People in Israel tend to be edgy sorts. It is no coincidence that one of the first words any new immigrant learns is savlanut, or “patience.” It’s kind of ironic that the people screaming the word savlanut are usually pushing head of me in bank or trying to grab the last pair of control top pantyhose in a two-for-one sale at the corner grocery store.
I’m a pretty patient person, so when experiencing one of these indigenously Middle Eastern moments, I usually sit back and let all of those nervous types finish with their pushing and grabbing and eventually I’ll receive service with a smile. When I finally reach the respective counter, a typically frazzled casher/teller/salesperson might say to me, “Thank you for being so patient. Are you American?” At moments like these, I begin humming, “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
Still, Israel is a tense country and who can truly blame us? Did you ever check out our neighbors? No matter how many cherry pies we bake for Syria and Lebanon, they are still hell-bent on destroying us. Which is why I’ve embarked on a private campaign to bring more “calm” into my personal space.
This announcement was met with the same derision as my plan to become Jerusalem’s “Apple Lady,” selling only products made out of – you guessed it – apples. In case you’re wondering, it was a brilliant plan that needed little capita,l but I needed the kids on board to perform some of the more laborious tasks. Apple pies, apple kugels, apple strudels, apple butter, applesauce and apple chips were only a few of the products I planned to manufacture, and all I heard from my testy offspring was, “You’re nuts, Mom. This isn’t New England!”
Undaunted by the negative vibes, I began to assess which areas of my life required deeper breathing and counting to ten when warranted. Not only did I understand that being peaceful makes those around you more relaxed; my fiancé is a very calm type who takes every life-glitch in stride. Wishing to emulate this marvelous personality trait, I began to pace myself and let go of “the little things.”
Which worked until the dryer broke.
At first I thought it might be neat to hang all of the laundry the way the average Israeli has done since before the establishment of the state. Feeling a little like the mother in Swiss Family Robinson, I began to lug baskets filled with damp wash to the outside patio so all of our garments would smell like fresh air and sunshine. What I couldn’t know was that there is something wrong with the washing machine as well, and the final spin cycle doesn’t quite finish the job. Each day the basket got heavier and heavier as less and less water was squeezed out. Needless to say, the charm of turn-of-the-century laundering was growing thin.
As many readers are aware, the water level of Lake Kinneret is front and center of Israeli concerns, because it only rains here in the winter, and we are facing a serious water shortage from lack of precipitation. Well, have no fear, fellow immigrants and sabras! Whenever I do the aforementioned laundry and hang it outside, the skies open up and empty impossible amounts of rain on my last pair of underwear or a week’s worth of bath towels. On one hand, I suppose that I should be proud that I have personally made a huge difference in the national water crisis. On the other hand, my soldier son does not generally appreciate being told that no one on his base will know that the Stanley Kowalski-style athletic shirt he is wearing is, in fact, his sister’s favorite Victoria’s Secret tank-top. Combat soldiers rarely care that laundry room disasters can throw a family into turmoil.
Undeterred, I’ve also brought more order into my home by doing the Sabbath shopping earlier in the week. Well, that was the plan. Each Wednesday morning I walk to work with a trusty shopping cart, empty and roomy enough to hold enough victuals for happy crowds around the candle lit table. The only problem is that I’ve never actually made it to the market as planned. Something always comes up which means that I’m, again, scrambling about the local supermarket on Friday morning and getting the last pot washed just as the siren announces the advent of the Sabbath. But stay tuned. It’s gonna happen!
Feeling, finally, at peace after making this wonderful decision, I was enjoying a cup of tea and reading the paper this morning when my 16-year-old daughter darted through the living room, grabbed her coat and rushed out the door. Racing after her before the elevator door slammed, I shouted, “Where are you going?”
“I’m starting driving lessons this morning! Daddy paid for the whole thing! Isn’t that great? I’m sure I told you. Uh, gotta go!”
Although I was shaking from this unexpected news, I calmly put my tea cup in the dishwasher, poured in the soap and turned the dial. “Your little girl is growing up and she will be a responsible driver like her brothers and sisters. You can’t protect them forever,” were my thoughts as I pressed the button marked “Start.”
The sound of gears grating against one another was followed by a small explosion and a stream of water pouring out of the bottom of the machine. I pulled out the plug, slipped in a puddle and began to cry, which quickly turned to gales of laughter. My initial thought was that the same handyperson who was scheduled to fix the washing machine might have time to check this out as well.
All right, so the “Serenity Now” plan is getting off to a shaky start. Still, every great accomplishment begins with an idea, a flicker of inspiration.
In the meantime, I’m going to repeat after myself, “Savlanut, Andrea, salvanut.”