And Yadda Yadda Yadda ... I Made Aliyah

Transforming duty into delight

Every once in a while, someone says to me, “I don’t know how you do it – work full time, parent, and still have the energy to blog.”

I smile bashfully (but secretly pleased), and explain that “writing is not a choice for me.” I’m compulsive. When I get an idea into my head, I can’t move forward until it’s on the page. Writing offers me relief.

Additionally, I’m the lamest mother on earth when it comes to holiday celebrations, which affords me more time to write.

(Photo: J. Whine)

As compulsive as I am, I can’t compel myself to make flowery Shavuot baskets or hand-sew Purim costumes for my kids to show off at school.

I have very mixed feelings about this. I love seeing my daughter wearing the exquisite crown of flowers her grandmother made especially for her preschool celebration. I am so grateful that she gets to feel like a princess because my husband crafted her a breakfast basket filled with carefully prepared dairy delicacies. I just can’t be bothered to make the effort myself.

I’m not lazy. (Note comment above.) I just completely lack holiday spirit; in particular, I loathe school holiday celebrations.

It could have something to do with how much I resent arts & crafts.

I stopped liking arts & crafts in 2nd grade when I realized precision was integral when working with glue and felt. It frustrated me that I was never able to generate in reality the beautiful concept I had envisioned in my mind.  It frustrated me even more when I couldn’t remove the excess felt from my fingertips. Now, even the words “arts and crafts” conjure up only feelings of frustration and inadequacy.

But to blame my resistance solely on the arts and crafts would be bogus.

Bottom line? I’m the Jewish Grinch. There’s nothing about holidays I like.

I know that depending on what we’re commemorating, I’m supposed to feel grateful, blessed, or triumphant. But, mostly I feel obligated, stressed, or depressed. In Israel, holidays usually mean my three children require three different outfits that I have to remember to launder in advance; three different lists of supplies to bring to school – from burekas to bisquits to bisli. And, often three different days on which they’re celebrating!

Holidays mean dancing in front of other adults, a fate worse than death for me. Holidays mean gathering around bonfires singing songs I don’t know the words to. Holidays mean eating foods that I’d otherwise avoid because they give me cramps, or turn my children into demons.

In Israel, like in America, holidays mean vacation for my kids and their teachers, but not always vacation for working parents. So, holidays also mean I need to figure out babysitting for my kids, so my husband and I can work.

I’m a bummer. I’m a buzzkill. I’m a Grinch.

I want to revel. But I can’t. I don’t feel it.

I didn’t revel in American holidays either. It drove me nuts there, too. Sign up lists at Halloween and Thanksgiving – Who would bake the pumpkin pie? Who would bring in the orange frosted cupcakes?

I vaguely remember once upon a time when I used to feel joy for holiday celebrations. The excitement accompanying unexpected Valentine’s Day cards. The joy with which I sang songs at my Hebrew school’s mock Passover Seder.

Where has that joy gone? How can I transform duty back into delight?

= =

There is a moment, I’ll admit it.

There’s a moment when my heart opens. It’s like a wisp of a memory that I can almost touch, but not quite.

It happens when I watch my daughter twirl in her white gown. When I see my five year old son and his classmates dance with glee in front of their beaming parents. When I catch my 9 year old laughing and leaping with his friends from haystack to haystack.

In those moments, I feel my irritability dissolve; my load lighten. I let joy in. I feel relief.

There’s a glimmer of hope then — that next time I’ll be able to enjoy it…not just blog about it.

Jen Maidenberg is  a writer, editor, activist and former assistant editor at the Arizona Jewish Post. Visit her website at was first posted on her blog on May 24, 2012.