing the tent to collapse. He poked the inside water bubbles in the ceiling of the tent with his finger during a rain storm causing all of us to get soaked while we slept, and sleeping on the cots was no fun either, so we purchased a pop up trailer to camp “in style.” At one point I had to get something out of the camper so I asked Adam to hold his brother’s hand and not to let go. “I’ll be right out,” I said. “Please repeat what I want you to do,” and he did.

When I exited the camper Adam was there but Lew was gone. “Where’s your brother?” I asked. He looked at me as if he didn’t know what a brother was. “Where’s Lewis, I told you to hold his hand and not let go.” At that moment Arlene returned and I updated her with what had happened. We decided to search in different directions to ask people if they’d seen the lost child. I suggested we speak with the ranger and have it announced over the PA system. When we reached the park rangers station I entered the building and after my short explanation was told that the PA system was out of order and that I should look by the river since a child had drowned there the week before. As I returned to the car I was sorting out what to tell Arlene without scaring her. I told her about the audio system being down but decided not to say anything about the child that drowned. Adam sat in the back seat and began asking questions…” Dad, if we can’t find Lewis do you think I could have his toys?” That’s all I needed to hear at a time like this. “Adam, don’t talk that way, where do you think Lewis may have gone?” He looked at me and said, “Lewis just started to walk away and it looked like he knew where he was going, so I let him go”; this is the wisdom of an eight year old child. I told Arlene I had to use the rest room and as I exited the car I spied Lewis. We were thankful for an answered prayer. Upon return to our home we put the camper up for sale. Moses and our ancestors did well camping in the dessert for forty years, but this Jew was not made for camping for forty minutes.

As Passover quickly approaches it reminds me of a Passover my parents and I spent in Toronto Canada with my Uncle Hirsh and Tante Fegaetle. My Tante purchased a live fish from the marketplace and put it in a bath tub of water. I spent the week before Passover feeding and watching it. Passover evening fish was served for dinner. I dashed to the bath tub but my fish was no longer there. I remember sitting and weeping at the table as they all ate my friend.

Eat kosher and have a happy Pesach.

Chag Samayach,
Mel (the fat guy)

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