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My vendetta against Snapchat

Anyone who knows me well enough in real life knows that I absolutely cannot stand Snapchat. It bothers me on so many levels, but I promise that there is a legitimate and concrete explanation for my opposition to it.

During sophomore year of high school, some dinguses in my class would take videos and photos of my friend and me during class WITHOUT OUR PERMISSION and Snapchat them to the whole world. At first, I didn’t notice it, but my friend told me about it, and I got really upset because I am a really private person when it comes to sharing my life on the Internet. I like having complete control over what information of mine is public and what information is private. The only photos and videos of me online are photos and videos taken by my parents on our family vacations. I have no problem with my parents posting photos and videos of me on Facebook because I don’t mind my parents’ Facebook friends seeing them. I know most of the people my parents are friends with on Facebook, and my parents’ Facebook friends whom I do not know would probably not send a picture or a video of a random teenage girl around to their friends to laugh at. Also, the photos and videos that my parents post aren’t *that* humiliating. Most of them are either of my performances or of brother and me swimming or doing other typical vacation-y stuff. Beyond posed family vacation photos, I really don’t feel the need to have any other pictures of me on the Internet.

Another reason why I was upset by having unsolicited photos and videos of me floating around on Snapchat was that the photos and videos that were posted painted a very goody-two-shoes image of me. The photos and videos were often taken while I was speaking in class, and in the particular class that the photos and videos were taken in, my friend and I were the only consistent participants. Everyone else Snapchatted pictures of us explaining our answers or taking notes to the whole school for their own amusement. I obviously do not want to be seen as the teacher’s pet or goody-two-shoes. Yes, I take notes and turn in my homework on time and get good grades, but I only try hard because it makes me feel good about myself and that I did something right. However, I don’t want to rub my success in other people’s faces because I don’t want to come off as boastful or like I feel that I am superior to everyone else.

I kind of went off on a tangent there because I really was upset by having unsolicited photos of me floating around the Web. Back to the main focus of this article, which was my unadulterated loathing of Snapchat. The basic premise of Snapchat is that one can take a photo or video and send it to one’s friends, and when one’s friend receives the photo or video, it “disappears” a number of seconds after one’s friend views it (of course, nothing on the Internet ever *really* disappears. It is definitely possible to hack into Snapchat and access a particular person’s Snapchats). The illusion of a photo or video “disappearing” gave my peers the freedom to take photos of my friend and me, without our consent, to entertain themselves.

If a platform allows people to easily hurt others, I will not support it in any way, shape, or form. Many of my friends do have Snapchat, and I do not hold that against them. If they ever want to post a picture of me online, they always ask me first because they know that privacy is important to me. My friends also find ways of keeping in touch with me other than Snapchat. In fact, most of them are even willing to revert back to the archaic communication method of texting. Imagine that!


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My time at the National Yiddish Book Center

This past week, I participated in a program for high school students at the National Yiddish Book Center. Together with other Jewish teenagers from all around the country, I read some of the great masterworks of modern Jewish literature, such as “The Story of My Dovecote,” by Isaac Babel; The Hill of Evil Counsel, by Amos Oz; “Yentl the Yeshiva Boy,” by Isaac Bashevis Singer; “The Loudest Voice,” by Grace Paley; and The Dybbuk, by S. Ansky, among others. This program changed my life because I didn’t really know that there was an entire canon of writing by Jewish authors on issues that pertain directly to the lives of Jewish people all over the world. We even read some work by Palestinian and Arab authors that centered around life in Israel.

One issue we debated time and time again during the program was the question of what constitutes Jewish literature. Does a piece have to be written by a Jewish author in order to qualify as a piece of Jewish literature? Is a piece written by a Jewish author automatically considered Jewish literature? What issues and themes must be present in a piece of literature in order for it to be a piece of Jewish literature? I personally feel that in order for a piece to be considered Jewish literature, it must be written by an author who identifies as Jewish. However, many of my peers in the program tried to argue the contrary, and it was fascinating to hear their perspectives. It made me look at what Jewish literature is in a new light.

Another question we pondered throughout the week was what Jewishness is. Is it a culture, a religion, or both? Can it be an ethnicity? Is it disrespectful to Jews By Choice to say that being Jewish is an ethnicity or a culture? Is the word “Jew” a bad word? When did it become a bad word and why? How can other aspects of identity, such as national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity, affect one’s Jewish identity? Can someone identify with Jewish culture and not with the Jewish religion or vice versa? Walking into the program, I believed that Jewish was a cultural or ethnic identity, but one person argued that Jews By Choice are not any less Jewish because they were not born into a Jewish family, and that made me rethink that aspect of Jewish identity.

I also learned about all kinds of Jewish people from all over the world. We read work by and about Soviet Jews, Israeli Jews, Yemeni Jews, and so many other cultures. We also learned about the lives of Mizrahi Jews (Jewish people who come from majority Muslim countries) and Palestinians in Israel and the challenges that the people in those groups face. We also acknowledged that despite the challenges faced by Palestinians and Mizrahi Jews on a daily basis, the existence of the State of Israel is vital to the existence of the Jewish people. Without the State of Israel, so many Holocaust survivors and Jewish refugees from around the world would not have a place where they could safely practice their religion and learn about and embrace their culture.

One of my favorite books we read was The Hill of Evil Counsel, by Amos Oz. The book centers around a nine-year-old Jewish boy named Hillel and the challenges he faces while growing up in the British Mandate of Palestine (the name for the geographic area where the State of Israel is today before it became an independent state). Hillel’s life changes when he is sexually assaulted by two of his neighbors, but he eventually grows into a strong, capable young man. During our discussion, one of the teachers asked us why Oz decided to write about a little boy getting raped. The teacher’s theory was that it was an allegory for the creation of the State of Israel: Hillel getting assaulted represented the Holocaust, but his subsequent growing into a confident young man represented the creation of the State of Israel and our people’s newfound freedom therein. Although the Holocaust was one of the most horrific events in world history and never, ever should have happened, the Jewish people may have never gotten to have an independent nation of their own. The same goes for Hillel: although no human being should ever be raped, Hillel grew into the man he became because of the strength he had to develop to live as a person who has experienced sexual assault.

On the last day of the program, one of our teachers told us to keep reading because literature can save the world, especially in today’s political climate. If young people begin to educate themselves on the world around them, maybe less bad things would happen. We can only change the future if we know our past, and the best way to learn about our past is to read about other people’s experiences. The insights of those who came before us can shed a light on how to navigate the world today.


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Dance tag

I got the questions from http://hipsterballerina.blogspot.com/2015/05/dance-tag.html.

How long have you been dancing?

I took my first dance class when I was five and stayed at that same studio until I was eight. I quit dance when I was eight because I was in a company that rehearsed several days a week for many hours, and that started to take a toll on my second-grader brain and body. I did not return to dance until I was 12, at which point I had discovered YouTube videos of other kids my age who were really good dancers. I tried to teach myself how to dance from the videos, and I did learn a few steps, but my mother insisted upon signing me up for a hip-hop class at a local community center. I loved it, but I was practicing for my bat mitzvah at the time, so I had to drop dance to prepare for my bat mitzvah. I did not return to dance until I was 14 when I signed up for a hip-hop class at a studio in my neighborhood. So, as of now, I have been dancing for three consecutive years, with a few dance classes as a tiny tot.

What are your least favorite styles of dance?

Last year, I took a general dance class at school, and we studied ballet for a month. It required so much attention to the tiniest details that I wanted to rip my hair out of my head one strand at a time. It was so frustrating, but I did really well on my final ballet exam. Ballet would probably be my least favorite because of the agony it requires to do it well.

What are your favorite styles of dance?

Currently, I’m doing jazz, and I would say that’s my favorite. I also love hip-hop and musical theater. In the general dance class at school, we did a month-long tap unit, and I absolutely fell in love with that. However, I had to stop tap because my brother was rather annoyed at my incessant practicing. Jazz is a lot quieter to practice.

Are you a competitive dancer?

As much as I would love to compete, I don’t have enough experience to do it. Also, most competition teams rehearse even more than I did at the studio I quit back in second grade, and those hours combined with my normal homework load would lead to zero sleep and plummeting grades.

What is one dance flaw that you have that you would change, or a flaw on your body that would help you with dance?

My feet are absolutely horrible for dance. My arches are very wonky, and when I put my legs together and point my feet, I look like I’m sickling my feet. If you don’t know what a sickled foot looks like, Google it. They’re atrocious.

What is your favorite dance step?

I like jumps, leaps, and kicks. My favorite step is probably a tiger leap, a la seconde leap, or a fouette leap.

What do you want to improve on?

I want to improve on balance because I am about as stable on one foot as a wilting plant in a hurricane.

Barefoot or dance shoes?

My studio doesn’t require dance shoes, so I’ve never actually danced in dance shoes. I would generally say barefoot because although it makes turning harder, there is less risk of slipping if you’re dancing barefoot and not wearing shoes or socks.

Tights or no tights?

Tights, for sure! It’s much more comfortable to dance in tights.

What is your favorite dancewear brand?

I like Balera because it’s one of the cheapest dancewear brands, but the quality of their dancewear is consistently really great. Balera dancewear is also pretty easy to move in, which is the most important thing to look for in dancewear.

What styles of dance do you currently do?

The only style of dance I currently do is jazz.

Is dance your favorite sport?

I consider dance to be more of an art than a sport because of the emotional vulnerability it requires to be a skilled dancer, and the creative control a choreographer has over almost every element of a routine, from the music to the costumes to the movement itself.

What dancer do you look up to?

I look up to a tap dancer named Ava Brooks because she very much goes against what is currently “cool” in the dance world, aka doing 5,000 pirouettes and stretching your leg farther above your head than a reasonable human being should. She is so committed to tapping, and she is probably one of the most skilled tappers out there right now. Definitely check her out on YouTube. Like I said, nobody is doing what she is doing right now.

What style of dance do you find the most difficult?

I find ballet the most difficult because of the level of detail you have to go into to make a ballet routine look good.

Why do you love to dance?

I tend to be a person who lives very much in my head. I overthink absolutely everything, and dance gives me the opportunity to get out of my head and into my body. I always feel really calm after I dance, especially when I nail a routine or master a new step. Nothing compares to the feeling of finally mastering a new move. Although I haven’t been dancing for a long time, I can see myself dancing for as long as I physically can. With dance, I can express things that I can’t express in words and channel everything that’s bothering me into movement, which is an incredibly powerful thing to be able to do.


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25 Get to Know Me Questions

I got the questions from: https://meganhasocd.com/2015/02/12/25-get-to-know-me-questions-tag/.

1) What is your middle name?

My middle name is Irene, after my great-grandmother who had the same name.

2) What is your favorite subject in school?

It depends on what teacher I have. I firmly believe that a great teacher can make any subject interesting to learn. This past year, my favorite class was English because my teacher was funny, but she also pushed me to my limits and I learned a lot. The year before, I had a really great math teacher, so I liked that class the best.

3) What is your favorite drink?

My favorite drink is a Shirley Temple. I don’t know why, but it probably has something to do with the fact that it’s basically two different forms of liquid sugar.

4) What is your favorite song at the moment?

I’ve been really obsessed with “Strangers,” by Halsey and Lauren Jauregui. The song itself is really fun and catchy, but deep and haunting at the same time. It is also the first pop song by two openly bisexual women singing about a same-sex relationship, and that is really important because there is essentially a total lack of accurate and respectful bisexual representation in the media. Bisexual people are usually portrayed as mentally unstable and indecisive, but bisexuality is a legitimate sexual orientation and should be respected as such. Okay, that turned into a rant really quickly, but my main point is, go Halsey and Lauren Jauregui! Yay representation!

5) What is your favorite food?

I love ice cream, especially cookies and cream ice cream. I also love Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie and Half Baked ice cream. My favorite “real” food would have to be either pizza or macaroni and cheese.

6) What is the last thing you bought?

A baseball cap that says “And Peggy,” which is, of course, a reference to everyone’s favorite forgotten Schuyler Sister from Hamilton. I really like the hat because it looks like the cover of Beyonce’s self-titled album. Two references in one!

7) Favorite book of all time?

I really like this book called Hope Was Here, by Joan Bauer. All of the characters, except for the main antagonist, are incredible human beings who seem like they could be actual people, but they’re not because they are all way too good for this world.

8) Favorite color?

Pink, for sure! There are certain shades of pink I like better than others, but almost everything I own is at least a little bit pink, and if it’s not pink, it’s usually purple and/or teal.

9) Do you have any pets?

No. I did have a hamster who died after a month. Both my dad and I are allergic to all animals with fur, so, much to my younger brother’s dismay, my family cannot get a pet.

10) Favorite perfume?

I don’t use perfume, just deodorant. Lately, my deodorant of choice has been Dove Original Clean. I think that gender-based marketing of products is completely bogus, and the deodorant I’ve been using has a relatively androgynous scent and packaging, so if you’ve been looking for a “gender-neutral” scent, go with Dove Original Clean. *Disclaimer: this is NOT a sponsored post, just my opinion!*

11) Favorite holiday?

I like Halloween because I love costumes and candy. What could be better?

12) Are you married?

No! I’m a teenager!

13) Have you ever been out of the country?

No, but I would love to at some point. *hint hint MOM AND DAD IF YOU’RE READING THIS hint hint*

14) Do you speak any other languages?

I have been studying Spanish since 2nd grade, and I can speak and understand it pretty well. I might even do a post in Spanish at some point, you never know (:

15) How many siblings do you have?

I have a younger brother, and we have a very stereotypical relationship in that I’m the goody-two-shoes older sister and he’s the “No! I’m not taking a shower!” variety of younger brother. I love him very much, though. He can be really sweet and adorable.

16) What is your favorite shop?

There’s a local bookstore in my hometown that I’m absolutely in love with. It takes all the willpower in the world not to spend my entire life savings every time I’m in there.

17) Favorite restaurant?

A local Mexican food joint that’s also in my hometown. The quesadillas there are quite tasty.

18) Last time you cried?

This story deserves another blog post entirely, but basically, I signed up for a drawing class, but it was way too challenging, and I was so overwhelmed that I ran to the bathroom and cried. Real mature, I know.

19) Favorite blog?

One of my fellow teen bloggers, Emily, runs a brilliant blog called Just A First Draft. The blog is about reading, writing, and life in general. A lot of her older posts can be found on Saltare Into Life, and everything she writes makes me want to be a better human being.

20) Favorite movie?

Moana is definitely my favorite movie. It has a strong, teenage, female protagonist of color, no romantic subplot, and all of the lyrics in English were written by none other than Lin-Manuel Miranda!

21) Favorite TV show?

I watch more YouTube videos than TV, but I really like Glee, The Voice, and When We Rise. I also started watching Parks and Recreation recently, and I really like that show.

22) PC or Mac?

I like Macs better, but due to my limited budget, I use a PC.

23) What phone do you have?

I have a flip phone for calls and texts and a 6th-generation iPod touch for everything else a smartphone does. It’s a great system because I never have to worry about my phone dying, and if I have WiFi, I can do smartphone-y stuff! However, I’m probably going to need a smartphone as an adult so I can take Ubers or Lyfts.

24) How tall are you?

5 feet, 4 and a quarter inches. DON’T FORGET THE QUARTER INCH!!!

25) Can you cook?

I can make frozen food in the microwave, scrambled eggs, and grilled cheese. Cooking makes me skittish, though, because I am klutzy and accidentally getting splashed with boiling water or hot oil is not my idea of a good time.


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The American Education System

Lately, I have been thinking critically about many things, but one thing that keeps coming to the forefront of my mind is school and how it functions. I have mostly been questioning if sticking a group of children around the same age in a small building for six and a half hours every weekday and sending them home with two to three hours of additional work to be completed by the next day is the most effective way to teach children. Why is there such an emphasis on this particular model of education in this society? How do people think it’s healthy to stick children in an unnatural environment to learn skills they will likely never use in their adult lives?

To answer those questions, one must first investigate the origins of the American education system. It emerged about 150 years ago during the Industrial Revolution. The initial goal of schools was to educate children to become effective factory workers. The skill set required of a typical factory worker was simple: the ability to do something when someone tells you to do it without questioning what you have to do. To be an effective factory worker, you had to mold yourself into whatever your boss needed you to be at that moment in time. The best way to reinforce that skill is to transform entire generations from creatively-thinking individuals into a homogenized mass of human bodies, and the forefathers of modern education devised a plan for this transformation that took the form of a school. The fascinating thing is that even though the Industrial Revolution has been over for more than a century, schools have fundamentally remained the same. Everything else in our society, from technology to the arts, has changed except for schools.

The most fascinating thing about school is that many children do not effectively function in it as it functions today. Most children are able to adapt to the groupthink expected of them pretty easily, but there are several children who simply do not have that ability. These children often possess far more creative, bright minds than their average peers. Many of the world’s most prominent scientists and artists were placed in this category of “different” as schoolchildren. Nonetheless, schools view children who are different as somehow broken, rather than uniquely gifted. In reality, it is these “different” children who will change the world for the better simply by continuing to be themselves and refusing to accept the status quo.

A significant problem that stems from schools labeling certain children as “less than” their peers is bullying. If adults tell children that they all need to be the same and that people who are different are somehow less worthy, children will follow that message and act accordingly. The “normal” children will antagonize those that do not follow “the rules” of being the same as everyone else, and the “different” children will feel ashamed of their incredible strengths and talents.

The notion that everyone in the world must know all of the same information and function in the exact same way is detrimental to society because it is simply not true. Not everyone is meant to do the same thing in life. If children with different minds continue to be suppressed by the American education system, the cure to cancer, next great masterpiece or revolutionary invention might never materialize. Every person is born into the world with unique talents and gifts, and if schools continue to deny children who cannot mold themselves into carbon copies of their peers the opportunity to explore their unique gifts, the world will suffer.


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Losing My Grandpa

I was so unbelievably tired on Wednesday morning. I slept in for a few minutes, and then my dad came into my room to turn off my alarm clock.

That’s strange, I thought. Dad never comes into my room to wake me up.

“Sweetie, Grandpa died earlier this morning.”

I had been expecting to hear this news at some point this week. Grandpa had been slowly getting weaker every day for the past few months, and on Monday, the doctors told my dad that Grandpa would probably die at some point within this week. Nevertheless, the news hit me like a pile of bricks. My mind became fuzzy. I couldn’t understand. I had just seen Grandpa two weeks ago. He was too weak to engage in conversation, but I didn’t realize that it would be the last time I ever saw him.

The visit had been uneventful. My brother and I hadn’t seen Grandpa since winter break, so we were excited to see him. Dad had gone to New Jersey alone almost every weekend since Grandpa was first admitted to the hospital. He was diagnosed with cancer, but had a variety of other health problems that kept him bouncing between the assisted-living facility where he normally lived, the local hospital, and the rehab facility for a long time.

My brother and I entered the communal dining hall at the rehab facility Grandpa was currently staying in. He was wearing a brown T-shirt that said “My favorite people call me Grandpa,” faded blue pajama pants, and brown slippers. He smiled when he saw us coming over to him.

“Hi, sweetie pies,” Grandpa said. “How are you?”

“Good,” my brother and I answered.

“How are you?” I asked Grandpa.

“Eh, a little better,” Grandpa responded.

“Do you want me to take your food to your room so you can spend time with your family?” A nurse who was standing nearby asked Grandpa.

“Sure,” Grandpa said.

“Why don’t you wheel Grandpa to his room?” Dad asked me. My mom had taken my brother off to use the bathroom. I was surprised at how easily Grandpa’s wheelchair glided along the crimson-carpeted hallway of the rehab facility without much effort on my part. When we got to his room, I wheeled him next to a table so that he could eat his lunch. However, he showed no desire to eat anything.

“Grandpa, you have to eat,” I said.

“I’m not hungry,” he answered.

“Dad, do you want me to cut up the chicken for you?” My dad asked.

“Sure,” Grandpa answered. After my dad finished slicing the meat, Grandpa still ate nothing. I recalled my dad saying that he was refusing to eat or drink anything other than the protein shakes that Grandpa’s wife had told the nurses to give him. My family had gotten him some coffee and pastries from a bakery with a sign in their window that read, “Voted Best Bakery in Bergen County,” both of which he consumed eagerly. After about 30 minutes of my family and me chatting with Grandpa, his eyelids started to droop closed and he said that he was tired, so I told the nurse who passed by to get someone to put Grandpa into bed.

Fifteen minutes had elapsed, and still nobody came. I went to the nurses’ station at the end of the hallway.

“Hi, can you please send a nurse to room 212 to put my grandfather into his bed?” I asked one of the nurses.

“Really? Marty just woke up less than an hour ago, but okay,” the nurse said. “It’ll be a few minutes.”

“I will stay right here until someone comes,” I said. As much as I wanted to spend time with Grandpa, he looked miserably exhausted. I was kind of mad at the nurses for not coming right away.

We sat with Grandpa in his room for about an hour after two nurses came into his room and placed him gingerly into his bed. When it was time to leave, I walked over to Grandpa’s bedside to say goodbye. His nightstand was covered with “get well soon” cards from all of his grandchildren.

“Be good to yourself,” Grandpa whispered to me.

“I will, Grandpa,” I answered. “I love you.”

***

I decided to take the day off from school. Luckily, my teachers understood and said that I needn’t worry about schoolwork until I returned. I spent the entire morning and early afternoon scouring my house for pictures of Grandpa and used an unopened scrapbooking kit I had received for my birthday a few years ago to compile all of the pictures. We drove down to New Jersey at 3 p.m. that afternoon with my other grandparents trailing behind us in their car. We all got to my Grandma’s house at around 9 p.m. and had some tea and snacks (Grandma and Grandpa got divorced when my father was a kid and only kept in contact because they had joint custody over my father and uncle. I had only ever seen them in the same room at my cousin Max’s bris and my bat mitzvah). I then took a shower and went to bed.

The next morning was Grandpa’s funeral. Gramps, my mom’s father and a retired rabbi, would be officiating the ceremony. I wore a black dress, a black sweater, black tights, black socks, and black shoes. The only reason I wore a pink headband was that I couldn’t find my black one. I felt so guilty for wearing something that wasn’t the color of my soul at that moment.

The grief didn’t hit me until I walked into the main building of the cemetery and saw my Aunt Marilyn, who was Grandpa’s older sister. As I gave her a hug, tears started pouring out of my eyes. I then hugged some of my other relatives. The funeral took place on a cold, rainy Thursday morning.

All of my relatives drove their cars in a line behind the hearse through the winding roads of the cemetery. We couldn’t have been driving at more than 5 miles per hour. When we arrived at my family’s plot of land, there was a pile of earth with four shovels in it. At Jewish funerals, the mourners actually dig the grave of the deceased. Shoveling dirt into a loved one’s grave is considered one of the greatest acts of lovingkindness one can do.

Gramps said a few prayers in English and Hebrew before opening up the floor for people to share memories. The rain started pouring down even more heavily. As I listened to my relatives speak about my grandfather, I couldn’t help but cry harder than I ever had in my life.

Mom tapped my shoulder. “Maisie, do you have anything to say about Grandpa?”

“Just that I loved him, I miss him, and I can’t believe he’s gone,” I choked out between sobs. I began to feel the torrential downpour soak through my socks. I shoveled a few scoops of earth into Grandpa’s grave, but I was crying so hard that I had to stop. The thud of each mound of dirt hitting Grandpa’s wooden coffin emphasized the finality of his death. He’s really gone now. He was here, and now he’s in the ground.

My relatives and family friends tried to console me, but my mom sensed that it was getting to be too much and told me that I could sit in the car with my brother. I was shivering and sopping wet. A few minutes later, my parents came into the car and we drove to my aunt and uncle’s house in New York (the state, not the city) for the meal of condolence.

When we got to my aunt and uncle’s house, I greeted my relatives and immediately took off my wet shoes and socks. I was cold, so my cousin Hana lent me her sweater. I sat with my cousins for a while and ate and talked about school. Throughout the afternoon and evening, so many people poured in and out of the house to offer their condolences, including some of my mother’s closest friends and their kids.

Although it will be a long time until I can truly be okay again, the fact that so many people came to the meal of condolence made me feel a lot better about the whole situation. Grandpa’s death may be an awful situation, but at least I don’t have to suffer through it alone. My family and friends will be right there beside me the whole time.


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Maisie’s Adventures in Winter Wonderland

This weekend was one of the craziest weekends of my life. After having Thursday and Friday off from school due to a blizzard, we drove down to New York (the state, not the city) on Saturday because my dad had planned my grandpa’s birthday party for Sunday.

Before hitting the road on Saturday morning, Mom read the news report and told Dad that it was a bad idea to drive to New York this weekend because there was a winter storm warning in place for all of New England. One thing you should know about Dad is that he is one of the most stubborn people you will ever meet in your life, second only to Grandpa. Dad is a lawyer by training, and although he doesn’t argue in court, he can get his way in any situation you throw at him. From the beginning, Mom did not stand a chance against Dad. It was his way or the highway, except in this case, his way actually involved a highway, so that metaphor did not make sense there.

After an hour of arguing, Mom finally gave into Dad and we had a rather uneventful drive until we reached central Connecticut. While we were in a Dunkin Donuts parking lot getting ready to go back on the road after a pit stop, Dad’s stepmother called and told him that Grandpa was sick. Although that meant that Grandpa’s birthday party was probably off, Dad decided to keep going because we were already halfway to my aunt and uncle’s house in New York and he thought that we could still have Grandpa’s birthday party.

We got to my aunt and uncle’s house in New York after about 2 more hours of driving. At this point, Dad still did not want to call off Grandpa’s party, but my Auntie Michelle said that there was no way that our relatives from Philadelphia would drive up to New Jersey in a snowstorm and said that we had to cancel the party. Just then, Dad got another call from his stepmom and found out that Grandpa had to go to the hospital. Dad decided that we would stay overnight and leave the next morning.

As if the events of Saturday weren’t outrageous enough, Sunday’s forecast included another winter storm warning, and I woke up to see more intense snowfall than I had seen when school was cancelled on Thursday.

“Brad, we are not driving home in this weather!” Mom said.

“You probably shouldn’t drive back to Massachusetts in this weather,” Auntie Michelle said. Nonetheless, we packed our bags and got in the car. Dad promised that he would drive slowly and exercise caution. Mom had me put on the Hamilton soundtrack to ease her fear of a potential accident.

When we crossed over the Connecticut border, the windshield was getting too cloudy to see out of. Dad made out the faint outline of an exit sign, and we pulled over to wipe off the windshield. At this point, Mom was absolutely terrified. The snow was so heavy and the windshield so cloudy that we couldn’t see more than a few feet ahead of us. I knew it was time to call in the reinforcements, my grandmothers. I texted Granny and Grandma and told them that my father was insisting upon driving in the middle of a freak snowstorm. Granny called me and asked where we were.

“We’re in Connecticut,” I answered.

“You’ll be fine, just keep going,” Granny said.

“That was no help whatsoever. Love you!” I said and hung up the phone.

I knew that I had to seek out other reinforcements. We were inside a Panera, so I told the people behind the counter about our current predicament. They said it wasn’t safe to drive back to Massachusetts. Mom asked a random guy his opinion. The guy, whose name was Josh, turned out to be a professional snowplow driver.

“What kind of car do you guys drive?” Josh asked.

“Subaru,” I answered.

“You’ll be fine. The roads tend to get clearer outside of Hartford,” Josh said.

Mom was still apprehensive, but at this point, Dad was getting the car ready to go. We had no choice but to follow Dad’s lead. Lo and behold, keeping a steady pace of 35 miles per hour, about half our normal highway driving speed, we got back to Massachusetts safely.

My favorite moment from the drive home was when we stopped at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant to use the bathroom. My family, being snobby Northerners, took the opportunity to mock everything in the restaurant. There was a jukebox-like machine that let you select songs to play in the restaurant, and my little brother selected about 10 or 15 Blake Shelton songs, so for the next half an hour, the only music playing in the restaurant would be a continuous stream of Blake’s hits. The poor patrons and waitstaff will never know what hit them!