Friday night traditions: pizza and movies; coveted approval to stay up past bedtime; going out – maybe even with a sitter watching the kids. We all have them. They help us unwind from the week, placing a marker that separates our work from the play that awaits us in the weekend.
Our family holds Friday evenings, the beginning of Shabbat in Judaism, very close. It’s our time to take stock of the crazy, hectic week and celebrate the beginning of a time of rest. I usually make dinner a little more special than usual. We bring out ritual objects: candlesticks, fancy silver cups, and a special plate for the Challah. The kids get grape juice with dinner (a real treat); my husband and I get to slowly finish the bottle of wine we started. Special blessings and prayers are said. We all linger over the dinner table…or around it, as the 2.5 year old starts to run in circles to amuse us and keep her energy up, and her 5.5 year old brother practices delivering his latest knock knock jokes. Finally, we clear the table. The kids take a bath & are put to bed. My husband and I finally have a moment alone together. So begins our weekend, with a beloved celebration of Shabbat.
But in the summer, we all look forward to a variation on this theme. During the day on Friday, I take a few minutes in between meetings to round up some fruit, cheese, veggies, crackers, dips, and a little dessert. Nothing elaborate; just enough to satisfy. I pack it into a cooler, along with some juice boxes, a bottle of wine, and a bottle opener. I quickly load the car up with the bare necessities for a quick trip to the beach. You see, in the summer we take advantage of the late summer evenings and warm air to welcome in Shabbat on the beach.
Leaving my home office as soon as possible, I pick up the kids early from their summer camp/day care programs. Another treat, especially for my oldest, who wants nothing more than to spend precious time with me. Twenty minutes later, we arrive at our favorite beach. Usually reserved for locals, no one checks our car in the parking lot so late in the day.
The beach is intimate, protected by boulders that are the perfect size for climbing. The sand is soft and warm, singing to us as our feet quickly pass through it. The other people there are like us – looking for a quiet, uncrowded place to unwind and eat a bit of dinner. We pull our small load of food, chairs, and towels to a spot that marks the edge of high tide. We won’t stay long enough for the ocean to reach us, but we’ll see the gentle waves draw nearer and nearer as the sun sets.
The kids get their swimsuits on first, help me set up, then play with their sand toys. While we wait for their dad to join us, we wade in the surf and climb on the boulders. As we do so, the weight of the week falls away. Decisions made (or avoided) don’t seem terribly relevant. Meetings looming first thing on Monday haven’t made a dent in my consciousness. Parenting struggles fade away. The kids are happy – no, ecstatic – to be free. Free to play, to roam, to laugh & yell. There is something about this way – this place – of ushering in our respite that is so very different from our usual Friday nights.
My husband arrives and what constitutes dinner is pulled out. Juice and wine are opened. No ritual objects are placed or blessings said on these evenings. Just our family’s ritual of enjoying such a wonderful spot on this earth with each other. It is blessing enough to be where we are, mindful of all we are thankful for. The kids are too busy playing to eat much, but (for once) I don’t worry. While we nibble, buckets of water are brought up from the ocean to make sand soup. The kids see how far up they can climb on the boulders. Cell service is blissfully unavailable, reducing our phones to cameras. We stay as late as possible – later than we should, pushing the kids to a state that threatens the tranquility we’ve been enjoying. No one wants to leave.
Eventually we do leave, of course. Everything is packed up again. Sand is brushed from our feet with baby powder (pro tip for sand removal), if I happen to remember it. We leave with windblown hair, a little sand in our teeth and between our toes, and baby powder sprinkled in my car. We leave with reluctance, but also with a fresh attitude. We leave ready to embrace the weekend.