**Read below for the brief version. This is the full-blown, every-excruciating-detail version.**
So unfortunately, the brief version of Simchat Torah was probably better, since our actual chag was kind of lame. We davened at the shul we call Death by Brambles, because in order to get there to you have to hike over the steep, rock-strewn, VERY HOT, and of course, bramble-filled pathway. On Simchat Torah night, we went to shul with Donny, which was a mistake because after minchah they do an auction so hakafot weren't for a while. Luckily, there is a little playground right outside the shul, so the kids amused themselves for an hour. They were all ready for the festivities to begin. On Sukkot, Thea had given them little bags to hold all of their candy in. They were all set - they had been waiting for the Chag HaCandy for a week now. Hakafot started - "Torat Hashem Temimah" - and all that. No candy. We waited and waited. Yaakov was totally overwhelmed by the crowds and noise and reacted like his father - he fell asleep. Literally. I panicked because I did not want to carry a little sleeping boy back home through the brambles. I kept waking him up and promising him candy. Unfortunately, it was not to be. At some point they brought out Krembos - people, this is not candy!!! - but my children were not satisfied. I was appalled. Where were the bars of chocolate, gum, lollipops, those awesome chewy candies, and other things to make my children happy and hyper? What kind of shul was this, where children are apparently able to achieve happiness without the aid of candy? We left mid-hakafot because our beloved darlings were starting to fall apart.
The next day, shul started at 7:30. I arrived with the kids at 9:00, lollipops in hand - I am not a total fool. Today, for sure, I thought, there will be oodles of candy. Sadly, it was not to be. The kids danced, went on Donny's shoulders, and ran around outside a little, but it was kind of lame. For a true Simchat Torah experience, you need a chevra to shmooze with during the endless hakafot and layning, and you need candy. Unfortunately, we had neither. After Kol HaNearim (which was way too long - they started the layning at "V'Zot Habracha"), I left with the kids. As we walked out of shul we saw - candy? Not quite, but bags of goodies for all the kids. After hiking home, the kids had a very pleasant pre-lunch of Bissli (actually the knock-off brand), gum, taffies, a chocolate-covered wafer, and some "fruit drink."
We will pause here for a child-rearing tip. I know I've mentioned my soon-to-be published book on raising children, "Leave Me Alone So I Can Read The Paper." You may be wondering how I've managed to raise such wonderful, well-mannered, and delightful children. If you are, you clearly haven't met my children. Nevertheless, I have some excellent advice: Don't do the "save some for later" technique. As we were leaving, I overheard a mother say to her child, "You can pick one thing from the bag now, and save the rest for later." I used to be like that. But then I realized it just caused more fights than it was worth - negotiating, bargaining, when can the next snack be, can I have two of these now and three later. Now, when my kids get goodie bags and the like, I let them finish it in one sitting. Then, it's gone, and I don't have to engage in any negotiations later on. The point is that you may think I'm a bad mother for letting my children eat a large amount of junk (and I mean that in the purest sense of the word) food at once. And you would be right. But now, it's motzei chag and the treats are long gone and forgotten by my children.
Back to Simchat Torah. Donny eventually returned from shul and we ate. Then everyone crashed, literally. I fell asleep on the sofa. Ariella fell asleep on the floor wedged between the mirpeset door and the couch, mid-game. Yaakov fell asleep on the floor next to Donny's bed. And of course, Donny fell asleep in bed. After we woke up, we had ice cream, which combined with Bissli basically became the kids' dinner. Then, chag was over! No more chag sameach until Pesach! Now the real work begins.
Right after chag, I got a very exciting call. A former student of mine, Aviva Michaeli, was in Modi'in with her family and wanted to stop by! It was very cute because they had to do some serious investigative work to track me down, but Aviva really wanted to come and give me a hug. So they came by for a few minutes. It was so nice to see her and we took a picture together, so I now have solid proof that some people at SAR still remember me.
At shul, I overheard a conversation between two Americans, one of whom said something about his kid weighing 19 kilos. How long does it take, I wonder, to erase almost 30 years of thinking in pounds, miles, cups, and ounces, and to start thinking in kilos, kilometers, grams, and liters? Donny thinks it happens around the same time that you can count backwards from 10 to 1 in Hebrew without having to think about it. Will keep you posted.