Sandwiched between returning from three months in Europe and moving to Austin, TX, we planned a four-day pit stop in New York to pick up some wayward items we left behind, see a few friends, and say farewell to my old dogs who have found a new home. My best friend’s son’s bar mitzvah in West Hartford, CT, landed right in the middle of our visit, and there was no question we would make the trip regardless of how inconvenient it would be or how jetlagged we were. My friend and I have shared in each other’s simchas (celebrations) whenever we could, and this was a big one. She was there when my son was born and she came in for our good-bye party, but more importantly, I knew how important this simcha was to her. Just like I felt that Aiven’s first birthday was a milestone for me, I knew that this bar mitzvah was a milestone for her, a celebration of all her hard work raising her son from infancy to manhood.
From Europe, we bought Megabus tickets and got a great deal. Our roundtrip tickets cost $14, about as much as the cab ride from the Upper West Side to the bus stop. We arrived at the bus stop a little early and stood in line. Aiven was asleep and the weather was pleasant, and we felt that the universe was smiling upon us. We were wrong. Aiven woke up and we kept waiting and waiting for the bus to arrive. Alex went to ask why it was delayed, and it was plain to see that the dispatcher was not getting any answers and was as frustrated as the rest of us. In hindsight I don’t know why we waited as long as we did before we sprang into action — was it our unreasonable optimism, the resignation of our fellow passengers, or the good weather that made it too comfortable to just keep waiting?
For whatever reason, when the bus was over an hour late with no word on what had happened or when it would arrive, I feared we would not make the simcha on time, or at all. I looked at my husband and told him that we had to make every effort to get there. He got on the phone with Amtrak while I contacted car rental agencies nearby and asked if they had car seats available for an immediate car rental. After he confirmed that the next train leaving for Hartford would get us there too late, we gathered up our things and made a beeline for Hertz. 90 minutes behind schedule, we found ourselves in a rental car on our way to West Hartford. We arrived at the hotel with 20 minutes to change our clothes and freshen up. We made it to shul at exactly 5:30 PM, just in time for dinner.
It was a beautiful simcha. My friend’s son did an amazing job and I felt like our families were united in celebration. We were all ferklempt. It was also Aiven’s first bar mitzvah, and we will always have a commemorative yarmulke to remind us of this special occasion.
At some point during the weekend my husband remarked that he found my commitment admirable. I didn’t quite get it at first. But after pondering over it awhile, I get it now. We all say we are committed to many things. But how many things are we truly committed to? Things that we will go for that extra mile (or several hundred miles). It was painful to rent a car that was 20 times as expensive as our bus tickets, and it was no less painful for us to get behind the wheel in our state of bleary-eyed exhaustion. But when we committed to attend the bar mitzvah we didn’t say, “We’ll go only if it’s cheap,” or, “We’ll go only if it’s convenient.” I know many people are not in the financial situation to be able to afford renting a car on a moment’s notice. But on the other hand, when my bubbe was sick, I bought plane tickets to see her as often as I could and charged them to my credit card. I didn’t have the money but knew that I would find a way to pay off my debt later (it took years).
Money comes and goes, but love and friendship are everlasting. Sometimes it’s easy to forget in the moment what we are committed to, and I am grateful for the times in my life when I am given — and accept — the opportunity to honor my commitments. Do you have any stories to share about an extraordinary commitment?