June 20, 2024
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June 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

One of the great joys of being a parent that they don’t tell you before they send you home from the hospital is that occasionally your kid will come up to you in his pajamas, about an hour after his bedtime, and say, “I have an enormous project due tomorrow.”

This just happened to me. And it wasn’t just a regular project. It was for a state fair.

Well, it wasn’t really a state fair. A state fair is when you get together in a large parking lot to get thrown around on scary rides that are not actually attached to the ground. This was a school fair about the states, in which the parents got to come in and marvel at which kids’ projects were clearly done by the other parents.

To be fair, we should have known about this sooner. The school sent a note home weeks ago. With our son. But if our son can’t be trusted to tell us about the project, what makes them think he can be trusted to give us a note?

A lot of schools have some kind of state fair, because the thing is that they can’t teach the kids about every single state. There are like 50 of them. But they also can’t teach them about none of the states. So this way they teach them, as a concept, “By the way, there are other states out there.” I think they hope that the kids will get together and discuss their respective states at recess or something.

It’s kind of like in the old days, when the entire yeshiva could afford only one Shas, so everyone in the yeshiva mastered one mesechta, and that way, if you, let’s say, needed to know something from Bava Metzia, you would ask the Bava Metzia guy. (This might be why they split the Bavas.) But this is the same thing. They even gave out little directories when we got to the fair.

“You need anything on Louisiana? Call Schwartzman. He did a project on Louisiana in 4th grade.”

I hope nobody calls my kid with questions about Maryland.

Yes, my son picked Maryland. I don’t know why. I think he picked it because his friend picked it, and he figured they could work on it together. I didn’t even know there was a project. All I knew was that he told me his friend was coming over to “do homework.” (I think he actually made finger quotes, but I didn’t notice at the time.) Then his friend came over, and the two of them disappeared into the basement, and they came up about a week later, and we asked, “Where is it? Did you leave it in the basement?” And my son said, “Leave what in the basement?”

We had no idea what the “homework” was, exactly, or why his friend had to come over three times, but our son attempted to do the entire thing in secret, because if we helped him, we would make him do it properly. And then, the night before the kids had to hand it in, they brought their projects upstairs, along with the list of requirements, and my wife finally got a chance to look at them, and then to look at our son’s project, which looked like he did it in four minutes. His prime concern was not to make things look good; it was to finish his homework. (That’s our fault, I think. We ask him every night, “Did you finish your homework?” So that’s his prime concern.)

For example, one of the requirements was that each kid had to post pictures of a lot of the official state “things.” Every state has its own “things,” like an official bird and a mammal and a state capital and a nickname that the other states called it in high school. Some of these are ironic nicknames, like how New Jersey is called “The Garden State.”

“What?!” my wife is saying over my shoulder. “We have a garden.”

That’s not the only strange name. For example, Indiana is called “The Crossroads of America,” meaning “The state that America flies over to get to where it’s going.” And Connecticut is called “The Blue Law State,” because it’s closed on Sundays.

And every state has its own flower. I didn’t even know there were 50 kinds of flowers. Massachusetts, for example, has the Mayflower. This is not a corny joke I just made up. Look it up.

And every state even has its own insect. New Jersey has the European honeybee, which isn’t even an American insect, and 16 other states have that same bee. I think it’s because of all the state flowers. Meanwhile, New York has roaches. Though that’s not their official insect. It’s ladybugs.

But at least my son knows the official state flower of Maryland. I doubt the people in Maryland know the official state flower of Maryland. I can’t even tell you the official state flower of New Jersey (violet). They didn’t ask us that on our citizenship test when we moved here from New York. But at least I know how to figure out which 4th grader to call about it.

By Mordechai Schmutter

Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia, The Jewish Press and Aish.com, among others. He also has four books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].


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