We decided on a Chol Hamoed trip to Niagara Falls weeks before Pesach. In the initial phase of planning, it felt like an exciting adventure. I started to feel the first whisper of worry while preparing extra trays of chicken and potato kugel for the three-day trip.
“Is this trip really happening?” I said to my husband, squinting at the gaudy glare of aluminum trays lined like soldiers on an aluminum-foiled countertop.
He looked startled. “Of course it is! We just need to bring the car to the mechanic to make sure it’s good to go and then, well, we’re good to go.”
We’d had our Honda Odyssey for three years and the lease was over. My husband had extended it until after Pesach and it was definitely a good idea to double check that it was in prime condition for the long journey. It wasn’t the car, though, that worried me.
“Okay, but like, how are we warming up this food in the hotel? And what are we doing with the kids in the car for eight hours there and eight hours back?”
My husband held up a hand. “You’re worrying too much. It will be amazing. A trip we will never forget.”
The next day my husband brought the car to the mechanic between a run to the grocery store and a run to the cleaners and a run to the dozen or so other pre-Pesach errands. He came home hours later, weighed down with bags, his eyes battle-weary but glinting in triumph.
“The stores are out of eggs. Cleared out. Do you believe it? Cleared out! I found the last two dozen eggs left on the planet. Also, the mechanic said the car is good to go.”
I took the bags from my husband, smiled appropriately at the news and got to work cracking the last two dozen eggs on the planet.
The first day of Chol Hamoed dawned cold and gloomy. The sky, white and milky, looked like an endless expanse of warning.
“Is this trip really happening?” I asked my husband again as he dragged the suitcases to the car while I dressed my toddler.
He paused for a moment, a suitcase in each hand. “You’re joking, right?”
I nodded. “Right. Joking. Did you pack the passports?”
We set out at noon, the car bursting with suitcases, food, toys and the kids crunching on matzah-and-cheese sandwiches in the back.
I looked out the windshield at the white, white sky and the bare trees bending with the wind. The kids were quiet, preoccupied with eating their matzah. I leaned my head against the back of my seat, listening to the sweet sound of their crunching and let out a long breath. We were on our way.
I took out a small pocket Tehillim from the glove compartment and whispered my way through the perakim.
At some point, on a deserted stretch of highway along Route 17, there was a sudden burst of flashing lights in the rearview mirror.
“Uh, oh,” I said, glancing behind us. “Police.”
There was the usual scrounging for the appropriate registration papers and licenses and then a few minutes wait for the hefty speeding ticket.
As my husband rolled back onto the highway, one of my sons’ eyes followed the receding lights of the police car.
“Tatty, you should thank Hashem for even the bad things, right? And then you get to see miracles! So let’s say thank you for the ticket.”
My husband glanced at our son and smiled. We’d been reading a book of gratitude at our Shabbos table that encouraged us to thank Hashem for the bad as much as we thank Him for the good. “You’re right! Thank you, Hashem, for the ticket!”