What does the new, modern, fully cooperative man/husband/father ask for, other than a little recognition of his willingness, his efforts, his skills? I long since gave up any expectation for real expressions of gratitude or a kind word - but I was still hoping for at least a small hint that my better half trusts me after nine years of marriage and raising two young children. And what do I get in return? A twisted version of a treasure hunt, in a house that has become a giant bulletin board for 10 days.
Einat, my wife, decided that Sukkot vacation offered a rare opportunity to embark on a shopping spree in the United States with a female fellow student. By her diabolical calculations I would spend a total of just one day with the kids. That's because she had lined up day camps, day-care centers and other services that, in her telling, actually promised to provide me with a rare dose of high quality of life. Just before her departure, Einat found the time to sift through the clutter, since it's prudent to verify that all systems are functioning, to make sure the nursery school really was open, to double-check when her mother was supposed to return from abroad and when my mother was to get back from one of her periodic cruises devoted to the pleasures of Mizrahi song. You get the picture: I had been abandoned.
The fact that I was left to my own devices during this struggle was really the least of my concerns. The most difficult aspect of this story was Einat's obvious lack of faith in my abilities. If I were to sum up the scenarios that apparently flashed through her head prior to her departure, which she clearly shared with many others, the following 10 days were likely to result in one huge catastrophe: The children were sure to reach the point of malnutrition, the cats would starve to death, the house would be transformed into a pigsty, Omri would flunk his Bible exam, Alma would end up not being able to meet up with any of her friends, the DVD player would go on the fritz from overuse, the level of hygiene in the home would constitute a medical emergency, and our bedroom would turn into a pilgrimage destination for the entire girl population of Israel.
Although Einat was off on a mission to rescue the U.S. from a recession, she had sufficient presence of mind to do everything to ensure that she would still have something of a family to return to. If, 10 years ago, we used to leave one another tiny love notes in random spots, now the house has turned into an office dotted with yellow Post-it notes. Put together, they could comprise a "Complete Guide for the Man/Husband/Retarded Father."
"Food is reheated in the micro" (wow!); "The children have afterschool activities on Sunday and Tuesday" (except when those days fall during Sukkot); "The cleaner comes on Mondays" (and why is this supposed to surprise the person who pays her?); "No eating in the living room" (not clear why this needs to be said, since I'm expected to starve the kids); and "Don't cut Omri's hair!" (obviously, since there's a chance the Beatles may get back together).
I open the oven door, a note. I spot a new tube of toothpaste, a note. I go the medicine cabinet to get something for a headache, a note. I look for the cell-phone number of my vacationing wife, a note. Wait a minute, this one's in my handwriting. What's this, Einat's phone number in Boston? But isn't she in New York? Ah, that's right, this is left over from her trip 18 months ago, when she went to visit her mother, who had moved to Boston for her studies right around the same time my mother decided the time had come for a cruise headlined by Mizrahi singers, for the 100th time. Now I'm insulted.
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