Sunday, July 31, 2011

The things that make it all worthwhile

Ever since Barak was born, Mr. Bigfoot has been the Man in Charge of Laundry. I won't pretend that there haven't been a few disasters in the laundry arena since then, but overall it's been a successful term in office. I make sure the laundry gets into the hampers, he stain-sticks it religiously, washes it, and hangs it to dry, and one of us puts it away. It's a good system.

So today, on the eve of the 9 Days (when it is for the most part forbidden to do laundry) Mr. Bigfoot staged an all-day laundry marathon. On Friday we moved all the furniture and dug behind all the toys to find every last scrap of laundry; from last night until today, he ran load after load. I went out at around 1:30 with Barak and Marika to the shuk, where I bought a staggering quantity of fruit and vegetables and bread for about $40; when I got home, Mr. Bigfoot looked perturbed.

"What happened to all my underwear?" he asked.


"I only have about ten pairs. I used to have a lot more."

"Well, yeah. But we use bleach on our whites and some of them got holes. I threw those out."


"I don't have enough underwear."

"I think you can wash that if you really have to."

"It's better not to."


"Do you want me to go buy you some new underwear right now?"

"Um, yes please."

"OK. I can get some at the bus station. But if I go to the bus station, I'm going to take advantage of the air conditioning and get myself a diet coke and sit down for a little bit."

Mr. Bigfoot thought this was fair enough so, after a fruitless attempt to get Alisha to come meet me and split a last-chance-at-meat-before-the-9-Days hamburger, off I went.

I admit that I really like the Tachana Merkazit (otherwise known as the Central Bus Station). It's just a regular bus station, with stores on the first floor, stores and a food court on the second, and departure/arrival gates and a few more stores and food stands on the third. But there are several key differences. First off, all the food in the entire bus station is kosher, at least to the level of rabbanut stam. There is a kosher McDonald's. There are clothing stores where you can buy modest skirts and tops and just about everything, and you can also buy headscarves and kippot and tzitzit and washing cups, and there is a secular bookstore with books in Hebrew and English, and there are four or five bakeries, each of which sells challah on Friday and cheesecake erev Shavuos. On Fridays and Saturday nights it's packed with people traveling for Shabbos. The restaurants in the food court have specials for soldiers in uniform. There are a lot of machine guns. There are a lot of children. It's not like any other bus station anywhere else in the world.

So I didn't mind too much going on this spur-of-the-moment underwear run, without children. The bus came right away and I went in, through the security that's not much different than what you get at an American airport. I bought what I came for, plus some pretty little hairclips for Marika, and went up to the food court to buy a diet coke and bask in AC for a little while. Then I decided to get onion rings. I ordered my onion rings and there was a secular-looking French woman trying to order the soldiers' special and not understanding what the problem was. I translated for her and all was well. Then this woman in jeans with permed hair turned to me, looking worried, and said (in French) "The 9 days start tonight, right? So I can still eat meat now?" I assured her that she was in the clear to eat a burger. I stood there waiting for my onion rings and as the orders ahead of me came up one by one, the tough-looking probably-just-out-of-the-army 20-something guy at the counter bellowed out the names. "Eliyahu? Eliyahu? Where's Eliyahu? Eliyahu, your order is ready!" And up comes a guy in a black kippa and tzitzit. "Mordechai! Mordechai!"

And it's normal. That's the thing. You can get a kosher burger in Manhattan or Chicago or LA. But you can't get one at the bus station. You have to go to the kosher places in the Jewish neighborhoods, and if you want a kosher burger at the bus station you are probably flat out of luck. My kids can wear kippot and tzitzit on the street, but they got looks when we left our neighborhood. They could get a Jewish education, but only in private schools. I could get a good job and my coworkers were nice about my religious idiosyncracies, but they all thought I was weird and a little crazy and I had to deal with it. Once we left our bubble, we all had to navigate our way somewhere we really didn't belong.

Here, my kids can just be themselves and be, well, normal. It's nice. It's amazing. And the onion rings were pretty good too.

* * * * *

One more thing: after we got back from the shuk (with 1.5 kg of cherries, 2 kg of nectarines, 2 kg of peaches, 1 kg of grapes, a whole bag of stuff from the bakery, another whole bag of leafy greens of every description, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, and... whatever else I forgot) I washed all the cherries and we (the kids and I) sat down to pit and devour them on the spot. I got a bottle of water out of the fridge and asked Iyyar to get cups. He got three green cups and a blue one. Barak asked for the blue one. Iyyar declined to give it. Barak, who doesn't deal with things like this well at the best of times and was hot, tired, and thirsty, began to howl.

"It's not FAIR! I ASKED him for the BLUE one and he said NO! I HATE that! It's STUPID! I SAID I wanted the blue one and he WOULDN'T GIVE IT TO ME! It's NOT FAIR!"

I, being a mean and heartless mommy, said, dryly, "I don't think it's actually that big of a deal. The water tastes the same and he was the one who got the cups. Why is it not fair that he wanted the blue cup?"

"It's not FAIR! I ASKED him for the BLUE one and he said NO! I HATE that! It's STUPID!" etc.

"You know what? Other women, they have babies, and a week later? They're skinny again. It's true. I've seen it. I've totally seen immas who are skinny again a week after their babies are born. I'm NEVER skinny a week after. It takes me forever to lose the weight and I haven't been skinny since before you were born! It's NOT FAIR!"

Barak stared at me with an incredibly endearing mixture of confusion, amusement, hesitation, and disdain. "That doesn't matter."

"But it's not FAIR. I want to be skinny a week after I have a baby."

"But it doesn't matter. You're more cozy this way."

"But it's not FAIR! It's stupid and I hate it!"

"You're being silly, Imma. You're just more cozy like that."

"Oh. Okay."

Barak, who at this time was grinning a little self-consciously, drank his water. From the green cup.


Anonymous said...

You're such a good Imma.

And a pretty terrific writer. Great post, too!

~ Jasmin

Deborah said...

I'm with Jasmine. And wish I could be with you at the bus station, too.

LC said...

Big. Fat. Chuckle.

You hit the bull's eye, ma'am.

Alisha said...

i commented on this post when you first wrote it, but for some reason commenting on blogger from my phone is like writing with disappearing ink. :-/ So here it is again, in all its profundity:

Love, love, LOVE this post!!!!