By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
Its Sunday night, and were in Florida.
Allison, Lil and I came down here for Allisons spring break
shes eleven and in middle school, just in case you havent been paying
attention to visit mom and take her to a Seder at Lils moms house.
My mom left Queens with dad in the early seventies and has lived in
Boca ever since. Lils mom still maintains her place in Queens and spends 5 months a
year up north thats where you are and Ill be when you read this
and the rest of the year she spends where its sunny and you can get by without a
Ive always wondered why the universe seems to revolve around New
York when the lifestyle down here just seems a whole lot better. Why did those early
settlers make it for New York or Boston harbor when Fort Lauderdale or Miami have equally
inviting harbors and a lot more inviting climate.
But the answer seems pretty clear air conditioning.
An aside I turned to Lil and asked: "Who invented air
Allison shes the eleven year-old, sixth grader shot
back: "Carrier, 1902!"
"Allison, are you sure?"
"Absolutely," she said with her fathers resolve.
I knew that tone, she was sure. Im not quite sure where she
picked up that valuable useless piece of information, but its scary. She, like me,
seems to be a repository for stuff about which only Regis and columnists ask.
So, were all New Yorkers because Mr. Carrier did not invent AC
early enough to convince the early Americans that Florida was bearable.
We are indeed New Yorkers; we love the place. Our family wouldnt
have it any other way. But . . .
We ate dinner tonight, at a restaurant, outside. We swam in the pool,
sat in the sun and went shopping in Mizner Park in shorts, no jackets and sandals. Every
time were down here three to four times a year I wonder why were living
up there? especially when its winter.
But, were New Yorkers. Were absolutely crazy!
If you havent figured it out, I have absolutely no topic this
week. Im sitting in the Marriott, drinking a vente Starbucks while Lil and Allison
begin their nighttime snooze. I left my clippings at home and except for a few electronic
files (pictures and odds and ends) on the laptop, Ive done no preparation for this
For those of you who dont write a weekly opinion piece,
theres a lot more to it than the two plus hours you spend pounding the keys.
Theres the thinking, the phone calls, the reading, the web-surfing, the preparation.
Good writing is produced by good writers who work hard. I apologize, the weekends
hard work was getting here and overeating at a Seder.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Seder, it is a Jewish family feast
preceded by a little praying, a little singing and then you spend hours stuffing yourself
on heavy Jewish food: gefilte fish with horseradish, matzoh ball soup, brisket, potatoes,
veggies, chicken, other meat and more.
Some families may spend more than a little time praying but all Seders
are centered around the children. The youngest at the gathering, asks "the four
questions" seeking to understand the meaning of the Seder. The rest of the pre-eating
activity is spent in song and reading, answering the questions.
During the pre-food part, we break the middle matzoh the
unleavened bread that the Hebrews baked on their backs while fleeing Egypt and hide
it for the children to find. Custom has the youngster who finds it selling it back to the
eldest to break and share at Seders end.
We also eat bitter herbs (the suffering), parsley (spring) dipped in
salt water (tears) and many other symbolic appetizers.
Then comes the food ridiculous, fattening and traditional
and lots of it.
For those not up on their bible, Jesus Last Supper, was a Seder.
No wonder Easter and Passover are always overlapping. Hmmm!
Its a fun holiday. In my family, the most fun of any holiday.
However, I think I see why our children dont have the same appreciation of money as
I remember well, going home from grandpas house with the $5 each
of us got when one of the kids found the afficomen (hidden middle matzoh).
Well, Allison counted up her take at the end of the night and she had
$60. And I watched her try and refuse to take money from several of the senior citizens at
the Seder. Granted these are family and close friends who get to see her infrequently and
she was the only child present, but, when offered $5 a week for bringing in the garbage
cans, she just shakes her head, smiles and says, "not worth it."
I dont know whether she learned to negotiate from me, or I should
learn from her. But, kids dont value money the way we do because we dont value
it the way our parents did.
Phyllis, Lils mom, did an incredible job preparing endless dishes
and Jewish delicacies for the ten of us assembled. It was a long night and hard work. We
appreciated it and are making reservations for next year. Today, the day after the Seder,
we called Phyllis to invite her out to dinner and ask how she was feeling after the
arduous task of such elaborate entertaining.
"Ill be all right," was her reply.
There seems to be a Jackie Mason segue here. The comments from Florida
senior citizens deserve volumes.
Overheard at the pool. "Mom, he dresses like every other 13
year-old boy. And no, the colors she wears are not too bright, theyre in
Or at every Early Bird Special one can hear a grandparent trying not to
interfere with their childrens child-rearing while still having the need to comment
on the hair color, hair styling, body piercing or clothing of the grandchildren. Its
Florida lifestyle and it wouldnt be the same without it.
It doesnt phase any of us. It doesnt cause any strife in
So mom, you can stop it already!
We love you anyway.