Look, I didn’t absolutely have to go home that night. It was late when I was finished working, and I wouldn’t get home until 10:30 p.m. when all the kids were already asleep. Also, I had already eaten dinner so I wouldn’t be sitting down to eat with my wife. I was too tired–and had to wake up too early the next morning–to stay up and watch any TV with her either, let alone have any kind of meaningful conversation. At most, I would get to say goodnight to my wife, go to sleep, and be out of the house again before anyone woke up.
So although I had been away at work for the past two days and it would be nice to come home, I think my family would have forgiven me for spending one more night closer to the city.
But I did go home, and boy, am I happy that I did.
See, we live in the Catskills, which we absolutely love. We have the benefits of living in the beautiful mountains all year, the kids are in a lovely little Hebrew day school, life is quiet and lived at a slower pace, we consider friends who live three miles up the road neighbors, and we get to walk across frozen White Lake to get to shul on Shabbos. We wouldn’t exchange it for anything.
But living in the Catskills all year has its challenges, too. My clients in my accounting practice are all south of us in and around New York City, and although I do most of my work from my office near home, I still have to go to the city for meetings quite often. And that’s exactly the situation I found myself in this week: I had been in the city for the past two days presenting at a client’s board meeting, meeting with other clients and vendors, and I would have to be back again early the next morning. As I was leaving the city that night for the two-hour ride home I groaned inwardly, wishing I could just crash at a friend’s place and go straight to sleep.
Here’s the thing, though: If I hadn’t schlepped all the way back home, I wouldn’t have come home to see Rachel, our 2-year-old daughter, awake like it was midday, flushing the toilet, singing the little snippets of songs she retains, putting her coat on, asking me to zipper it, looking all over the house for her “packpack,” and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to put her to sleep by sitting down to watch an episode of “How the States Got Their Shapes” over her pathetic begging to see “Clifford and Emily Elizadit” until she fell asleep with her head on my lap.
My wife tells me that the kids are sad whenever I don’t come home at night; they like it when I’m there, even if I do get home after they’re already asleep. There’s one job I have at bedtime that the kids won’t allow their mother to substitute; giving them a backrub. They say no one has my magical touch. Miri often wakes up when she hears me come into the house and asks me in a sleepy voice to give her a belated backrub. And so it was that after putting Rachel into bed at 11:20 that night, Miri got her backrub. Gitty also woke up and came upstairs for a kiss; she got a few before being sent back to bed.
And as it turns out, I was not out of the house before anyone was up in the morning. I woke up at 5:30 and my showering and puttering around the kitchen awakened Gitty and Miri, who have been asking me to sit with them and do our 3-months overdue weekly Goodreads book rating and reviewing. It seems like a lifetime ago that I used to sit down with them every Friday and help them rate and review the books they had read that week, but it’s been a while since we’ve done it regularly, and that morning we found that 6:00 a.m. is as fine a time as any to review “The Magic Treehouse,” “The Little House on The Prairie,” practically the entire Warriors series, “The Boxcar Children,” and all the other delightful books they enjoyed over the past three months.
That little extra time spent with my girls was the perfect reminder of why I’m working so hard. So while I might have been forgiven by others for not schlepping home that night, I wouldn’t have forgiven myself.