ruthie blum 88.
(photo credit: )
Four friends convene for a meal at the home of their ringleader, Esti, in Tel Aviv. The gathering resembles a reunion - a reminder of times past. And of too much time having passed.
The women in attendance have not grown apart in affection over the years. Still, their lives have taken different geographical and other turns. This has made coordinating a meeting among them - something that in the old days was a regular ritual - as much of a rarity as it has become a major production.
In anticipation of the anything-but-arbitrary encounter, Jewish dietary laws have been carefully calculated. It is not that any of them keeps kosher. But one adheres to Atkins, one to Weight Watchers; one swears by Scarsdale, one by Hermon - an Israeli version of the other three, forged in some fashion.
Rather than the menu planning's being particularly burdensome to the hostess, however, it is a welcome focus of her energy. There is no better ice-breaker - no more perfect a conversation piece - than the subject of kilos gained and grams lost, since the road to slim-fit jeans is paved with pitfalls common to each.
Not that these ladies are ever at a loss for words. Certainly not when they are in the same room together. But memory on this score, for some reason - menopause, perhaps - is short. Which means that each subsequent session, like this one, will be preceded by a degree of unwarranted anxiety over potential ill ease. This is in spite of the undisputed fact that it takes no more than the moment at which they embrace at the door to dissolve any previous discomfort. From here, getting down to the business at hand is a piece of proverbial cake. (The real McCoy, of course, is forbidden for all concerned. Or, at least, abstained from in public.)
BUT WHAT is the "business at hand" that makes such meetings - however infrequent - a must? If posed this question, each of the women would undoubtedly give a reasonable, rational reply. They have known each other for so long. Attended each other's weddings. Had morning sickness together. Shared banquet-hall tips for their boys' bar mitzvas, along with secrets about their extra-marital affairs. Cried on each other's shoulders over miscarriages. Counselled each other during divorce proceedings. Complained collectively about meager child-support checks. Exchanged recipes and J-Date stories. Entertained fantasies of becoming in-laws through their kids. Cried on each other's shoulders over dashed high hopes and dreams that are no longer likely to come true.
Such answers, indeed, would be accurate. But they are basically beside the point.
"I HAVE got to find a way to make some serious money," Neta says, worried. The million-dollar inheritance with which she has been supporting herself for the past decade cannot provide security, she explains, since it could run out.
"I have got to get married," Dalia says with self-pity. The man with whom she has been living for the past decade cannot provide security, she explains, since he could run out.
"I have got to buy a house," Esti says, furrowing her brow. The rent-free apartment in which she has been living for the past decade - owned by her parents, who live down the street - cannot provide security, she explains, since the lease could run out.
"I have got to move back to Israel," Aviva says wistfully. The United States, in which she has been living for the past decade, cannot provide security, she explains, since her stint there could run out.
"OK," Neta says. "Who goes first?"
Dalia volunteers. "If I had your money," she says to Neta, "I'd never feel insecure again."
"That's right," Esti agrees, imagining the mortgage she could afford with a bank account like Neta's. But then she turns to Dalia. "On the other hand, if I had a relationship like yours," she says, "I'd never feel insecure again."
"That's right," Aviva joins in, certain that if she had had either Neta's money or Dalia's man, she'd never feel insecure again. But then she turns to Esti. "On the other hand, if I had a gorgeous apartment right near my mother," she says, "I'd never feel insecure again."
"OK," Neta says, kicking off her shoes and sitting cross-legged on the couch. "Let the trading begin."
"I'll give you my parents for your boyfriend," Esti says to Dalia.
"No thanks," Dalia says, laughing while she grabs a carrot stick.
"I'll give you my money for your career in America," Neta offers Aviva.
"No thanks," Aviva says, reaching for strawberry.
"In other words," Esti begins, getting up to put the kettle on, "security, or lack thereof, is a mindset."
"Money, mortgages, mothers and men don't hurt, though," Dalia asserts, playing her usual role as devil's advocate.
"They don't hurt at all," Esti acknowledges, pouring skim milk into the four cups of instant coffee she has prepared. "But they don't help, either."
"They don't?" Dalia asks, with wide-eyed sarcasm.
"Not in providing security, they don't," Esti states with total assurance.
"Oh come on," Dalia starts to argue. "Now you're exaggerating."
"Am I really?" Esti challenges, suggesting via hand-gesture that the others are invited to contribute to the discussion.
"Well, you are being a bit unequivocal," Aviva says, dropping sweetener into her cup.
"Yeah," Neta says, waiting to be persuaded by Esti's philosophy - the reason she - and the others - had been so looking forward to this evening in the first place.
"If any of the things we long for gave us security," Esti says, aware of what is expected of her, and keen to deliver it, "none of us would ever be insecure again."
"Why is that, again?" Aviva asks, hungry - as the others - to be reminded.
"Because each of us already possesses the props," Esti says, looking lovingly at this lively cast of attractive, affluent characters who are her closest comrades-in-consolation. "What's missing is the sensation. And that can only come from within."