Flipside: Of human bondage

By RUTHIE BLUM LEIBOWITZ
April 5, 2007 12:21
4 minute read.
ruthie blum 88

ruthie blum 88. (photo credit: )

 
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"Freedom is an internal state," Edna says quietly - evenly - in the manner of a wife imagining she is not engaging in a battle of wills with her husband. "You can save that New Age nonsense for your Kabbala classes," Yoram mutters, grabbing a Pessah supplement from the top of the pile of newspapers Edna has just folded neatly for the fifth time this morning. Though she is not usually so compulsive about having everything in its place, she finds herself desperate to keep the apartment as clean as it was a few days ago, when she'd indulged in having it professionally scrubbed from top to bottom. The expense, she'd reasoned, would be well worth it. It would free her up to relax and enjoy smoking a joint while taking out her Pessah dishes, rather than needing one to keep her from blowing her stack. As a result, she'd explained to Yoram while making her case for the extravagance, she wouldn't be so irritated by her family's lax attitude to her enslavement to the household during the pre-holiday period. "It is not 'New Age nonsense,'" Edna responds, lifting Yoram's feet from their perch on the coffee table to wipe off smudge marks. She hopes he does not notice the vein in her temple protruding, due to the clamping of her jaw and grinding of her teeth. "Ask any prisoner of Zion about how he survived the gulag, and he'll say the same thing." Yoram looks up from his paper and shakes his head in disbelief. "How in the world did you make the leap from your guilt to the gulag?" he asks, looking around for a coaster on which to place his cup of coffee. He knows there's no way he's going to make himself heard - let alone win this argument - if he leaves a ring of moisture on any freshly polished surface. "I don't know what you mean,'" Edna retorts, bending down to sweep a cluster of matza crumbs out of a corner of the dining nook into a dustpan with a mini brush. How, she wonders, had they suddenly materialized? "Let me spell it out for you, then," Yoram says, starting to fling his paper in the direction of the stack, and then thinking better of it. He smooths it out carefully and aligns it with the others. Why, he wonders, did he fork out NIS 1,500 to have the house cleaned? So that he can have the pleasure of being a prisoner to it? "Please do," Edna says curtly, accentuating her words with two shpritzes of Windex on the TV screen. "I can't wait to hear your interpretation of events." "You went ballistic at the kids for leaving puddles on the bathroom floor when they showered to get ready for the Seder," he begins, pausing to take a sip of coffee and returning his cup to the coaster. "But…" Edna interrupts to protest. "I'm not finished," Yoram warns, sitting up straight, as though bracing himself to enter the fray. "They cried in the car all the way to your parents' house. Then, when we got there, you proceeded to have a fit when you discovered that the chicken soup you made had spoiled because of the power outage during the night - even though there was enough food there to feed Darfur." "But…" "I'm not finished," Yoram repeats. Now on a roll, he doesn't want to lose the momentum. "So you felt bad. And you felt especially bad, since you had sworn that if you didn't have to slave away by yourself to make the house kosher for Pessah that you would be in a good mood. Now, to make up for reneging on your promise - and for spoiling everybody's holiday - you want to go out and buy gifts to compensate." EDNA SMILES. Yoram does the same. Her most redeeming quality, as far as he is concerned, is her ability to admit when she's wrong. A talent he himself rarely exhibits. "It's that negative way of looking at things that drew me to Kabbala classes in the first place," Edna says, reverting to her original sedate stance - and resisting the impulse to remove Yoram's now-empty coffee cup from the table and take it to the kitchen. "A lot it's helped you come to terms with disasters like water around the bathtub and a few sour matza balls," he says, getting up and carrying his cup to the sink. He understands that every fiber in his wife's being is focused on not clearing it away. And with things going in his favor at this moment, the last thing he needs - or wants - is to add injury to insult. "It has helped me tremendously," Edna insists, hoisting herself onto the high horse her husband has just dismounted. "I woke up this morning and a light bulb went off in my head." "Would you care to share your enlightenment?" Yoram asks sarcastically. "By buying the kids something new for the holiday," Edna says, didactically, "I am conveying the message that it is a special week - and special weeks come with a price: endless preparations. This way, maybe they'll learn the rewards of hard work." "Oh, bribery," Yoram quips. "That's a lesson that will stand them in good stead if they want to get elected to the Knesset." "You're being purposely obtuse," Edna says, pouting while primping a sofa pillow. "My children have to learn that I am the mother they got, for better or worse. And I've decided to stop feeling guilty about who I am - and to stop feeling sorry for the kids that I'm their mother. Those are the chains of true bondage. And releasing myself from them constitutes internal freedom." Yoram heaves a sigh of defeat. "OK, OK," he says with resignation. "I've already paid for the maid service. How much is your release from internal bondage going to cost me?" ruthie@jpost.com

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