When we first moved to this little house in an Israeli village with a bomb-ass view of rolling fields, it wasn’t really the home I’d choose: The floors are cracked and uneven. The walls are thin. There are mold stains on the ceiling.
But it wasn’t really a choice: We needed a home.
So, I looked beyond the flimsy walls and bare bulbs that dangled from the ceiling. I squinted and said, “We need pictures on the walls.”
So I went to the mall, printed out family photos (from now, and from way back then when my mother was little), and hung them in frames where they fill the blank spaces.
I squinted again and said, “This place will look way prettier with soft warm light instead of the sterile light that shines from most Israeli bulbs.”
So, I went to the store and bought new bulbs. And everything looks better with ambient light.
I squinted again and said, “These light bulbs need light fixtures.” So I found one that looked like something you’d see dangling in a Tibetan whore house, spangled and lilac and absolutely perfect.
I stood up on my son’s green stool to hang the fixture, but it wasn’t as easy as I thought.
“Mama, you won’t succeed,” he said to me while I reached and twisted and muttered goddammit under my breath too many times as I tried to twist the bulb into the shade.
I got down from the stool, the fabric dangling from the bulb.
“Your mother always succeeds. Even if I have to ask for help, that’s still succeeding.”
I got back on the stool and twisted the fabric in place.
It’s become my mantra during those times when I can’t pull a zipper up, or the sewer needs to be drained, or there’s a dead mouse on the porch, or there’s no ride to preschool and it’s freaking cold outside, or I’m about to plummet head first into a negative bank balance: “Your mother always succeeds. Even if I have to ask for help, that’s still succeeding.”
It’s hailing today. The temperature is plummeting hard and fast into unchartered depths for this region. These walls shake in the wind, but we have light, and heat, and freaking awesome songs like “No Rain” by Blind Melon.
But we also have a waterfall spilling down the living room wall from a hole in the roof, splattering past an electrical socket.
And it’s Shabbat, which means our landlord is laying low, as is everyone else with an ounce of common sense; in this weather, you don’t climb roofs. You light your Shabbat candles and stay where it’s warm and safe and dry.
And it’s my job to create that space on this Shabbat for my kids–a space that’s warm and safe and dry.
“But mama, what if we get washed away?” my son asked as I climbed my son’s green stool with a plastic bag and three red pushpins and Macgyvered the hell out of that ceiling.
“Don’t worry, mama always succeeds,” my daughter answered.
And I did. Because there is no other choice.