I exited the offices of the municipal tax office in a near trance, numb from the news that back-taxes owed equaled nearly a half-year’s salary. Compounded interest and none of the previously awarded discounts for being underemployed or a single mother with young children at home, the concrete-and-iron plaza of City Hall felt shaky beneath my aching feet. Way-beyond the point of tears, my dreams of quitting the day-job and becoming independent quickly dissipated as I frantically considered selling the apartment and finding additional part-time employment.
Disorder and fear had brought me to this place and I suddenly felt both old and frightened. I could not shake the relentless self-flagellation: ‘What kind of pathetic person am I that, instead of looking forward to a blessedly carefree retirement I can only envision endless labor and buckling under the weight of debt, debt and a little more debt?’
Employing Herculean-effort, I remembered my resilience, ability and other crap before I (re)claimed my life. Surprisingly, every utility provider and other creditor exhibited understanding and willingness to work with me. Enlisting the services of a professional family budget-manager, I tenuously gained control. The process took less than a month.
The most difficult part was telling my three respective children in South Africa that, unlike other years, this Passover would not include a trip to visit them and the grandchildren; the budget just wouldn’t allow for it. These were the only times I cried. Canceling our yearly theater trips, using product-coupons and doing away with restaurant dining felt embarrassingly easy. But delaying a chance to snuggle with the grandbabies felt downright cruel. For all its miraculous qualities, Skype just can’t deliver the touch or smell of love.
The other evening I’d gone to bed earlier than usual, drained from a full work day followed by a few hours of bookkeeping and life-planning. Thus said, it felt like the dead of night when the phone rang a little after eleven. Seeming it was an overseas number, I grew frightened. My family knows I don’t talk on the phone after eight. What terrible news lurked on the other end of the line?
“Mom, it’s Tehilah,” she excitedly shouted and, even before she continued I knew it was the happy news for which we’d all been waiting. I’m ENGAGED!” Gavin grabbed the receiver from her and with equal excitement exclaimed: “Mazal tov, Andrea! I love you. Can I call you ‘Mom’?”
Despite the drudgery that makes up a good part of daily existence, there are miraculous moments that remind us that it is all a miracle. Miracles that have nothing to do with city tax offices, bunions or war with our Arab neighbors. here are Skype visits with grandchildren, shabbos dinners with friends, a clean bill of health from the clinic doctor and late-night phone calls that are both declarations of love and reaffirmation that all is well with the world.
New York-born Andrea Simantov is a mother of six who moved to Jerusalem in 1995. She frequently lectures on the complexity and magic of life in Jerusalem and can be contacted at email@example.com.