It didn’t start off so smoothly but that’s how beginnings often are, and fortunately the longer we were there, the better it was!
The most challenging thing was the communal seder, which was very different from our usual seder. Our family had a huge table – they didn’t want us to be squished so they gave us a double sized table that would have easily seated 22 people instead of just the 12 of us. That was very thoughtful of them but the table size combined with all the noise of the dining room meant we couldn’t hear each other talking! I had two boys who were literally crying at the seder from confusion, my two youngest boys (except Yirmi) weren’t even aware of what was going on at our table, the older kids were grimacing and it was pretty much impossible to conjure up the atmosphere we usually have at home.
We decided to follow the leader of the communal seder rather than do our own thing, and it got better once we had the meal. Our family sang during the meal and other people joined in with us, and at the end of the seder everyone who was left put their chairs around the table in the center and sang together. It was really nice. I was later told by the organizer how grateful they were that we were there, since she had tried unsuccessfully to find yeshiva guys to come to add a nice holiday spirit – and then we showed up. So it was very different but ended up being a nice experience.
This wasn’t a Pesach hotel, but a hotel people go to for Pesach. That means that there weren’t inspiring speakers or a lineup of activities – in fact, even what I had been told to expect wasn’t quite accurate. I was told there was an exercise room, a basketball court and an Olympic size pool with separate swimming. I was also told that an outreach organization had rented out most of the hotel for all of Pesach and we would be able to attend their lectures and participate in their day trips.
However, it wasn’t quite as I expected! Isn’t it funny how often life is like that? There was no access to the exercise room without paying an extra fee since it isn’t owned by the hotel, there was no basketball court and the pool not only wasn’t large, it had minimal hours for separate swimming that coincided with breakfast and dinner. The outreach organization was there only the first and last day of Passover, so for most of the time there were no lectures and definitely no day trips. The internet in our room was only available for an extra charge and the free internet in the lobby wasn’t working for most of the time. That meant it was quiet and even a bit boring after the first couple of days – and it was the absolute best thing for our family.
What did the hotel have? A ping pong table, two huge jumping structures and a play area for younger kids in the inner courtyard. A lobby where we sat around for long periods together hanging out. Delicious meals three times a day on Shabbos and yom tov, and twice a day otherwise. We had lots of time to just be together without any pressure to be anywhere or do anything, and this is exactly what we needed for emotional healing for everyone.
My kids were really traumatized by my accident. Dd13 is the one I told to call for help and she was very frightened and overwhelmed; she didn’t know what to do. I gave her instructions but she was – understandably – very shaken up. Ds4 was standing next to the bathroom door solemnly staring at me frantically splashing my face with water while waiting for the ambulance, until I noticed him and shut the door so he wouldn’t be scared.
When the ambulance crew got there, they asked me what happened. As I began to answer I saw my kids were there and told them to leave the room before I continued. I didn’t know what I looked like by then – I had seen a glance of my face in the mirror above the sink a few minutes before while I was splashing and saw the contours were beginning to change and my skin coming off – and didn’t want them to see anything that would scare them because it sure did scare me. But despite my efforts it was very frightening for them. Ds11 told me a few days later on the phone that hearing me scream when I was burnt was what frightened him most.
A day or two after I was in the hospital I was talking to ds6 on the phone, and he asked me when I was coming home and then he asked, “Are you going to die?” I said, “No, I’m not going to die but that was very scary for you, wasn’t it?” He quickly changed the topic and said, “I’m just joking.” He wasn’t just joking. Our little kids have such big feelings…My younger boys have been talking a lot about things coming to an end and fulfilling their purpose in their world, toys and things in nature and people. Some of their comments are pretty intense.
I was worried for dd17 and ds15 that this Pesach break was turning into a repeat of last year, when I was in the intensive care unit with Yirmiyahu, with all of the emotions that was bringing up. Yirmiyahu was extremely unsettled and clingy no matter what anyone did. It wasn’t until we were at the hotel a couple of days that he returned to himself, relaxed and cheerful. I remarked to dh that Yirmi is like the emotional barometer of the family; his behavior reflects what everyone else is feeling.
Dd19 said it was a very hard home environment to come into (she came home from the US after 13 months away the day after my accident). I asked why, and she said that everyone was afraid and tense; at that point none of us knew what the long term repercussions of my burns would be or how long I would be hospitalized Going to the hotel gave us a chance to move past the immediate trauma of the accident, to unwind and feel taken care of, to have a chance of scenery and being in a different setting that was so pleasant helped us all shift our focus away from the accident.
There were three other families there during that week who we had a chance to get to know; by the end of our stay we asked that our tables be put together for meals. For the final day of Pesach our four families were given a private dining room and this was really nice – it was a more personal feeling than being in a huge dining room. The families were all so nice and it was also nice that they were all so glad that we were there. One of the women told me on the last day what happy children we have, and especially now that was a really gratifying observation to hear from someone who had been seeing our kids close up for the entire week.
I felt a sense of sadness when we left the hotel and some of my kids did as well. (When I told ds4 we were going to go home, he insisted that the hotel was now our home, that we had brought our stuff there and he wanted to stay forever!) It was sad, but a good kind of sad that comes from having had such a nice experience and it coming to an end. I had such a peaceful Pesach and it was an amazing gift to our entire family to have been able to go away!