My husband and I never travel to exotic places and we’re pretty much okay with it. We have thank G-d a lovely climate here in Southern California where the sun shines pretty much on most days and where we get to complain when it’s 50 degrees how freezing it is. Our idea of a good vacation is a drive to the San Diego Zoo or Laguna Beach. Even Disneyland is out of the question as the prices have become astronomical (sorry, Disneyland).
But all that aside, it has been my dream to go to Israel for like forever. I had been there as a child with my parents, then as a high school graduate with my friends and 22 years later with my husband.
I’ve wanted to have what’s called a “chavaya” – a memorable experience in Israel that is imprinted on my mind. I wanted to really feel like I lived there – even for just a few days, not in a hotel or motel, but in an apartment with friends or family.
I wanted to visit our youngest son who is there now in Israel and to experience the new and modern country that I’ve heard from friends that Israel has developed into since I’ve been there over a decade ago. In fact, the only time we went together in all our married years was when our older son was there for yeshiva and we went to visit him. I still remember that trip because it was several months after 9/11, tickets were cheap and the entire country was devoid of tourists.
Still, I longed and pined for that next honeymoon with my husband but figured it wasn’t going to happen very soon. I was content with the amazing mini-vacations to San Diego and Laguna and the great theme park of Knotts Berry Farm (sorry, Disneyland; Knott’s is more affordable). And we are fortunate to go the East Coast for nieces’ and nephews’ weddings, for family events and so forth. And even though we miss many such family events, I feel blessed to be able to go to the ones that I do.
It’s all good. One of the many lessons I’ve learned (and tried to practice) over the years is to have gratitude for the good in my life and to keep my expectations realistic. Dreaming and longing is nice but when we have high expectations that are over our budget or lifestyle, we set ourselves up for disappointment.
So I put the dream out of my mind. I told my husband when we win the lottery or win one of those many raffle tickets we put in $18 for to win that elusive “trip for 2 to Israel”, we will get to go. That and also if he gains more vacation days at his workplace (right now all his yearly vacation is used for Jewish Holiday breaks), and we have enough to spend on a hotel and a few tourist attractions….we will go somewhere. If all that’s in place, we will fulfill our wish list of travel. Israel was at the top of that list followed closely by Alaska in the summer (to see the midnight sun – my husband’s dream).
Then last month we traveled to NY from LA for our niece’s wedding.
At the wedding I was schmoozing with one of my sisters when she told me that our mother was asking to visit Israel this winter and this sister wanted to take her there. As this sister and another are the ones who live closest to our mom, they had heard my mom expressing a longing to visit the Holy Land and see her cousins whom she hadn’t seen in over ten years. Additionally, since my father passed away, our mom hasn’t traveled much and she felt lonely and an eagerness to go somewhere special. To see and pray at the Holy places and to visit with family and friends who lived there.
That’s when I blurted out, “Oh, that’s so nice. I want to come along!” I didn’t think of the cost or the time off from work and how that would be possible. I just had this sudden urge to go with my mom and sisters. For some reason, I disregarded any of the kinks that would have to be worked out such as leaving my husband behind.
And suddenly money became irrelevant as my husband and I talked it over and his remark was that this was a trip of a lifetime and we would make it work. (Even if we had to work Sundays and evenings and extra hours for the next few weeks.)
Within a day, I had a ticket to Israel for three weeks later, found my recently renewed (whew!) passport in the place where we keep them, my husband’s blessings and encouragement, my three sisters including the one who initiated it coming along, and my mother extremely excited that her four daughters would be traveling with her to Israel. Oh, and our spouses, our brothers and their wives were not invited, thank you. This was an all-girls event.
For the next few weeks we went back and forth with plans for the Big Trip. The anticipation was so much fun. From the beginning our goal was to make my mom happy and that we were doing this for our mom. That meant that we would fill our days with activities that my mom could do. Since she is thank G-d in her late 80’s (may she live till 120) and doesn’t walk as fast as she used to, activities such as climbing Masada and touring the North or South of the country were out.
The trip lasted 9 days of which we were in Israel for just under 6 days. But no worries. We knew were going to have a blast breathing the air of Jerusalem and other places we went and just being with each other.
A day before we left to Israel we found out that El Al airlines was on strike and we had to quickly scramble with the airline to get a refund and buy new tickets with a stopover. Still, we were thrilled that we were able to work it out. Never mind that our trip was cut short by about 12 hours since we had to make do with whatever return tickets we could get on the new airline. Never mind that I had to quickly get on a plane that night (a day early) to NY to meet my sisters and mom at the airport for the new flight outbound. And never mind that I had to pay extra for that quickly made flight.
Nothing mattered because we were going to be traveling together and having a blast on the trip of a lifetime.
And as we took off on that Monday evening on the plane, the only regrets I had were for the flight attendants on Brussels Air who had to put up with our constant standing up and loud talking. Our passing diet food brought with us to each other. Our laughing and giggling and loud playing of word games (word mix is a great one by the way!) on the screen.
Still I had so much to be grateful for: First, I had a husband that was fine (thrilled) with my getting away for a week (oops 9 days including travel). Second, my adult kids were thrilled for me and their grandmother and aunts. And finally, this was an easy trip to plan for since I wasn’t leaving any carpools, babies, school schedules and play dates for someone else to worry about. In fact, the only baby I was leaving in the care of my husband was my new kitchen. He had strict instructions written down how to care of the various appliances.
One of the things I’ve learned as mother-in-law and grandmother and in general a middle aged person is to have lower expectations of events and happenings. That philosophy ends up being quite freeing. It’s a way of letting go and allowing things in life to evolve the way they will. It means letting other people including friends, relatives and our children be who they are. It means allowing our married couples to make their own decisions without us offering unsolicited advice. It means doing the best we can do in situations using our skills without beating ourselves up when we make mistakes.
And when we do all that, we can free ourselves to let in all the fun and laughter and just enjoy the ride . (and lots of city walking too!)