Life Lessons: Moving day

The writer is an American oleh who has just survived his third move within Karmiel in four years.

Woman carrying heavy boxes. (illustrative). (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Woman carrying heavy boxes. (illustrative).
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Moving days are always stressful and exhausting, and the last thing you want is surprises.
My latest move was, well, surprising.
A kilometer or so away in Karmiel from our oleh flat, a Brutalist masterpiece disintegrating along predictable lines, to a house that my wife had selected on her own, and which I first inspected on Moving Day.
Now, I’m a man of experience; this wasn’t my first surprising move. That came back in 1971. I was a freshly minted second lieutenant in the Marines, and as such rated 1,500 pounds of household goods to my first duty station.
I was also newly married and our movables consisted largely of schoolbooks, records and wedding gifts, stored at my in-laws’ house.
The moving van came. The movers inspected our little stash and guffawed.
My mother-in-law thought a moment. For months she’d been nudging her husband about a new dining room set and redecorating the living room. Her husband kept finding reasons to withhold consent, none of which my mother-in-law considered either valid or even very creative. So she guided the movers into the dining room.
“Take it.”
“Yes, ma’am. Anything else?” “Come with me to the living room.”
That night, her husband was informed that he had three choices. He could get back in his car and give chase. He could entertain his upcoming Passover guests on the floor. Or he could approve the elegant items she’d already selected.
Thirty-four years later, my marriage long dissolved, I was living in Seattle. My sweetie abided (abode?) in Washington, DC. I was house-sitting for her while she ran around Iraq, committing journalism and researching her first book. One night I got a call.
“Hi, I’m with the Marines in Ramadi. I like it here, better than DC. I don’t want to come home.”
“Sounds reasonable. Why don’t you quit your job, sell your house and move to Seattle?” “OK.”
Which should have warned me that my sweetie, now wife, was capable of some surprising domiciliary decisions. It was she, in fact, who did the final We Go on Aliya. It was she who chose Beersheba for us (I have reason to believe she’d confused it with Eilat). It was she who picked Karmiel after I developed a severe case of Negev-tivity.
And it was she who had a friend, a very dear lady, who lived in a house that she described as “funky,” and who confessed she’d always wanted to live someplace “funky.”
“Me, too,” muttered I, serene in my belief that agreement was safe; nothing would ever come of it.
Three weeks later: “Philip, Sheila’s moving back to the States to care for an adult son with some major medical problems.
She’s offered to let us take over the lease.”
“And you said?” “Yes, of course. Didn’t you say you always wanted to live somewhere funky?” No doubt, I did.
Moving Day. And funky began on the stairs. The steps were two different sizes going up, four going down and had “Watch Your Step” painted onto the three below the final step – an evil little wedge that lay in perpetual ambush for the perpetually unwary. Me, especially.
I went into the kitchen, a space so small that the refrigerator had to be in the dining area, which was up on a platform I also learned to trip over consistently.
A moment’s study of the kitchen revealed that the sink/drawers/counter unit was actually a bathroom ensemble.
The living room, downstairs bedroom and study were quite normal, except that each was painted a different awful color: Ludicrous Lavender, Belchin’ Berry and a shade I’ve always thought of as Vomitatious Green.
Windows held both clear and frosted glass, the rule apparently being: Frosted wherever you might wish to look out; clear wherever the neighbors could peek in. There were neither curtains nor blinds, anywhere.
But the really funky attraction was the spiral staircase going up to the loft – a staircase designed for midgets, elves and smallsized extraterrestrials with abnormally tiny feet. Actually, it proved a very efficient use of space. You could hit your head, stub your toes, lose your balance and wreck your shoulders all at once. I did.
The loft itself is now my wife’s domain. She calls it her “Top Floor Bunker.”
Part office, part hideaway, there’s also a king-sized bed up there. According to legend, the previous tenant had rope-hoisted it up the outer walls and in through the windows, piece by piece. How the mattress made it remains unexplained.
We’ve also got two porches, a bathroom the size of a phone booth, and a missing cat. She took one look at the place, then escaped over the rooftops and alas, has not been seen since.
Come home, Samantha. It’s not that bad. Honest.
The writer is an American oleh who has just survived his third move within Karmiel in four years. It’s starting to become a habit.