Thursday, July 21, 2005

Chapter 6

We had a rough start.

With two years of marriage behind us, and no research at all, we took off for the United States. The day after we landed at Logan, we realized that not only did neither of us have the faintest idea of what we would do for a living, but that I was pregnant. And so began what was to be the most difficult time either of us had ever known.

Of course we were delighted at the thought of a baby and we figured, fools that we were, he'd get a great job in no time. Unlike many others in our position, we had a small advantage: we had sold our flat in London and the pound was strong against the dollar, so we had enough for a downpayment on a new place here. This is what we should have done (she says now, through her middle aged eyes...) : We should have purchased a condo in Brookline or Cambridge, and got involved in the life of the city, until our situation called for the suburban solution.

This is what we actually did: I had this fantasy that all of New England outside of Boston was like....I dunno....Putney, Vermont? Bennington? Amherst? You know, artsy fartsy, intellectual, academic,

But Pembroke Massachusetts turned out to be a place of uninterrupted boredom and ignorance. Today, it is a place of Garage Mahals and yuppies, but back then you could still find people who had never been to Boston, a mere 45 minute drive up Rte 3. Even the free local papers weren't distributed there. We, as I said, being young and stupid, purchased the classic money pit, a late 19th century farmhouse on 3 acres, with a crumbling barn. A week after we moved in, a neighbor asked me where we came from, and I said, "London". I will never forget what she asked me then.

" O mye Gawwd, How'd ya get ya stuff ovah?"

And I said....."a moving company?"

To which she replied "We just use mye cousin Cawnnah's chruck"

I was off to a bad start. It wasn't helped by the morning sickness , nor by another neighbor's definition of what made the neighborhood so nice. She told me "You'll like this neighborhood, we keep to ourselves, we don't live at our neighbor's houses, and we're not the type to coffee klatch"

Now you see, where I come from, we say it this way: " You'll like this neighborhood,
it's very friendly, there are get togethers and potlucks, and the young mothers meet up for coffee once a week"

I was also informed that I'd make lots of friends once my children started school, and seeing as that was about five years and eight and a half months into the future, it wasn't looking good.

I should mention here that my husband found a job, a low paying job, at a bank which no longer exists and it was to this job that he drove our wee used 1980 Nissan Pulsar. Not the glam Nissan Pulsar it later became, but a tiny hatchback standard shift with two doors. So I was stuck out there in a house that need serious work. As I said....we were young and stupid, and we thought our $10,000 we'd put aside would be enough to fix the place up.

Okay...stop laughing....we really didn't know any better. When we asked the neighbors for the name of a good , say...plumber, electrician, housepainter, handyman, carpenter, exterminator, bricklayer, plasterer, repairman, landscaper.......... there was one standard answer: "I don't know, we never call anyone for those things, my husband does all of that".

When I was about seven months along, having spent most of them up a ladder breathing paint stripper, it began to occur to me that the baby's room wouldn't be done, and since by this point my mental state was frayed I came up with what I though was a lovely solution. Lets have a work party! We'll invite all the folks from our fellowship (more details momentarily) and provide lots of spaghetti, beer wine, whatever. We had begun to attend a Messianic group which met in a hotel in Brookline, and we announced it at the next meeting.

Well, we threw a party, and nobody showed up. I was beside myself. As I said...I was young, stupid and very pregnant and very lonely, so I did what people do in those situations, I reached out to the "pastor" (he wasn't calling himself "Rabbi" yet) and this was his Christlike response:

" Well Jan, you've only been here six months and nobody really cares if your baby's room gets painted. You can't expect people to extend themselves when you haven't been here long enough for anyone to care about you."

That is when we should have walked but we were too overwhelmed to think clearly. My husband grew up in household where there was staff, so he had no idea about general household maintenance. He was also I think in a functioning fugue type state, trying to adjust to a very alien culture where the language only sounds the same, but in reality is very different. He went from knowing everyone and having connections, to having no common experience with anyone, and very little money. He was dealing with the shock of the move in a male British way, keeping it all inside and just carrying on. I on the other hand was on the road to a nervous breakdown.

To be continued