“I think I’ve found an apartment…”

“I think I’ve found an apartment.” That bit of information sort of stopped me in my tracks. I don’t know why, because the news was not totally out of the blue. Natania had more or less expressed her interest in moving out once she got her degree from Hebrew U. – something she had been ever-so-slowly working towards these many years. Now it was going to happen. No more “We forgot to mention that you need this additional elective to graduate,” or some other unexpected bureaucratic road block. Just one more final exam and, hard to believe, she would be done. Time for her to start looking.

We asked Natania the obvious question that parents who have been there, done that would automatically ask: Can you afford it: will you be able to manage on what you’re earning working at the lab out in Ein Kerem (doing unspeakable things to mice)? We’ve learned the hard way that, even if you can reasonable determine how much money is coming in, you never, ever get a handle on the money rapidly flowing out. I can’t say that Natania sat down and actually crunched the numbers, but she must have at least given them a hearty handshake. She felt confident that she could make a go of it.

What it meant was putting a very definite ceiling on the amount of rent she could afford to pay. One place to look for low-rent apartments is Yad Shteyim, the website for all things pre-owned and second hand. Of course, if an apartment in Jerusalem is going for not-much-money, there is usually a reason, and not a good one at that – as Natania found out, to her dismay. (I’ll let her tell her tale in her own words, if she’s a mind to.)

Plan B: Look for an apartment that is already rented, and the occupants need another person to share the cost. That’s fairly common in the Jerusalem singles scene. That way, there’s at least a decent chance the apartment in question is in livable condition. Ordinarily, she wouldn’t have had too much trouble finding a suitable arrangement, but……most apartment seekers don’t bring a cat along with them, and a very large one at that.

There was a general consensus several weeks ago that Johnny and Pooms needed a divorce. The simple solution, Natania’s suggestion, was that when she moved out, she would take Johnny with her. So all she had to do was find a flat mate or mates who didn’t have a cat but would be willing to host someone else’s pet. Not so easy, because most pet lovers have their own, and most people who don’t have a pet…..it’s because they don’t want one – especially yours!

That’s why I was surprised when Natania reported back within a week or so that she thought she had found an apartment. What she meant, upon further questioning, was that she had indeed found a suitable apartment with two flat mates who were OK with a cat, but it wouldn’t be definite until she signed a lease. Fair enough!

The upshot was that on a Tues. evening, two cars (thanks, Steve; thanks, Varda) filled with most of Natania’s stuff (including one over-sized cat and his stuff) set out from our apartment to her new one in Mechor Chaim – a neighborhood I had never heard of (it’s a small, quiet area just west of Pierre Koening in Talpiot). Her apartment is reasonable, once you get past two negatives that would put off a lot of people: it’s on the top floor with no elevator, and there is no a/c – both of which you notice of you’re trying to bring up a lot of stuff. Other than that, the apartment seems roomy and in good condition, given that it’s a rental. (Plus, when I visited her two days later, we realized that, using a short cut, her building is no more than ten minutes from the large Hadar mall with its enormous Osher Od supermarket.)

A few days before Natania’s departure, one of our friends, not meaning to step on anybody’s toes, inquired very delicately if her leaving was the result of a “disagreement.” No. We were, in fact, losing an invaluable member of our household team. Her worth far exceeded her culinary skills. Not only would I be having to spend a lot more time in the kitchen, but we were losing our main translator, our in-house IT department, our house sitter, our open-the-jar-when-nobody-else-can person, our point out everything I’m doing wrong that Barbara hadn’t noticed, and a number of other activities that she dealt with so well. So, in short, we would be sorely missing her.

In that case, why was she leaving? In our apartment on Hakeren, she was getting free room and board in an apartment with very attentive landlords (us), who made certain that all repairs were taken care of johnny-on-the-spot. Her items on the shopping list were always purchased; her laundry got done; her medicines and other packages got picked up. What a great deal! So why was she giving this up?

Sometimes, you have to move on. Otherwise you get stuck, and part of life passes you by. It’s not uncommon in the process of moving on that you have to give up a little material comfort to make it happen. So the new apartment isn’t as nice. So you have to do your own laundry, your own shopping, your own cleaning up, your own worrying that you’ll have enough money at the end of the month. But you’re on your own. Isn’t that worth something? Natania had tried before to move away, but it hadn’t worked. We are fervently hoping this time will be for real.

Not only was Natania gone, so was a very large cat. I felt sorry for Johnny; he had been moved around so many times. Once again, he would be in a new apartment, this one much smaller than ours, with mostly new people. Not to worry; he has been adjusting fairly well, with no one yelling at him, Leave Pooms alone! Well, Pooms was alone – almost. Our street cat, Calico, was still coming in for meals and snacks and then leaving. However…….

It was exactly one day after Natania moved out. I was escorting Calico out of the building after an afternoon feeding, when I espied this little black kitten sitting on the stone railing outside our building. Now there is, as I have mentioned. a virtually unlimited supply of cats of all ages all over our neighborhood, our city, our country. I feel sorry for most of them, even though there is usually an ample supple of food left out for them. But this little guy looked in bad shape. There should have been a mother lurking around somewhere, but if there had been, he would have looked a lot better than he did. He was clearly undernourished and unkempt. He came over to me and started licking my hand (no doubt smelling the smoked salmon on my fingers).

The last thing on my mind was acquiring another cat, especially a kitten. If someone else had found him and posted a notice on Facebook, I just found a kitten. Anybody want it? , I would certainly have ignored it. But now, I was the “somebody.” This little thing was not going to make it on its own. I could walk away and leave it to its fate, or…………. (Maybe if he hadn’t been licking my fingers.)

I picked him up and brought him upstairs, first showing him to Barbara and then putting him in front of Calico’s food bowl. He proceeded to chow down and eat what seemed like his body weight in dry cat food in one sitting. (I guess I was right that he hadn’t eaten anything for a while.) He  walked around the first floor of our apartment, nosing into everything. Then he came into the kitchen, sat down on the mat in front of one of our sinks and looked up at me with these two little eyes. Just like Natania, he too had found a home. Boy, was he lucky!

A little kitten named Lucky

A quick visit to the vet. The little guy was pronounced basically healthy by Donny the vet, although seriously underweight. When I walked into our living room later that evening, there was Barbara lying down on the couch with a small black kitten curled up on her chest. He had found a home. Boy was he lucky!

Of course, I was concerned about how Pooms would react to another furry creature in the apartment. Certainly, this little guy was not going to intimidate her the way Johnny did. He was not twenty-three pounds; maybe twenty-three ounces – after he ate. He will, of course, get a lot bigger as the months go by. If they can tolerate each other now, there is a chance they will get along when Lucky (that’s his name, for obvious reasons) grows up.

I wish I could end this on a note of triumph: Pooms loves Lucky! Sadly, that is not the case. Pooms seems to have a permanent condition: nervous Mervisism. I think she would be apprehensive if we brought in a goldfish, let alone a tiny kitten. We do have a rather large apartment; plenty of room for both of them to be apart (at least, after Wednesday; we’re currently housing Varda, her daughter, Smadar, and four of Smadar’s children – plus all their stuff. Don’t ask!)

So, the addition and subtraction keep going on: Minus one daughter and one large cat. Plus one adorable kitten. We keep adding and subtracting; life goes on.

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