Upon landing in the new state called widowhood, there are numerous things that enter in the category of new: confounding bureaucracy, challenging parenting issues, household repairs and emergency household repairs on erev Shabbos.
Making and being focused on having Shabbos ready in a timely and calm manner is my forte. I hate stress so I make sure to leave as little preparations as possible for Friday. Showering the kids is not one of those things I can do in advance. When my younger set decided they wanted to shower in the less-used small shower I thought why not?
Gleefully they got their needed shampoo and soap while organizing the buckets and floor cleaners, normally stored in the unused shower stall. In their excitement, the kids decided they would like to try the little faucet meant for filling buckets near the floor of the shower stall, not realizing the consequence of their innocent actions. There was my little boy all covered in soap suds when disaster struck.
Focusing on Friday activities, I was in my kitchen moving from task to task, finishing the last preparations before the holy day. Not being aware of the events in the shower stall, I was attacked by shouts and the odd sound of something roaring. “Mommy, come quick… NOW… HELP!”
As the call got louder and screachier, I collected myself to see what was happening. What was happening was a handle that had come apart from its faucet and thus water was not gushing but rather spouting out in strong streams out of the old unused faucet. The stream was so strong that I imagined that all the available water in the household was heading out of that one little spigot.
“Quickly turn off the water,” I commanded but the older kids just looked dumbfounded. I ran to do the job myself, not waiting for them to figure out what I meant. I came back to assess the situation and before my eyes was one shocked, undressed skinny boy covered in soap with no water to rinse off.
I ran back to the main water valve, turned it on with the ensuing high-volume water fountain, took my son to the safety of the regularly-used bathtub and quickly rinsed his thin slippery body off. The main valve was closed once again while I considered my options. We can’t be without water indeterminately, especially not erev Shabbos. We also can’t have a water volcano exploding in the bathroom. This was clearly beyond my league. Home repairs were less my thing. My husband had been quite handy and even enjoyed tinkering around with such things, but with four hours till Shabbos, it was no time for pity; only action.
I ordered my 16-year-old son, much more comfortable with a gemara than a hammer, to bring me a screwdriver. He did, right away, but a Philips and I needed a flathead. Even I knew the difference. My calm demeanor was ebbing fast. The cracked handle was finally removed and then what? I was completely out of my depth.
That is what neighbors are for, especially good ones and I am lucky enough to have a good neighbor. I ran up to my neighbor one floor above and jumbled out the situation. He made his way steadily down the stairs and came to assess the situation. It didn’t take him long to figure out that the thingamajig (otherwise known as a chupchik in Israel) was broken. He showed me the piece he meant. Maybe he had a spare; maybe I had one too. We both went to check.
Alas, his wife and I are of the same womanly mindset. We don’t like too many thingamajigs/chupchicks lying around taking up space and gathering dust. Some months after my husband’s passing, I decided it was time to clean out his storage area. To me it was nothing more than seven big bags of junk; unused brackets, old pieces of piping, used sand paper, etc. It all made its way to the large dumpster outside my building. Unbeknownst to me, a similar event had recent taken place upstairs. As a result, neither I nor my neighbor could locate the needed piece. My neighbor had his next good idea.
“Let’s call my handyman,” the neighbor intoned, “he will have the needed part I am sure.” Since the handyman lived nearby it made sense. Lacking the actual Hebrew word for the wanted piece and maybe even the English one, the handyman wasn’t getting what we needed. He wasn’t sure he had one in any case. No one wanted him to come for nothing. After all it was now three and a half hours till Shabbos. We tried sending him a picture of the broken piece for him to understand but somehow he wasn’t receiving the picture. Now what?
In the midst of the showerless kids, no water for cooking or washing, a broken faucet, and no replacement piece to be found, two sweet young girls who lived in the building knocked on my front door. “We are collecting for the local tzedaka,” they chimed as they pushed the charity box in front of me.
I have a standing monthly payment towards this particular organization, so I don’t always give on a regular weekly basis. I found a few coins on the shelf beside my front door and closed my eyes. Hashem let this be a merit for me.
I closed the door and turned around to figure out what to do next as my neighbor was still trying to explain what part was needed to the handyman on the phone. I suddenly spied my husband’s toolbox sitting on the dining room table. How it got there, I have no clue. I opened it up on a whim…and there in the first drawer was the needed piece. “Is this what you are looking for?” I asked my neighbor. Mouth agape, he said into the phone, “It looks like we found what we need.”
My neighbor made his way back to my shower room, installed the precious thingamajig/chupchik (I never did find out its true name…nor did my neighbor for that matter) and within a few minutes our normal erev Shabbos preparations resumed as usual.
It was only a few hours later when I lit the Shabbos candles did I make the connection to giving tzedaka, the very short prayer and the locating of the all-important thingamajig. Late that evening, I had a good story for the Shabbos table.