Spud's flight from Tel Aviv from New York is delayed for twelve hours. He is issued a meal voucher and a booklet of Sudoku puzzles. I go into full throttle Jewish mother mode. Through whining I am able to get his non-refundable ticket from JFK to LAX switched without penalty. I am unable however to get him on a direct flight from Tel Aviv to LA. Also, my efforts to use my overpriced American Express card to get him into the first class lounge at Ben Gurion are futile but I give it the old college try. At first I encourage Spuds to get a room near the airport but the lady at American Express, while unable to cut through lounge red tape, advises me to have him stay at the airport in case the flight departs early. She says this is common with Delta airlines and that the change is only announced at the airport. This is prescient, as indeed the flight does depart a bit ahead of schedule. The picture of Spuds trying to sleep in an airport lobby torments me but he is nineteen years old, strong, and there's wi-fi. This is the culmination of a friggin' month exploring Israel, not an Ebola diagnosis. People are stranded in airports all the time. Except for that Tom Hanks movie about the guy stuck for 17 years at DeGaulle, it doesn't mean much in the large scheme of things. Still, when the boy texts that he's arrived in New York I feel my blood pressure drop back to the normal range.
It's been nearly six months since I've seen Spuds. I meet him at the baggage claim and he is shockingly tall and grown up. Both of us are so pathetically close to blubbering that we crack up instead. We make the obligatory In-N-Out pit stop and for the second time in recent weeks I indulge in a burger. The last one was in Redlands following three weeks on a liquid diet and even in that circumstances it wasn't that delicious. This one is just to keep Spuds company and it's pretty good but I'm not sure if it warrants the line of cars around the block for the drive-thru.
Exhausted, the lad is nevertheless happy to be home. He completed the Birthright tour. In the introductory session the leader asks the group if they know how Birthright is funded. Spuds is the only one who has heard of Sheldon Adelson, the major donor and the leader is impressed. Spuds add however that he is cut off when he goes on to explain that Adelson's money comes from gambling and that he is a huge proponent of right-wing causes.
Following Birthright, Spuds and his Israeli friend travel through the country and visit his friend's family members. He is overwhelmed by Jewish hospitality and likes very much everyone he meets. One older male relative however is suspicious, given his appearance and his name, of Spuds' Jewishness and takes to calling him “Riverdance.”
Home now nearly for a week, Spuds is catching up on movies and with friends. I know that a nineteen year old has better things to do than hang out with his mom. He is down at Redlands with his brother now. I have to text the boys for instruction regarding the operation of the DVD player. When I indicate we are on the verge of watching Night Crawler Spuds texts back immediately. “You promised you'd watch that with me.” I guess it ain't much that he would rather watch a movie with us than by himself, but I'll take it. We end up watching The Imitation Game. It is such a penny dreadful film that it doesn't even bother me that materials from my library are used without attribution.
Both of the kids plus Girlfriend-in-law and a couple of other kids I haven't met are coming in for Shabbat dinner. Real Jews would be mortified by our observance of the Sabbath. We rush through the blessings and usually Diet 7Up or beer is substituted for the fruit of the vine. Still, we do the candles and challah every week no matter how half-assed we are in the practice. The night, twenty-two years ago, when Joe College came home from the hospital, after being in neonatal intensive care with an underdeveloped lung, we lit the candles. Tonight, both of these hulking, bewhiskered, beer swilling young men and one significant other will rush with us through the kiddush. It's been a long time since we've done this together. There are some kids I don't know coming. If they're Jewish, they might be offended that we can only manage this cursory nod. If they're not, they'll probably think it's weird. Many of the kids' gentile friends have joined us at the Shabbat table. I wouldn't say my kids have ever taken enormous pride in our tiny weekly gesture. But, knowing how self conscious kids are I also note that never has showed any embarrassment when we chant the blessings or barehandedly rip apart a challah. Maybe it's just that I usually try for a meal that's a bit better than average and that there's almost always dessert but I have a feeling that it's a bit more. Real Jews light the candles to mark the sanctity of time from one sundown until the next. We just sanctify just the tiny moment and I guess our whole lives too.