Every Monday and Tuesday at exactly 2:14 pm, my phone beeps to life with the chorus of Destiny’s Child Independent Woman.
All the women who are independent
Throw your hands up at me
I shut the alarm off, scroll through my contacts and text one of three people:
“Any chance we can get a ride home with you today?”
I hold my breath. I cringe involuntarily. My stomach tightens while I wait for a “SURE” or a “no problem” or an “absolutely” to untie the knot.
Yes, while I am doing my best to rock it solo since my ex and I split almost two years ago, living half the week with my kids in a tiny house next to rolling fields and a ginormous sky, where I negotiate paying rent and utilities with a landlord who doesn’t speak English, where I can pay my internet bill and make money transfers over the phone, where I have finally started to create a life that kind of sort of makes sense, I still can’t get from point aleph to point bet–something so freaking basic–without help.
Because unless I have help, it’s going to be a long walk home.
I don’t know how to break it down for you without sounding all whiny, so I’m just going to state the facts as clearly and simply as I can:
While I can make it from my doorstep to the cafe on the kibbutz in about 20 minutes–(15 if I skip the hooker boots and hoof it in sneakers)–when you’re schlepping a 3 ½ year old and a 5 year old, and (invariably) three or four stuffed animals, and your laptop, and a bag of clean clothes (because you don’t have a washer and dryer, so you have to use one on the kibbutz) and your flat iron (because priorities are important) and the sun is beating down on you, and about halfway from the kibbutz to home both kids try to stage a sit in (invariably in the middle of crossing the main road) the only way to get by is with a little help from your friends.
Luckily, I have friends who are willing to complicate their lives by helping me untangle mine–friends who don’t flinch when my kids scuff their car seats with dusty shoe prints, and the occasional (ha!) cookie crumb. Friends who never clench their jaws or roll their eyes when they’re carjacked and basically kept captive through the throes of the Arsenic Hour–when all precious little angels become devil spawn. Friends who will often offer before I even have to ask.
But occasionally, no one’s around. Like last week.
“Oh, sorry, I don’t have the car today.” (Fine. 1 down, 2 to go.
“No, but I can take you home tomorrow.” (OK…. 2 down, 1 to go.)
“Maya stayed home from gan, so I won’t be there.” (3 down and Well, shit.)
And just like that, we’re stuck. Okay, sure, there are options–I can call a taxi but that’ll cost 50 NIS–which translates to the cost of one family sized pizza with extra cheese, or 4 days worth of cappuccino from the kibbutz cafe, or train and bus fair from Ramle to Jerusalem, or a new dress for my daughter, or a new pair of shorts and a T-shirt for my son. Yes, walking is an option, even with two tired, kids, and a fully-loaded laptop bag, and the stuffed animals, and (because it is just that kind of day) the big old bag of clean laundry that we need at home because we’re out of clean clothes. Or, we can wing it: There are plenty of families that send their kids to preschool on the kibbutz but live in little towns close by, which means that they come with transportation. (Car, camel, welcome to the Middle East version of “I couldn’t care less.”)
I weighed the pros and cons:
Plan A –take a Taxi –was out because everyone knows that any single income in Israel begins in overdraft and works its way down from there.
Plan B–haul ass on foot–was out because the sun was bitch slapping me, and I was not going to be that mother screaming at her children who were getting their Gandhi on in the middle of the street and whining about wanting frozen watermelon slushies. (People, it happened before, and it can happen again.)
So that left Plan C. After all, the wise Dumbledore always says that help comes to those who ask.
I saw a few parents with cars roll up to the preschool, including the mother of a friend of my daughters. Seemed almost too easy.
“Hi, I’m so sorry, but is there any way that you can drop us off at home?”
I held my breath while I watched the muscles in her jaw clench. She sucked air in, and her shoulders heaved in two parts annoyance and one part resignation. And that knot in my stomach? Tighter than a … oh, nevermind. You get the idea.
It was so ridiculously obvious that she didn’t want to take us. But what could she say? My son was sitting on my shoulders whining how his butt itches, while my daughter grabbed my hand and looked deep into my eyes and says in a whisper “Gargamel says he wants pizza for dinner or else he will get very angry and will eat all the snails on our porch.” (Um, we interrupt this post for a WTF moment. I swear you guys, it’s only a matter of time before she pulls some creepy “I see dead people” shit.)
The knot squeezed tighter.
“Fine. We’ll take you,” the other mother said.
The other mother, with her air conditioned 2014 SUV. The other mother with the father of her children coming home every night, maybe tired, but always smiling. The other mother whose children don’t have itchy butts.
The other mother, whose daughter–my daughter’s friend–starts screaming “I don’t want to take them! I don’t want to take them!”
The other mother who gets down on her knees in front of her child and says ever so sweetly, “I’m sorry, metukah, I know how upset you are, and I know how hard this is for you. I promise to make it up to you.”
(In other words, helping those in need sucks and should be avoided at all cost.)
My kids and I trudged to the SUV and got in, I couldn’t look the other mother in the eye. When we got to our street, I said “Thanks so much, you are a life-saver.”
“Why didn’t Lital want to take us home?” my daughter asked after I set down the stuffed animals, the laptop bag, and the bundle of laundry.
My first reaction? I wanted to tell her straight up that, “Some people suck, and that’s just how it is.” But I went deep–I thought about my daughter’s future, and the ramifications of my words. I thought about the long years she’ll have in school with this other kid–her friend–who may have just been having a bad day. I also thought about the accidents I’ve made with my kids, where I’ve let myself get in the way of showing them how to be a mensch. And I thought about what my own mother would say when I would come home frustrated and frazzled by a long day being a kid.
“Because sometimes people don’t understand what it’s like to need help. But you understand, Sweet Girl, and one day you will be able to help others.”
“But what if I need help?” she asked.
“Help comes to those who ask.”
And understanding this is a key part of being a grownup and being independent–giving back to others when you can, and knowing when you’re tapped out and need a friend.
You can follow Sarah on Twitter at @expatbarbie