Squeezing in Some Love
I wanted to kick myself for even answering the phone.
“Hello?” I had asked, my mind a million miles away.
Did I remember to pack my three-year-old’s blanket? Did he need a Pull-up or were we going to brave this trip without one?
“Hi,” she answered pleasantly. “Is this Yitti?”
“It is,” I responded absently, as my hands moved quickly through the odds and ends I would be stuffing into the last suitcase. “Can I help you with something?”
How bad would my sheitel look if I packed my sheitel box horizontally, wedged under the driver’s seat? Would the dresses I’d just spent hours ironing remain wrinkle-free if they were stuffed between two suitcases?
“This is Sara Levy,” she continued. “I am a friend of Rachel Mellman, your neighbor.”
Where are my keys? Did the kids go to the bathroom yet?
“Rachel mentioned to me that you would be driving up to the country today, and I wanted to ask you if I could possibly get a ride up to my daughter’s bungalow colony. Do you think you have room for me?”
My brain finally whirred to attention.
Someone – who is friends with someone – needed a ride. Someone wanted to squeeze herself into my absurdly cramped car and stay there for the hour-and-a-half trek upstate.
The word “no” had already shaped itself on my tongue and was only millimeters away from escaping my mouth.
But a little voice whispered a solution in my ear: You could take out one suitcase and leave it for your husband to bring up later in the week. Then you might have room.
Oh. Well, there was that.
But I still wanted to say no. Because even if my car might technically have room, that wouldn’t make the ride comfortable for me. When there is a passenger in the car, especially a passenger I don’t know well, I need to be on. I need to use my cheery voice when I tell my youngest to stop stealing his brother’s yarmulke. I need to avoid all threats of pulling over to the side of the road and leaving some children to find their way along the NY 17. I need to make conversation.
I really wanted to say no. But that word refused to leave my mouth because just as I began to speak, my parents’ disappointed faces appeared before my eyes.
Long-time summer Catskill-goers, I don’t think my parents have ever driven back or forth to the country alone, without a passenger.
They could certainly use the peace and quiet, considering that they spend the entire weekend hosting grandchildren. They would probably enjoy a quiet drive home and some alone time together before they head back to a busy workweek, but they know that people don’t ask for a ride unless they need one. And neither my mother nor my father is willing to turn down an opportunity to gather some zechusim. Neither is willing to turn down an opportunity to show some consideration to a person asking for help.
And they taught me better than to turn down that opportunity myself.
I am no heroine, believe me. I grumbled (in my head) as I told Mrs. Levy (that was her name, right?) that I would be happy to drive her to her daughter’s bungalow. I grumbled (out loud) as I schlepped the heavy wheelie out of the car and rearranged my garment bags so they wouldn’t hit poor Mrs. Levy on the head every time I stopped for a red light. I even grumbled (between clenched teeth) as I made forced conversation with Mrs. Levy from the moment I pulled out of her driveway until the moment I dropped her off at her daughter’s bungalow. (Let’s just say she had endless energy and more than a few opinions about my parenting skills.)
But even amidst my grumbling, I knew I was doing the right thing.
The summer is the season of rides, when people have the leisure time and the itch to go visiting or to go exploring. It’s also the season that serves as a prelude to the Yamim Nora’im, a time when we want to show Hakadosh Baruch Hu that we love all of His children, even if that means extending ourselves a little further than is perfectly comfortable.
If there was room in the Beis Hamikdash for all of Bnei Yisrael, I can make some room in my car – and in my heart – for a fellow Jew who might talk a lot but also wants to spend some quality time with her grandchildren.
Something tells me this isn’t the last I’ll hear from Mrs. Levy.
And next time she calls, hopefully, I’ll grumble just a little bit less.
Hopefully, I will tell her – and mean it! – that there is always room for a dear friend like her.