Category Archives: Smile

Summer – New York Renaissance Fair

How would I describe the Renaissance Fair? Enchanting, fairylike, full of weird people. The place where the inhabitants of Chekhov’s Ward No. 6 would feel at home, because they would share it with the grandmas with wings and the flower headbands, the mermaids with naked “oversize” bellies, the princesses with tattoos, the robin hoods, the musketeers, and the classy ladies with the parasols drinking beer from the plastic cups. And then this peaceful grandma with the butterfly wings would step by the knife/sword shop, admiring the weaponry, its superb sharpness and craftsmanship, and discussing how she liked to share her passion for swords with others.

I entertained the idea of renting a costume and doing a face painting for a while, but was not supported by my family. My son commented on the price, followed by an expression saying: “Ye. OK. But I will pretend I don’t know you.” He did not really get into the atmosphere until later. Eating the gigantic, smoked turkey leg on the grass under the tree, than washing off his hands in the nearby fountain, was not his idea of having a good time. The portable “privy” did not get him excited either. His Royal Highness preferred the more sanitary conditions, people who look sane, and activities that are planned and attended on the scheduled times. The term “comfort zone” has a very specific meaning for him. Too bad the Medieval Torturer, the huge man covered in all black including the square headpiece covering his whole face and carrying the range of the torture tools including a scary-looking axe on his back, did not know about it. The giant confronted my baby boy. He took the “No Soup for You” T-shirt that my son was wearing too personally. Should Larry David knew the repercussion, I am sure that episode of Seinfeld would have never been created. But it was too late. My son tried to answer his verbal attacks by the sentences carefully build out of the fancy “SAT Prep” words he learned in his English class. He, obviously, tried to win the torturer over with his intellect, but it did not work. He forgot that plenty of people in the 12th century were beheaded or burned for being smart. The Medieval man kept repeating that he did not understand anything my son was saying, and reached out for his axe. His fair lady came to my son’s rescue, and begged her man for mercy. After this brutal encounter, my son loosened up, and decided to enjoy life, while he still could.

The shops with moccasins, hats, pantaloons, scarves, skirts, ponchos, dresses and pottery lined up the tiny streets. The shoe maker measured the customer’s foot; the blacksmith made metal; the cute girls in corsets, scooping their tight waists to accentuate the cleavage, carried single roses in the baskets on their shoulders; their long full skirts sweeping the dirt roads. It was hot, and a little muggy. So we decided to trade the bench seating around the arena for the “grass” seats in the shade under the tree. The knights on the horses were about to start the fight. As they were charging the crowd, my younger son became restless; he wanted to seat on my lap, otherwise he could not see. Then, he wanted to take pictures, and to do many other things, none of which included just sitting calmly and enjoying the show. His dad could not help but notice that, unlike his own son, our 3-year-old neighbor was quietly playing with his wooden axe. While I started saying that the neighbor toddler had a different last name, set of genes, etc., he ran after his friend and bunch of other kids with his axe threatening to behead them all at no time. I let my son to sit on my lap.

I started seriously thinking about purchasing a gaze hip scarf covered with the golden coins, generally used for the belly dancing; especially after my husband promised to forgive me things if I did. I tried to clarify if he would forgive me everything and anything. He said:” Depending how good you will dance.” So, as soon as I do something that I should be forgiven for, I would invest the money into the most luxurious hip scarf and the belly dancing lessons.

Certain items of women clothing sold in the Renaissance shops could also be a better and cheaper replacement of a family therapy, making husbands, previously angry with their wives, to overlook the differences in spending habits, cooking/cleaning disasters, relationships with the in-laws, and overall make them better spouses and fathers. Looks like these ladies with parasols knew exactly what they were doing.

Watching people, especially such a diverse crowd, is a lot of fun. It proves that there is someone out there crazier than you are, which is always encouraging. On a second thought, I should’ve rented a costume. Or is this a midlife epiphany (as my son would say)? _1080199_1080261_1080237_1080297_1080344_1090040 _1080711 _1080583 _1080462 _1080405 _1080374 _1080306 _1080286 _1080268_1080372_1080497_1080597_1080351_1080558_1080939_1080739_1080707_1080602_1080198


Shopping Experience

When my teenage son starts complaining that he does not have any jeans, and is wearing the same T-shirt two days in a row, I know it’s time to go shopping.   I’ve thought complaining about the empty closet is my thing; apparently I have a competition now.  Unlike me, though, my competitor does not really want to go to the mall; he just wants the clothes he likes, nicely folded and organized, to magically appear in his closet while he is playing video games.

When girls go to the mall they are looking for the shopping experience.  For us, it is an outing where we can be artistic, adventures, original, inventive.  We enjoy going through the aisles, picking out outfits, accessories, shoes, trying them on, carefully judging the transformation in the mirror; and repeating the process as many times as necessary until we are fully satisfied with the new look.  It does not mean that the decision is final.  We reserve the right to return the outfit for any reason, and start the process all over again.  My husband claims that for me it is easier to buy a house then to buy a pair of pants.  That is because I have to look good in the pants, which I cannot say about the house.

When boys go to the mall, they are not looking for the shopping experience; they are looking to visit the Sony and Apple stores, which would help them to pick the next electronic gadget, but would not solve the clothes shortage problem.

It takes a lot of strategic planning to dress a teenage boy.  First, you have to detach him from the computer.  Since it is nearly impossible, especially when he is in the middle of the game, and will remain there for unknown amount of time, it is better to do it right after the meal or homework.  You have to narrow down exactly what is needed, and pick the stores you would visit.  You have to park strategically, so that you would walk into the chosen clothing stores before you pass the electronic stores.   Finally, you have to realize that time is of essence, and move fast.

If you think you know what is in trend and looks good on your son, think again.  GQ magazine fashion editors and all these cool celebrity stylists should look for another job.  The trendsetters of Kennedy High School know better.   They can smell “the moron” from 100 feet away, and would not hesitate to give him “a look”.  “A look” would mean “a thought”.  “A thought” could either be an approval or a disapproval, but who wants to take that chance? So here is a dilemma:  he wants to look different, but not so different that people would start glaring.  In times, he comes up with a radical idea like wearing a jacket or a bow time, but then quickly rejects it: “Nope.  Too much.”  Buying the pea coat for winter was a courageous move inspired by watching British TV.  Only a hand fool of kids was brave enough to do it. We were very proud of him.

The everyday “uniform” consists of a T-shirt, a sweat shirt, a pair of jeans and a pair of sneakers or boots.  Jeans are the easy part – faded or slightly-ripped boot cut would do the job.   The rest is much more complicated.

Since there is nothing interesting for him in the clothing store to look at, he is doing me a huge favor by standing in the middle of an aisle waiting for me to bring him pieces to look at.   Most of the time he just shakes his head “No”.  When he gets particularly generous, he would give me some hints by making a comment about the image, size or color of the letters, quality of fabric, etc.  Sometimes he elaborates, explaining that he is not “a moron”, or not “a pornography star”.  He rejected the T-shirt with a picture of an astronaut and a year 1973 written on it on the basis of its historical inaccuracy, since the moon landing happened in 1969.  Another T-shirt was too fruity; a few were V-necks which did not reflect his personal style.  Some stores, like Abercrombie & Fitch, we could not shop due to the owner’s stance on social issues; but now he was changing his tune due to losing a lot of business because of it.   However, a few attractive bare-chested male models were the only good things in the store.  Unfortunately, they were not for sale.  Or maybe they were; we did not ask.

A boy in the clothing store is a very sad picture to look at.  He doesn’t belong there, and doesn’t want to be there.  He is hot and bored, and painfully wasting his precious time.   He would rather be somewhere else, but he needs clothes, damn it; and his mom is taking too much time to pick something at least remotely acceptable for wearing to school.   His mom doesn’t understand the repercussion of the wrong wardrobe, its lethal effect on his social life.  One “wrong” T-shirt, and the reputation, he has worked so hard to establish, is ruined forever. Trying on the stupid clothes in the fitting room and staying in line to the cash register should be officially established as a new torture in Guantanamo Bay.

Upon arrival, the shopping bags are usually being thrown into the corner of the teenager’s room.    The new wardrobe patiently waits to be moved from the bag to the appropriate place in the closet, or, at least, to be taken out of the bag and worn.   But it’s “work” and the proud owner is busy with his homework.  So until he finds time, the teenager  would wear the same T-shirt two days in a row, and complain about the “empty closet” situation.  Of course, mom is always welcome to come in and help out.


Cut Then Drink or Drink Then Cut?

I came back to the car with the platter of insanely overpriced kosher chocolates I just bought in the “elite” gourmet store on Central Avenue.   Topped with a fancy sign, the place is considered to be high-end in the upscale Jewish neighborhood that my husband’s family we came to visit  lives in.    We don’t know any other “good” kosher stores in the area, and don’t want to look cheap, so wasting money seems like the right thing to do.  We usually are invited twice a year – for Chanukah and Purim.   Every visit sparks a discussion about religion, the existence of God, and his role in our lives.  Not that we need a visit for that; the topic is one of my son’s all-time favorites.  That’s why I am trying to avoid it at all costs, because once it starts it never ends.   The fact that it is a belief, and, therefore, does not need a proof, only makes him more passionate in trying to prove that God’s existence is not proven.   The fact that nobody disagrees with him does not stop him from moving on, presenting countless arguments for indefinite amount of time.

Anyway, when I came back my husband was laughing, so I asked him why.  He said that they were talking about circumcision.  Not understanding how this barbaric, but medically beneficial procedure could be funny, I’ve asked him to elaborate.  This was the statement my son made on the topic of Purim while I was away: “ God is so messed up.  First, he wants to cut up your penis, and then drink to the point where you won’t recognize your neighbor.”  This description of events, certainly, had a right to exist, since you did have to get drunk on Purim.  However, we had to point out, that in the case of a circumcision the sequence of events was the opposite.  First, the 8-day-old baby was given wine, and then his penis got cut off.   That was when the philosophical question “what came first” did not only get a new life, but also brought many more questions.  My older son was concerned about the effects of the alcohol intoxication on a baby.  My younger son wanted to know what part was being cut off.   My older son was concerned with how drunk-ing the baby was legal, my younger son was worried about the bleeding aspect. My older son, just finishing the reproductive unit in his Living Environment class, identified the unfortunate body part as nothing other than “a foreskin”.    The value of this knowledge for my younger son could hardly be underestimated, since it could drastically improve his reputation among his fellow 4th graders.

Even though we are Jewish to the bone, we’ve never been particularly religious.  We do try to follow certain traditions, like eating latkes and lighting the Menorah on Chanukah, Hamentashen for Purim, no bread for Passover.  However, even though each ritual has deep meaning and historical significance, it is very hard to explain to kids.  They don’t buy into “the tradition” rhetoric.   They would gladly listen to the interesting stories about their ancestors, but why should they starve on Yom Kippur, or deny themselves their favorite food on Passover to show solidarity with the hypothetical Jews that lived thousands of years ago.   Didn’t these Jews endure all the hardships, so that the future generations would not have to suffer? Other religions don’t seem to be that cruel to their members.

Every time we come to a Purim party, there is a different set of ideas coming from the same exact script read and analyzed over and over again.   This time it was the double meaning of clothing: one that we wore on the outside-physical articles of the wardrobe; the other, spiritual one- the people we were on the inside.  Looking beyond the surface, digging deeper could uncover the new concept or a theory never explored before.    Reading between the lines, interpreting every single word, gesture, detail of a dress are the signs of a true scholar, which we are clearly not.   That’s why I’ve asked my family members to be quiet, and pretend like they were smart, or at least somewhat educated. As Mark Twain said: “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”




Will This Kid Ever Stop Talking?

I offered my son money to stop talking.  I was running out of options.  He said: ”$1.00 is not a fair price.  If you give me $20 I will think about it.”  $20 was unreasonable, and he knew it.  To be fair, I was sure that torturing his parents was not part of his plan; he was just enjoying himself too much.  He could easily become a winner of the Entertainer of Yourself Award; in fact, his room would be filled with these trophies in no time.

It was a winter break, and we were driving to a two-day getaway in the Catskills.  Tiny, annoying drizzles started falling as our overprotective dog cautiously sniffed every single inch of the car, possibly looking for drugs, guns, poison or anything else that could harm her family.  Finally, she settled in the back, squeezing her cute, black head between the passenger and the driver in the front seat, so that she could have an unobstructed view of the road.   The two and a half hour drive started smoothly, with the older son listening to music on his iPhone, the younger son watching something on his tablet, and the lucky parents discussing the evolving political situation in Ukraine.   As soon as we crossed into New Jersey my younger son began talking, then singing, then making random noises, then back to talking.

There were a lot of things he needed to discuss, or bring to our attention; a lot of jokes he wanted to share.  His music repertoire kept expanding, ranging from classic rock to blues to opera to pop.  He improvised with various sound effects, changed volume, experimented with backup singing, accents, instruments and lyrics.  In the sudden attacks of love caused by his own extraordinary performance, he impulsively hugged the dog so tight that she decided to move back to the front to avoid an accidental man (dog) slaughter.

We’ve always traveled with kids.  Even 12 hours across the Atlantic was easier. An airplane noise, lots of people around, meals, movies, and anticipation of the unknown slowed him down a bit.  We drove 10 hours to Canada, and 8 hours to Virginia, but then he was younger and calmer; or maybe I was younger and my nervous system was in a better shape.

I’ve heard stories about kids playing X-boxes or watching DVDs in the car.  I’ve judged their parents.  Overload of electronics at home was bad enough; on vacation kids were supposed to free their minds and enjoy the family time.  I did not judge these poor people anymore.   Now, I understood like never before that it was a survival strategy.

I asked my son if he could go on his tablet for a little while.  He said:”The Wi-Fi is not working.”  That explained everything.  He asked if he could go on his dad’s iPhone instead.  The answer was “NO”.  For me it meant a complete and irreversible surrender of my electronics policy, as well as demonstrating my weakness as a parent.  So, I’ve chosen to suffer.

He did not drink or eat anything before we left.  He went to bed late and woke up early.  He was not on steroids or any other medication.  Why he was not tired?  Where all this energy was coming from?  Can I have some of it?  I tried to meditate looking at the naked trees and blinding white snow rapidly passing in the window.  I wished I had earplugs.

My husband regretted not taking any calming pills with us, though they would not, most likely, help much.   I came up with the idea of installing sound proof glass between the front and back seats, with the small window to be opened only in the rare cases of giving commands or passing water and snacks.   If it was done in taxi cabs, it could be done in regular cars.  I am sure this new option would become quite popular with parents; they would be willing to pay a lot of money for it.  But for now we were stuck. The concert continued, a new play was being rehearsed, a stand-up comedy routine carried out. The one-man show performed by our tireless maestro went on.  His success was unappreciated, but, nonetheless brought him incredible pleasure and satisfaction.

We had a great time at the Ranch.  It was drizzling the first day, but we still went hiking, snow tubing, played pool, scrabble, and saw an awesome comedy show.  The next day brought delicious breakfast, pool, a hay ride, archery and riding horses.   The mountain air was intoxicating; the forest was covered with pure white snow, in some places damaged by animal footprints.   Horses slowly went up and down the mountain dragging their heavy feet through the thin trails, stepping in the dirty watery mess, made by melting snow.  It was warm and sunny.  I could barely see anything, since sun reflected in the snow completely blinded me.  I did not want to go back to the stables.

On the ride back my son significantly improved the length and substance of his performance.  It took us an hour longer to get home due to a huge traffic on Washington Bridge.  He asked me at dinner why I was cranky.  I had no answer.


Parenthood as a Constant Variable


Photo is a courtesy of my 9 year old son

Monday, 5:35 pm, driving home from Aquatic Center

As usual, I am asking my son about his day, his swim practice, the homework that needs to be done, and the upcoming tests.  “We have a quiz on Wednesday – either Science or Italian, I don’t remember which one,” –he tells me.   He is great in Science, but not so much in Italian.  I vowed to take his Italian under control, since another bad grade would screw up his average.   After a heated discussion about his foreign language abilities or the lack of thereof, he reluctantly agreed to me checking him on the new vocabulary words (I can’t really do anything else, since I don’t know the language).   This approach has already yield some positive results, since he got the highest grade in class on his last test.  “But it is a fluke, not a progress”, he claimed. “If it is not a progress, we will turn it into progress,” I replied.

Monday, 7:30 pm, home

“Did you check what quiz you are having?  Are you sure it’s not Italian?” I am asking him for the fifth or sixth time (I’ve lost count at that point).  “I’ve told you –Science!” he yells.

“Can we spend a few minutes to review new words, just in case?”

“What case?  I told you I am having Science, not Italian!”

Wednesday, 5:35 pm, driving home from Aquatic Center

“Mom, everything is good.  And, oh, I had a quiz in Italian.”

“What?!  You told me you were having Science! You told me you were absolutely sure”.

“That’s what I thought. I have Science tomorrow. I didn’t say “absolutely sure”.

“But you did not even look at the new words once.  This is really bad.”

“OK.  You know what?  This is completely unacceptable.  If you get less than 80, than for the next two weeks, you are not using your laptop.”

“Scratch that.  It doesn’t matter what you get.  You are punished not for your grades, but for your ignorance.  No matter what you get -two weeks without electronics. Then, you would start paying attention.”

“Yes, mam”

“So, how is it going to work? Are you going to take away the batteries or what? And how am I supposed to do my homework?”

(Great! Now we are going into semantics.)

“I am not taking away anything.  You can use your computer for homework, but if I see you use it for something else, than another two weeks without electronics.”

“Yes, mam”

Wednesday, 8:00 pm, home

“Are you done with your homework?”

“I did not start yet.  I am reading my book.”

“Can you start working on your homework?”

“I can’t.  You don’t let me go on electronics, so I have no choice, but to read my book.  The story just reached its climax; I can’t put it down now.  I need to know what happened.”

Thursday, dinner time, home

“I got my grades back.  Italian is 88, other tests in mid to high 90th.”

“How could you get 88, if you did not know one word?”

“A lot of the words, apparently, were the ones we’ve studied before.  Plus, I told you I would get at least 30.  By the way, it was the highest grade in class.”

Saturday, 2:00 pm, driving home from the dentist

“Mom, I would like to submit a formal request.  Since I’ve got 88 in Italian and others in high 90th, and I’ve already served 4 days without electronics, I would like to request to lift the rest of the punishment.”

“OK.  You will receive the formal response to your formal request within the 72 hours of submission.”

“What?! Why 72 hours?”

“Based on the family policy, this is the timeframe needed to review the formal requests.”

“Who established this policy?!”

“I did.”

“OK.  Then I would like to withdraw my formal request.”

“You will receive the formal decision on whether your withdrawal is accepted within 72 hours.”

“Why 72 hours?!”

“Because based on the family policy, it is time needed to check it for the conflict of interests.”

“But we all have one interest – for me to do well in school!  I’ve learned my lesson.  Can we just talk like mature adults?”

“Now we are talking.  I will think about it.”

Saturday, 3:00 pm, home

“Mom, are you done thinking?  Can we talk like adults? Can we make an amendment?”

“OK, I agree to lift the punishment, but only after you fill in your application for Advanced Research Program, including essays, do all your homework, and get ready for Science midterm.”

“But I need to relax.  I just came from the (swim) meet.  Seriously!”

“Well, you can have electronics for one hour, but then you work on your stuff.”

“Yes, mam”

Saturday, 8:00 pm, home, watching Penny confessing to Leonard’s mother about her childhood rocky relationship with her dad (Big Bang Theory)

“Mom, can we amend the previous amendment? It is already 8:00 and I am too tired to do the homework?  Can I do it tomorrow?”

To be continued … Or will it ever end?


Don’t Ask Men for Directions?

Yes, I am a feminist, but that’s not what you think.   I respect men.  They are handsome, smart, brave, and helpful.  They would tell you how to park your car, when to stop by the gasoline station, or what to buy in the grocery store.  They would advise the kids what would happen if they don’t do their homework, and, most importantly, who will execute the punishment and when (mom).  They would take their children to the action movies, concerts, and fun zones, simultaneously loading them up on fries, pop corn, and sugar (quality time is more important).   They will buy the newest I-Boxes, tablets, laptops, I-phones, Androids  and other life’s necessities for their off springs; and, of course, the best photo and video equipment on the market for themselves to capture these important  “new technology” milestones.   At the dinner table they would take their time teaching the kids important life lessons while “someone” is cleaning up the table and doing the dishes.   In case they can’t answer the tricky question, they will always point the child in the right direction – the mom.  There is not enough space in this story to list all the small and big things we need our men for.  I have three of them in my house, and would not trade it for the world. But that is not what the story is about.

For a few days before we loaded our flight to Israel my husband kept assuring me that everything was under control.  He prepared the boarding passes, addresses, directions, copies of passports, cash, etc.  I “trusted” him as he asked, and put my energy into packing, and running last minute errands.  The flight took 11 hours.  We arrived in Jerusalem at 11 pm New York time or 6am Israel.  We were exhausted and could not wait to get to our apartment, jump in the bed and close our eyes.  My younger son was already way passed his bedtime, but he did not complain yet.  We found our way through the airport to the taxi stand, and waited our turn.  The Arab-looking cab driver put our luggage in the trunk, got back to his seat, cleared up his GPS and asked for the address.   My husband had it ready.  The cab driver looked at it for what seemed like a long time, and then informed us that his GPS was in Hebrew.   Luckily, he spoke a little English and was able to make out how the street name sounded.

Eventually, we stopped at some roundabout.  There were few entrances into several 3 story buildings’ courtyards.  A lot of Jerusalem streets are narrow, so the car could not come directly to the house.   The cab driver assured us that our building was somewhere around here.  To prove his point, he showed us something in foreign language on the GPS.   We got out of the cab.  Asking somebody for directions was out of the question, since the good people of Jerusalem were still sleeping.   Our fearless leader took another look at his papers, and established that our building was next to the Wine store.  Progress.  Except we had no idea where the Wine Store was.  Finally, we saw a lone pedestrian walking the deserted street.   Were we lucky or what?  He showed us the store (why would people ask for a Wine Store at 6:30 in the morning was another question). There were few entrances next to it with the street names – all in Hebrew.  May be not so lucky…

My son and I were learning to read Hebrew to get ready for his Bar Mitzvah, and even though we were far from being fluent, we knew how the letters sounded.  My husband did not really believe in our language abilities, but had nothing else to offer.  It took us a few minutes, but we did it – we figured out our street; and soon after found our building.  Just as we were ready to jump into bed, we were struck with yet another dilemma.

The front door had a big metal lock with a code and two handles.  My husband took out his I-phone and found an e-mail from the management with all the info we needed to enter the building.    He put the code in and twisted the handle, the door did not barge.  He did it again; and again; and again.  The door was locked.  Yet, I was still optimistic.  For some reason, part of me kept thinking that if the criminals could escape from the high security prison, there should be the way to open the freaking door.  Another part expected God to help us out in the Holy Land, and perform a miracle for once (he did make Red Sea part, and one day oil last for eight).  But, I guess, Jews in the 21 century, unlike the ones living thousands of years ago, should rely solely on themselves. My 7-year-old son was sitting on the top of the suitcase on the cobble stone courtyard in the fairylike city he saw in Aladdin, silently watching his dad doing the same thing over and over again, hoping that the magic door would finally open.   The sun was fully up by now, but August air was still cool and refreshing.

The situation was not looking good.  The management office was closed to at least 9 am, could be longer, considering that timeliness was not big in the Middle Eastern culture.   May be someone would come out of the building and open the door; but what was the possibility of this happening any time soon?  I was going over all the different scenarios in my head desperately trying to find a solution; none of them seemed encouraging. That was when I decided to take a look at the e-mail myself.  We were clearly missing something.  I looked at the code that my husband was putting in – the numbers matched.  I scrolled the text down to read the rest of the e-mail.  Sure enough, there was a note to twist both of the handles at the same time after the code was entered.  I asked my husband to try one more time with the handles trick.   The moment of happiness when the door finally opened was priceless.  There was another safe with the code inside the building, next to the management office- the safe that held the keys to our “promised land”.  This one was more cooperative, thanks God (or ourselves).  We went up three flights of stairs, dropped the luggage, took off our shoes, and slipped under the blankets.    Putting your head on a soft, fluffy pillow never felt better.   Few hours later well rested and rejuvenated we went out to have lunch and tour the Old City.

P.S.  After reading this post, my husband demanded to include that today he also resized the pictures, so that I could put them on my blog, and tried to download the photos from my phone on the computer (unsuccessfully, even after implementation of his plan B, but that was not the point).  So here you go, honey; now I need you more than ever.


Gift from Son

Wandering through the small shops of Baltimore Seaport after lunch, he saw this hidden treasure.   He felt a sudden urge to purchase it, which he did with the last of his cash.  A few kids on the bus tried to use the designated spot for its original purpose.  He stopped them before they inflicted any permanent damage on themselves.   To their grateful smiles he responded that it was not that he cared about them, he just wanted to deliver the plate to his mother intact.  Such a wonderful son he is.