We arrived in Jerusalem exactly three months ago. Incredibly, I’m nostalgic for those hazy, crazy first days. Since this photo was taken, Hannah has lost another tooth (and her amazing purple hat). Margaret’s hair is much longer now, flopping in her eyes because I haven’t yet found a hairdresser. It was 90 degrees in this photo and it’s more like 50 now; we needed big quilts last night. This photo was taken right before our first, exhausting, trip to the Old City, after which none of us was smiling. I feel like Old City trips are the yardstick against which we measure our progress. Recent accomplishments include Hannah walking all the way (two miles) to the New Gate, taking our first night-time trip to the Old City, and both kids walking through the souk without touching a single thing. Overall, I would say they’re thriving. Not without issues and complications of course, but I couldn’t really have asked for more from the girls.
And me? I’m not sure. It varies by the day. Lately my life has seemed kind of mundane. Between various pick-up and drop off times, I walk between home and school six times a day. I make breakfast, lunch and dinner for everyone in the family. (Prompting one of the great, embarrassing family comments: “Daddy has great ideas and Mommy makes a great lunch.” Oooops). I sweep Jerusalem dust from our floors many times a day and hang laundry on our roof deck.
All this dailiness can make me feel guilty, like I really should be accumulating more stories and headlines to share with you, and to make this year Extra Special. A sabbatical year carries its own kind of pressure, especially if spent in such an overpowering, intense place as this. (And let me be the first to recognize how self-centered that sounds. That pressure is nothing compared to the pressure of actually working at St. Andrew’s or UD, or being unemployed, or other real pressures faced by so many in the States and here. We know how lucky we are!). But Jerusalem has a way of making you (me?) feel you should be engaged in prayer and reflection, studying sacred texts, resisting the occupation or brokering peace….at all hours of the day and night. Sometimes I feel badly that I can’t keep up with the pace that implies (in my few hours free a day when both kids are in school). I think to myself, “but I could be doing this regular stuff back home in Delaware!” Sometimes my commitment to the quotidian feels like a retreat.
And other times it feels like an accomplishment. I am not sure what to make of this and what its professional and feminist implications may be, but all my school pick-ups and laundry hanging is, by and large, making me feel happy and at peace. And that after all is the real purpose of sabbatical.