Margaret had a shoe crisis yesterday morning as we struggled to get out the door to school. She was due to perform in a holiday show and we had a suitable dress. But the sparkly party shoes she wore all summer are now too small and the black party shoes don’t fit yet and the Crocs were too dirty and the sneakers were too casual…and that’s her shoe wardrobe, right there. Our little Imelda sobbed, wishing for the perfect shoes.
We came to Jerusalem with eight pieces of checked luggage and a major case of moral superiority for traveling light. Those bags included non-fun but necessary things like lunch boxes, a booster seat, a years’ supply of medications and contact lenses.
In general we’ve done fine. We are hardly roughing it and by Israeli — not to mention Palestinian! — standards we are more than comfortable. Our apartment came supplied with most essentials and some things we never would have anticipated needing (e.g. Halloween costumes for both girls). Most of the time, we can improvise when we don’t have what we need. A kid can snuggle down to sleep with the amazing warm throw blanket (a gift from my sister, the best gift I’ve ever received) and then an adult can snag it back it two hours later. (Margaret was scandalized to discover that we do this). “You’ll be just like your European friends!” I exhorted Hannah one morning as she wore her pants for the second or third day straight. Without a coffee maker and too cheap to buy Israeli appliances, I’ve started to drink — gasp! — instant coffee, and lived to tell the tale.
So most of the time we feel righteous about our pared-down existence. It seems to be proof of our detachment from the material world. We don’t care that we look boring and blah…that helps us fit in with the locals! We marvel at how much stuff filled all those rooms of our big farmhouse in Delaware. We wonder for how long we’ll be able to preserve these relatively minimalist ways. Back home in the land of free (to us) electricity, will I still save laundry for a day I can line-dry? Or will I once again become addicted to warm-from-the-drier sheets? Will I still use Margaret’s leftover milk for my coffee?
But if I’m honest, there are also times when I feel like Margaret, longing for the perfect shoes. All my clothes are feeling boring, threadbare, messed up in one way or another. Some days I don’t feel like improvising or hacking my way around a situation. I want something heavy, impractical and uni-tasking, like a cookbook instead of Epicurious.com.
I certainly don’t need everything I have back home, but sometimes I miss it.