April 2, 2012
As a few adults rush by him, my 4-year-old twirls around as he plays with a wind-up matzo ball toy. He giggles as he watches the matzo ball hop across the rug.
“It’s like in Big,” the sales clerk at Israel Book Shop says. “He just brings such joy into the store. He should come every day.”
I create an unambitious shopping list for this recent Passover shopping trip to Brookline, which has a few blocks of Jewish delis and stores. Simon has a day off from preschool. The morning adventure reminds me how the simplest things can often bring the most joy.
In the book shop, a store that sells an array of Judaica, Simon’s eyes immediately fall upon the matzo ball toy, a goofy kind of thing that I might make fun of if I were writing a piece about the over-commercialization of Jewish holidays. Fact is, sometimes commercialization works beautifully. It gets Simon excited about Passover. It amuses a store clerk who is tired of dealing with stressed shoppers.
Together, Simon and I dub his new toy the “matzo ball boy” in honor of a character in a book about a matzo ball boy who runs as fast as he can, well, to get away from a hungry fox. Sometimes, the most important thing is just getting into the spirit of a holiday. Simon helps me pick out plastic Kiddush cups for him and his friends to use for grape juice during our first night seder. We head next to the Butcherie, a kosher grocery store. He skips down the street as he clutches his matzo ball toy and tries to show it to one passerby after another. Most passersby are too harried to look.
We do a quick run through the grocery store for basic Passover items and then head to Zaftig’s, a deli. We sit there eating lunch and well, chatting with his matzo ball toy.
Even at the start of our morning adventure, Simon seems to realize we are somewhere special. His eyes light up when we approach the Israel Book Shop and he sees a display of menorahs in so many sizes and varieties. He can see a smaller example of that in our temple gift store, but seeing it as he walks down the street catches his attention even more.
Today is a memory I will treasure. He may be too young to recall our day in Brookline, but perhaps if he accompanies me annually on Passover expeditions, he will seal some of these times into his memory of growing up Jewish.