It was two days to Passover and I was in my car again with five kids squashed into four seats. We were on our way to a mall, to do a bulk load up, food and cleaning supplies and new clothes for the kids. It wasn’t my idea of a good time, our glatt kosher larder was bare and, my sons insisted on commemorating the exodus decked out as miniature investment bankers.
As I rumbled into the parking lot, a red sign flashed before my eyes— —first parking level full. So were the next fifteen. I kept on driving, finally locating a tight spot, somewhere near the earth’s core. My stomach was queasy with dread. This was a sign. The mall would be crowded, beyond crowded, teeming and I would need help to face it.
Shutting my eyes for a moment, I whispered my favorite prayer. HELP.
Then I forced my sons together chain gang style and we walked in. The place was worse than I had expected, a veritable human sardine can. Entire families mothers and fathers, aunts, uncles, second and third cousins, machatunim, babies who’d just been born and nonagenarians with Filipino attendants were all here filling every inch of floor space and inhaling every molecule of oxygen Walking through was like playing a game of bumper cars. One wrong move and BAM, dozens of felled shoppers and scattered parcels all over.
My prayer, short as it was must have been heard because three hours later I was the owner of two wagon loads of groceries and four child sized pin striped suits.
I should have been dancing for joy, but I wasn’t. My post purchasing mood was dark, indigo edging toward black and my energy level was way down, roughly on par with a sponga cloth, after a long session on a grimy floor.
As I led my crew out of the mall, bad thoughts percolated in my brain.
This holiday is just too hard, too much work. I can’t take it.
After that, I let out a long soulful Oyyyyy.. My kids smirked .They were used to a mommy who made strange noises.
I was anticipating the ride back home with dread; the kids falling into early evening crankiness, fighting, crying, screaming. I wasn’t up for peacekeeping…Once again, I turned again to G-d. Hisbodedus, spontaneous prayer while waiting for the elevator.
C’mon G-d I whispered, my eyes momentarily shut. You can do anything. Send me a reservation to a hotel. Nice. Four stars please, not one of those cheap places with scratchy blankets and roaches.
Then I opened my eyes. Standing in front of me was a familiar smiling face. No, it wasn’t Elijah the prophet with the reservations –this isn’t that kind of story. It was just Jennie, my former neighbor.
I felt a rush of joy at seeing a friendly face, another adult. Just what I needed. My partner for the krechtz dance.
In case you’re not familiar, the krechtz dance isn’t a real dance like the Twist, or the Lindy Hop or the SpongeBob. It’s an ancient non verbal communications technique for letting off psychic steam.
The dance goes something like this.
- Person A: Oy
- Person B: Oy vey (louder, and with more emphasis)
- Person A: Oy vey zmir. Add a grimace, a swiping gesture, whatever you like. It’s very flexible, but after a good session the dancers come away relieved, full of a profound sense of what psychologists call validation.
With Jennie here, I was ready to krechtz.
“Oy, I moaned with exaggerating the long vowel sound into a shofar blast of angst. Like a robin in mating season, I eagerly awaited her return call. But it never came. Instead Jennie stopped the music.
“Isn’t it great,” she said in her lilting Australian English, “all of Am Yisrael together preparing for the holiday.”
I felt a stab in my heart. Oh c’mon Jen, get real, I felt like yelling. Where’s my krechtz girl????
Before I could say something nasty, the elevator arrived. I waved Jennie a limp farewell, and together with my brood piled in. On the long ride down, I filed a complaint with G-d.
C’mon G-d,. Okay so You didn’t send me hotel tickets, but why are you depriving me of a little empathy, emotional support. What is the deal here?
He didn’t answer. He usually doesn’t, but as the elevator descended through the various parking levels, my head started to clear.
After years in support groups and therapy, I knew that the best way to clear my mental muck was by going positive, listing everything in my life that was working.
Well, start with the obvious.
The elevator wasn’t stuck. The kids were peaceful, quiet. No one was lost or injured. No one was crying, tantruming. And my parcels were here, intact, not lost or forgotten somewhere and we weren’t in a war or a terrorist attack. Kassams weren’t falling on our heads.
As I exited the elevator, I felt a little better, light blue instead of dark navy.
Of course, had a krechtzing partner turned up, I would have happily gone a round or two but not more, not a never ending whirling dervish of krechtzing. Because krechtz dancing is like drinking red wine. It’s best taken in moderation. Too much can put you out of commission and immobilize you for the real dance, the dance of life.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.
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