Burgers, Videotape, and Mickey Mouse
Since I was a kid I have been videotaping my life and its events. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to forget my experiences, or maybe it’s because I like looking at my life with two eyes. One eye to observe the entertaining moments, and the other to scrutinize its significance.
When my eldest son was becoming Bar Mitzvah, it was no surprise that I wanted to get as much footage as I could for the special day. Of course, editing and adding music and voice over was all part of the experience. I was so into it, I even arranged to make an entire party just so I could share this awesome film with my friends. Mostly, I wanted to capture what my son was experiencing so he would always have a live memory of this milestone, a happy milestone that he can gleam inspiration from, even if G-d Forbid the waters of adulthood should become choppy and perplexing.
Unfortunately for my son, who does not like to be in the limelight and hates any attention at all, he was my main character, and without him I just could not have a Bar Mitzvah movie. It was challenging getting Mordy to participate. I had to do lots of bribing. I chased him around with the camera constantly. He even lost me on purpose as I was trying to film him jogging down a path. He jogged so far I was left screaming his name. Alone. With a video camera. In a dog park.
I have to make a claim before continuing on with this story. After recently reading chapter 3 of “Shalom in the Home” by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, entitled “Parenting out of Fear”, I have since learned that this particular need to document my life could stem from some serious un-worked out past psychosomatic childhood experiences that may need possible intervention therapy. But I am willing to expose this defect of mine for the sake of this story. The premise of Rabbi Boteach’s chapter was a particular dad who felt the need to follow his son with a camera wherever he went as not to miss a moment of his life, but in the end was missing it entirely by associating with his son as a bystander versus a participant, causing his son to be the biggest brat who acted like a serious diva rather than a sweet little three year old boy. I can assure you, I’m not that defected. Mordy almost always listens to me.
I almost finished cutting the entire film, and needed just a few more shots to cover the music video segment (Don’t ask). We had gone into the city for the day to buy him his bar mitzvah suit when we passed a store that had an enormous sign which read “Bean bags, twenty five dollars”. Mordy’s little head perked up like it was Christmas in July – but Jewish. “Oh my God, a bean bag for twenty five bucks – I must have one! Mommy could we please please pleeeeeeease stop!?”
I was on a mission, I didn’t have time to stop, and he didn’t need the beanbag. His room is two by two and there is absolutely no room for it anyway. We kept driving to our destination where my objective was to get more footage of my sisters and other extended family for the big movie. He was totally impossible. Again with the “Why do I have to? No! I won’t.” Then he lands the big one.
“I’ll only dance for you if you get me that bean bag. I got twenty-five bucks from my allowance. I will pay for it myself. I want the bean bag.”
It was extortion, and he knew it. I got my footage. I got him to dance. He even gyrated – modestly. He was affable and charming for the camera. But as we headed home, I said “Come on guys, we don’t need a bean bag, we’re going home.”
At this point my younger son chimed in with the big one – the guilt of all guilt trips. He accused me of the greatest transgression I promised I would never ever do to my own children. “Mommy, if you don’t get us that bean bag, we will never ever trust you again. Your word will not be your bond.”
Okay he didn’t say bond, but he did tell me that I would never be trusted.
Here’s the part that I clearly needed to rectify. Rabbi Boteach, you will be proud.
When I was 9, I convinced my mom to call the Rabbi to come and kosher our home in honor of Passover. My dad was a little weary. He was still into Big Macs and Wendy’s chilly. He was not ready for a kosher home. He liked Chinese shrimp take-out, bacon and eggs, and ham sandwiches. But my mother convinced him it would only be eight days. Then we could go back to our pig eating habits (Smart bacon did not exist back then). So he acquiesced. The Rabbi came over and boiled a huge pot; then he proceeded to throw every dish and piece of silverware into it. The idea was to pressure cook the kitchenware on the highest temperature of water in order to get rid of the “trafe” (non-kosher pig). Once it was boiled, the Rabbi would deem the kitchen utensils kosher, and we could separate the meat dishes from the milk, spend an extra fifty cents to the dollar on kosher items, and keep the holy laws of kosher.
While the Rabbi was doing his ceremonious koshering, which included a set of tongs, three large pots, and lots of towels; my dad got hungry. Very hungry. Being that my mother had gotten rid of all the trafe food, there was literally nothing in the house for us to eat. My dad liked to eat. A lot.
So he did the next best thing he could think of – he ordered Volcano Burgers. BUT the big issue was, the Rams were playing the New York Jets, and my father never missed a game. So he’d have to order the meal to go.
Koshering the house idea seemed like a great bonding experiment for our small family, but little did I know it would lead to the colossal fights of all fights. My dad had brought home four Volcano cheeseburgers with all the trimmings, a side order of chilly cheese fries, and four cokes to be eaten on the coffee table.
After all, the coffee table could be trafe; it wasn’t even near the kitchen. Technically speaking, ya, you could see the coffee table from the kitchen through the window, but it wasn’t even in the same room, or even in the same vicinity.
The rabbi boiled the pot, my dad dug into his chilly cheese fries, and my mom flipped out. It would be at least another six times before my family would figure out how to not offend the Rabbi with fast food take-out during the blessing of the fork.
After the coffee table fiasco, things calmed down. Passover went off without a hitch. We ate Matzo balls, Matzo Brie, Matzo meal cake, Matzo lasagna, chocolate Matzo, and at the end of eight days my dad was hungry. He was very hungry.
He had promised us that on the last day of Passover, we could celebrate our spring vacation and our kosher victory by going to Disneyland. For those of you who don’t know this, Disneyland is known for their heavenly BBQ (so I’m told).
For eight days my brother and I planned and strategized our trip. We measured ourselves daily, checking our height to make sure we were the forty-eight inches needed to go on Space Mountain and the Matterhorn. My brother wore eighteen pairs of socks in order to make himself taller. He put on his snow boots, ’cause it was the only pair of shoes that had lift and room. Then he put his shorts and his t-shirt on, cause it was ninety-eight degrees outside in California. Summer was around the corner. It was April.
We had our sunscreen, our leftover Matzo-brie sandwiches in our backpacks, and we waited. It was ten o’ clock in the morning. It was eleven o’clock in the morning. It was noon. My dad told us we could leave after lunch but he was still at the hospital making rounds. We ate our matzo brie sandwiches; mind you, Passover was over. We played restaurant in our room. We sat through two Bugs Bunny episodes. It was two o’clock in the afternoon. We snuck some chocolate matzo. We checked the clock. It was four. Disneyland was getting further and further away from us. Finally my dad came home, “You guys ready to go? I never break a promise.” It was six o’clock. We all got into the car. We finally arrived at Disneyland at six thirty. It closed at five. It was April.
Of course, little did I know, my father the doctor was dealing with real patients with real issues. He took care of dying patients, patients with cancer and liver disease, and alcoholics who shoved pills down their throats in a drunken stupor. But when you’re nine you don’t really care who your dad is saving. You only care about one thing – getting Goofy’s signature.
So now my kids are staring at me with those words ringing in my ears. “We will never trust you again.” Of course the twenty- five-dollar beanbag advertised on the window was about as small as a hacky-sack. Sixty bucks later, we drove home in our four door Volvo sedan with a bean bag shoved in the back seat and six little feet dangling from underneath. My boys were smiling, and I had rectified my relationship with Mickey Mouse at Disneyland.
And after some self-reflection, I remembered my Disneyland experience to be the start of something pretty life changing. Instead of Disneyland, my dad made the best of the day and took us out to the Disneyland Hotel where we were to celebrate our 8 days of Kosher with a grand trafe-fest. With mouths salivating, we sat in the TRAFEST restaurant where the waitress rolled out a cart displaying a variety of fresh cut non-kosher raw meats to choose from. This place was like BBQ on crack. Of course we chickened out after spotting a Yeshiva boy eating whole fruit with his mother who was sipping water. We ordered four salads instead of the coveted pork chops that the waitress was hoping we’d dive into. That was the last night I ever ate out in a non- kosher restaurant, and the first time I realized that some events are just meant to happen for a greater purpose.
And for those of you willing to sit through seventeen minutes of family video montage, here’s the final finished product of my Bar Mitzvah Video. I would have posted it on Youtube, but apparently anything that exceeds six minutes is considered a full length feature. Enjoy:)