Flip Side: My mother and Ahmadinejad

Something I'd normally seek from my mother in New York came, instead, from Teheran.

ruthie blum 88 (photo credit: )
ruthie blum 88
(photo credit: )
'That's why God created electricians and plumbers," my mother said, handing me a phone book and pointing to the Yellow Pages. She was responding to my anxiety about getting divorced - more specifically, about how I would handle home repairs without a husband. This, like all her pearls of wisdom, promptly calmed me down. What she failed to mention, however, was how very yellow those pages would become over the next decade from excessive use. Or how reliant I would grow on God's tool-wielding creatures with busy schedules, hourly rates and penchants for peddling spare parts they "just happen to have in the truck." The blame for this omission is not really my mother's to bear. There was no reason at the time for her to imagine, let alone assume, that I was about to embark on a life journey - with her grandchildren in tow - which would entail my having to acquire the skills of an engineer simply to take a shower. Or that the most frequently dialed number on my cell phone would be my landlord's. Nor was she the one who rented two consecutive apartments which deserved to be condemned - not capitalized on by their cagey, if not crooked, contractor-owners. Nor was it she who stayed put in these crumbling, cash-guzzling houses of cards, even when merely living in them became a chore at best. No, all responsibility for the selection of my surroundings during the past 10 years has rested solely and squarely on my own shoulders. The upside is muscular shoulders. The downside - other than having been greeted at the end of almost every work day with yet another leaky faucet, overflowing toilet, cracked boiler, malfunctioning radiator or blown fuse (and a group of disgruntled kids due to the above) - is the ridicule. "Why do you let yourself get rooked?" acquaintances would ask. "Why don't you get the hell out of there?" "Because of the location," I would answer, my real estate sense - unlike my bank account - having been gleaned from games of Monopoly. Inertia and shame having gotten the better of me, I began to refrain from recounting the horror stories. Keeping even my mouth shut was more manageable than moving. Or moving on. Which is why my initial reaction to being told a few weeks ago that my apartment was being sold out from under me was dread. Envisioning a whole new obstacle course ahead, I felt there was no way I was up to the challenge - regardless of how Yellow-Page proficient or screw-driver savvy I'd unwittingly become. Rescue from this state of mind - something I'd normally seek from my mother in New York - came, instead, from Teheran. "We're doomed!" a friend called to cry about Ahmadinejad's intention, and Iran's imminent ability, to wipe us off the map. The prospect of being nuked into oblivion had a peculiar, salutary effect: It cheered me right up. Either packing would be pointless, or Israel would remain intact. "It's a win-win situation," I said, suddenly empowered and ready for flat-hunting. And my mother wasn't even there to pooh-pooh my panic. THAT SURGE of inner strength would serve me in good stead during the days that followed - particularly the one on which I actually moved out of the dump I'd hesitated leaving - in spite of having come to hate it like poison. On the eve of relocation, the movers arrived and packed up everything that wasn't nailed down in cardboard boxes, which they then stacked in rows and piles all over the house. They would return first thing in the morning to load the van, they said - a process that was going to take several hours. They left. So did I. That night, God gave a welcome gift to the Kinneret, in the form of a rainstorm. The clogged gutters on my balcony gave me a parting one, in the form of a flood. By morning, water had seeped into practically every nook and cranny of the apartment, not sparing a carpet or a carton. "Ya Allah!" the movers groaned at the sopping mess they were going to have to contend with - and fast - before the forecasted snowfall that was predicted to stick and potentially prevent them from driving back out of Jerusalem. I gasped, too stunned even to shed tears, my feet frozen inside soaking sneakers. "Ya Allah!" they continued to bark, teeth chattering from the cold, while carrying wet boxes - about to break - down dangerously slippery steps. "It could be worse," I said, the invocation of Allah reminding me of Ahmadinejad. "How could this possibly be any worse?" their boss moaned, shaking his head mournfully through his shivers. "If it were radioactive, for example," I said. Or if I had to spend one more minute in this hovel. Which, as it happens, was exactly what my mother said when I finally spoke to her, after being safely, soundly and warmly ensconced in my new digs: a five-minute drive - and a lifetime - away. "It was," she added, "the perfect send-off." "That's why God created other neighborhoods," I said, unpacking the copy of the Yellow Pages I had made sure to salvage from drowning. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I'd gotten through the ordeal, without her help, by closing my eyes and thinking of global jihad. [email protected]