I’ll never forget the day of The Great Robbery. The victims of the robbery, though, have no recollection of the event. That’s because they’re still none the wiser…
Here’s the story. The robbery happened when I was about 11 years old. We got the call the first night of Chol Hamoed Pesach, when our extended family was gathered together, smearing matzahs with smetena (sour cream), gorging on flat-as-a-pancake nutcakes and having a grand old time. Then the phone rang and pandemonium broke out.
It was my aunt Rachel’s landlord. (Of course, her name is not really Rachel. Names have been changed to protect the guilty.) Anyway, the man was in a frenzy; my aunt’s home had been broken into and ransacked! Unable to reach my aunt or her husband, who were in London for Pesach, he was calling her parents’ home to try to locate her.
The landlord claimed he never would have gone into her apartment without permission, but water had begun pouring into his apartment from above so he’d had “no choice” but to go in with a plumber—and they had found the place in shambles, the contents of nearly every closet strewn about. He said he was about to call the police but wanted my aunt and uncle to know what was happening.
The family was immediately divided. The menfolk insisted that we call my aunt to let her know because maybe she could tell the police what was missing, and somehow this would help an investigation. The women insisted that we let the poor woman and her husband enjoy themselves overseas; they could get the bad news when they got home. We kids stood around thrilled to bits. A robbery. Soooo cool.
The argument became heated. Then suddenly, my mother stood up. She had a curious expression on her face. “I want to go to the scene of the crime,” she said.
There was a mad dash to the cars. A short time later my mother stood in my aunt’s dining room and rendered her decision.
“We’re not calling. There’s been no robbery.”
“So what’s all this stuff all over the place?” the others cried.
“That? That’s Rachel organizing.”
There was a stunned silence. My mother pointed out one intact shelf with color-coded sweaters. Then she pointed out the various untouched valuables around the house. Everyone traipsed out.
The next day my mom made a long-distance call to her sister and very casually steered the direction of the conversation toward organization.
“Organizing?” said Rachel. “I’m in the middle of that too. I was packing for London and got so sick of the state of my closets that I threw everything out of them to start organizing. Then I realized I needed containers. Then I ran out of time. I guess I’ll finish up when I get home.”
So, as my mom had declared, there was no robbery—only the robbing of dignity, though to this day Rachel doesn’t know why certain family members crack up every time she says the word “organization.” (And she says it a lot.)
The reason my mom suspected that organization was going on was because, well, our family has organization in our genes. And by that I mean that we are constantly organizing. The reason we are constantly organizing is, well, because things seem to be constantly disorganizing. None of us has as bad a case of “organizing” as Rachel, whose home seems to be in a perpetual state of organization; I cannot tell you how many times over the years I’ve visited her to find the contents of her closets all over the place as she meticulously labels Rubbermaid containers. But this article is not about Rachel, it’s about me.