In the mid/late 1990s, I was a mother of two young sons living in an apartment on the outer edge of the Givat Mordechai neighborhood in Jerusalem with my now ex-husband. Sharing one car, we liked its proximity to Herzog Street which could take us to town in one direction and to the mall at Malha in the other. It also made walking to his parents in Katamon Tet easily doable on Yom Kippur when we would pass dozens of children bicycling around the Pat intersection along the way.
Outside our window was a playground, the Ball Garden, so called because of the enormous pyramid of globes the children could climb through and slide down from…until they couldn’t, after it was burned down by teenagers in a late-night Lag B’Omer bonfire that went awry. The grass and swings and sandbox meant we would still meet other families when we went to play, but the fact that it took the city three years to replace the star feature kind of hurt the park’s popularity. Still, we enjoyed the playground and the nearby “upside down stairs” as we called the statue known as Jacob’s Ladder and the abundance of neighbor children in our building and the next one for the kids to play with and the fact that our apartment had heat in the winter.
We spoke about having a third child, but the thought of three in one bedroom forever didn’t sit well with me and we came to a deal. If the apartment owners in our building actually started moving forward with the long-discussed idea of building on and expanding, then we would proceed too. They met once to discuss, I got pregnant and they never met again.
Like many Israeli families, the kids shared a bunk bed with a trundle for the youngest when he transitioned from his crib, and all was fine. I decorated their bedroom with a space theme and we spent many hours building tents and forts and playing with cars in that room.
Two and a half years after my youngest was born in 1999, their father and I divorced, and a year later I moved back to the states with the kids. The older two were then 11 ½ and eight. Here in metro Atlanta, all three grew up happily, and yes, each with his own bedroom. Today, I derive much joy from seeing how they interact as brothers and, even more wonderfully, as friends; I credit some of it to the closeness they experienced from the start.
After graduating college in 2014, my oldest visited Israel and snapped a picture in front of our old building; its “Coming soon!” sign in front proclaimed that the building would be renovated and its apartments enlarged. A couple of years later, my middle son went on Birthright, visited and saw the same sign, though it didn’t look like anything had changed. But yesterday I happened to search online.
Nearly two decades after our “deal” was struck, the building is finally being converted. The sketch showing the finished building alongside a photograph of the existing is striking, to say the least. Marketed as luxury apartments, current owners, among other things, will now enjoy a third bedroom, a small Sukkah balcony out front, and larger patio in the back, as well as a larger storeroom. And by adding floors, that is, growing it taller, additional new owners can opt for similarly-sized and even larger apartments. They are even adding a penthouse. Turns out the Ball Garden also underwent a beautiful renovation in 2016. The change from then to now is significant.
What really jumped out at me most, though, is that had we kept the terms of our “deal,” our lives would have been significantly different. My high school senior, grown taller himself, has filled our lives with love and laughter and insight and thoughtfulness and kindness. And in the years since his brothers left for college, with just the two of us at home, we’ve developed what I think is a priceless relationship – I know my life is richer for it.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men (and of homeowners’ associations and building committees and pregnant women) go awry.
And that’s okay.