Here’s a warning to anyone impatient to hurry up and reach my central theme here: I am taking my time with this one. I am DELIBERATELY meandering around with this post, because A) August is endless and it’s making me sluggish; and B) the speedbumps here in Sde Ilan are unmarked, which has taught me (and my poor car) the hard way that sometimes, you just MUST slow down.
Everyone asks how we’re adjusting, and my stock answer is: as best as can be expected, given the circumstances. Circumstances are these: a seriously hot summer, nine excited people of varying levels of maturity who have all upended their lives on multiple fronts, a very large and exceptionally morose bullmastiff — all of us all feeling our way through our tighter new quarters.
How are we managing, given a rather massive downsize? Are we making friends? Let’s just say the word “gingerly” has never really applied to our style of doing things — we’re bumblers, lumberers, staggerers. We’re bursters into places, but well-meaning and kind in our bursting, like a family of friendly neighborhood drunks. We’re forward and smiley, so we’re easily tolerated. (This regards the moshav. Within the house, as each of us learns the rhythms of our new lives, we are definitely less tolerant with each other. Plus — the heat! We bravely venture outdoors to regain some civility for five minutes, only to scuttle back inside, preferring the jostling and stepping on each other in tight air-conditioned quarters to the peaceful calmness of large open scorching spaces.)
The first week was a blur of setting up house with lots of well-meaning kids who understandably wanted a lazy summer with friends. I am indebted to my kids for bearing with chaos with as much grace as the Weissman genes allow for (again, see above re: the lumbering and bursting forth. I’d say imagine bulls in a china shop, but that idiom is overused — though it is an entirely accurate description of our general family condition.) The reorganizing of all of these lives into temporary digs has unfolded haltingly, in bursts, all progress meekly taking place in the shadow of the ever-present “what is there to eat” refrain. “What is there to eat” and the same fifteen Barney songs have been this summer’s anthem: Barney is the ever-present background loop, tolerated only because it is the sole measure which keeps the toddler entranced enough to stay out of trouble. As for our diets: sorry, but I refuse to divulge the exact type and quantity of junk that we’ve been feeding our kids and ourselves to keep the “what is there to eat” cry spaced at acceptable intervals. I will not be shamed.
It’s been three weeks — anything else going on? Well, there was a summer camp for a week there for our six year old, but that seems to be a distant memory. The oldest was here for a hot second before he escaped to his new digs. The sixteen year old stops in occasionally, but this has more to do with the fact that she’s an Israeli teen than it does to the move. Teens here are always camping on the kinneret in the summer — am I right, fellow parents? Large groups of them then come crashing here seeking creature comforts, then beat a quick retreat when they see what currently passes for “creature comforts.” Let’s just say that our young guests come with certain well-deserved expectations. Years of hosting hundreds of our kids’ friends have given us a reputation for a seriously laid back brand of “mi casa su casa” hospitality, with ample space for sustained “hanging out,” a tolerable smell, and lots of unhealthy food choices available to feed the ravenous young hoards. Now, though, the keter cupboards are regularly stripped bare (search above for the words “What. Is. There. To. Eat” as to why this is so). What’s more, the moshav is a odoriferous place (but it’s a charming reek!), and there are not enough beds for even the core nine of us. Plus, heavens! There is no dishwasher. So our young visitors, polite and lovely each and every one, are not currently chomping at the bit to spend sustained time in our rental, because it means doing dishes in a stinky place with no snacks as a reward.
An aside, and a very truthful one at that: We are thrilled when our dear family and friends come by to spend time. In the three weeks since our move, we have “entertained” six families and assorted visitors, all of them very good-naturedly accepting our apologies for a severely compromised hosting style. Thankfully, people who come visit are committed to the long-haul along with us, as I’ve made each one promise that they’ll continue to come out and share in our lives, as we share in theirs, and that eventually we’ll be able to host with a full cupboard and enlarged space to take it all in. We treasure each visit — keep it up, everyone! We’re in this together.
What has August amounted to? Organizing the home, endless laundry, cooking and dishes, you all know the drill. Thinking back over the last three weeks, I realize that a good chunk of our time seems to have been taken up with fostering a close and intimate relationship with the owner of the Keter outlet in Afula (our purchases have basically covered his mortgage), as well as St. Coby of the Freezerburned Tzarchania, Master of Endless Patience. In him we confide all sorrows as he beatifically points us in the correct direction of the pasta (logically placed next to the laundry detergent and pool floaties).
Both of these new friends, and so many of the other people we’ve met on the moshav and throughout the north, seem to be cut from a very different cloth than what we’re used to. For one thing, they talk more slowly and more measuredly. There’s not very much into rushing around. Even government offices and municipal services aren’t pushy and demanding. An example: I’ve been conditioned over a decade and a half in the merkaz to submit the paperwork required to enroll kids in schools/ganim by February latest, or risk “missing deadlines,” but here it’s more like “well, you can’t really do much until you actually officially change your address, so just swing by sometime in August and we’ll take care of it. Better yet, just send a kid.”
As I noted at the outset, the speedbumps placed haphazardly (maybe craftily — I’m not sure about this yet) around the moshav aren’t marked, as if to say “what’s your rush? Slow it down, fella.” Come to think of it, there’s not much by way of fastidiousness on the moshav. It’s not as much carelessness or laziness, as it is a sense of why sweat the small stuff? (Though I’d argue that curb appeal isn’t small stuff, and it would be nice to have well-kept properties; that’s the yekke in me, and my Aunt Judy a”h would be proud. But lots of others aren’t bothered by the trailer park aesthetic, and I think it’s due to the less-frenetic, more easy-going personality that the super-slow pace of life here fosters). There are lots of golf carts rolling slowly along, as well as kids of all ages on bikes, and interesting souped-up tractors (#lifegoal: pimping up some farm vehicle and giving rides to ecstatic little people. This is for the future.) People take it easy here.
Admission: this is not easy for me! I’m used to driving at breakneck speed, at timing things just so, at running and rushing through a busy life. I talk fast, I think fast, I used to move fast (turning forty changed that last bit). I’m of the “ok, what’s next?” style of life, finding it tough to be content sitting for long stretches not doing much. My closest friends always make fun of how much I loathe the summer: the late risings, the long hours of nothing planned, the general loafing about, the lack of schedules and expectations. These friends are blessed with “summer personalities” — they’re people who know how to enjoy themselves without needing to be doing something per-se. One dear friend, who works way too hard, just took a well-deserved vacation and told me she was going to sit by the pool. Are you bringing your phone? No way. A book?! Nope, nada. I will just sit. I kept on bugging her about this, because I couldn’t wrap my mind around Taking. It. Slow. (I’ve never really sat by the pool. Or on the beach. But you can bet that if I did, I’d be irritating myself and others around me with my general impatience to do something. I’m a real hoot to be around!)
I can’t be certain that the slower pace here isn’t entirely due to the fact that we’re still in August. The entire country slows down in the summer for Chofesh haGadol. But my gut tells me that these unmarked speedbumps, the languid “ah-lan mah nish” coming at me from the father holding his newborn as he steers his golf cart down the road slower than my stroll, the tiny dog who graciously escorted me around on my Shabbat walk since we were the only two out and about at that ungodly afternoon hour, and the magnificent, understandable diction of the older folk as they all welcome me to come over at any time to hear their stories — all of these tell my gut to untie itself a bit. That my best work might come if I stop barreling through life, and that my best chance of feelin groovy and making the moment last might be in a place like this. So though I’m glad summer vacation is finally over, and thrilled that school is starting on Sunday, I’m not so sure I’ll be rushing back to the furious pace that I had always thought was my duty in this world. The speedbumps here, I think, will do good things for me, and for us all.