My sister is getting married on July 4th, so this past Thursday my Dad picked up Hadas, Moriah, Yaakov and me at the airport and drove us down to my childhood home in Baltimore.
We took scenic Route 1 down from Philadelphia, and passed many a corn field and a crab-cake restaurant and a be-steepled Protestant church with a vast parking lot.
But for the entire three-hour drive we only stopped twice– for two bathroom breaks: one planned and one emergency. The first planned stop was at a Royal Farms. When I walked my girls into the facilities, I was taken aback by the number of Royal Farm signs that outnumbered stalls two to one: a sign on the back of the toilet stall door to flush upwards in order to save water, and a sign on the faucet explaining that it was solar-powered and therefore saved energy AND water, and a sign imploring me to dry my hands in their lawn-mower noisy hand blower rather than waste paper.
On another sign by the store’s entrance, Royal Farm shepped nachas that its stores had reduced energy use by 21% and water use by 42% and that this environmental branch of the store in Nowheresville, Maryland had received LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
The weird thing was that looking around the store, it seemed that while Royal Farm was determined to save the environment, it had opposite intentions towards its own customers. There was the Cheese Curl/Dorito/Pork Rind aisle and the Almond Joy/Mr. Goodbar/Lifesavers aisle and the Marlboro/Newports/Camels aisle.
Our next emergency bathroom stop about 15 minutes later in “Just-Saw-1st-Catholic-Church, Baltimore’s-Getting-Closer, Maryland” was at a Giant Supermarket. When I rushed in with my queasy daughter, I noticed another sign to “Please turn off your engine during grocery pick-up, because Giant cares about YOU!”
Really? Really? Giant cares about me?
As my father pulled up to my childhood home, he pointed out my brother’s 3-story-high American Red Maple that my parents planted in his honor when he left for college in 1987, and the White Pine and Japanese Maple they planted for Miriam and me in 1995 and 1989…
“And over there is the hydrangea we planted when Tsofia was born, and we planted that Korean Spice Bush for Yoel. Isn’t it beautiful?”
I entered the house and the first thing I noticed was a round coffee table displaying a photo forest of my parents’ children and nine grandchildren.
I have traveled across the world. Almost 6000 miles. And in this distant corner of the world we are loved, and surrounded by people who have loved us and always will.
No need for signs here. Not even one. Because we feel how much they care–it fills the air, everywhere.
God bless you, Mom and Dad.