By Hannah Berman

Spending so much time indoors and occasionally feeling somewhat isolated has caused me to remember things from years ago. It may have something to do with living in the past, when life was easier. But age is another factor, because even when we are not in lockdown mode, as we age, we tend to recall early experiences. Some of the experiences that come to mind are from very early childhood while others are somewhat more recent.

Recently, as I was perusing picture albums, I came across pictures of a trip to Israel in the early years of our marriage. Hubby and I went to spend Pesach with my dad, and we stayed for another week after the chag ended. We toured the country and enjoyed every minute of it. One of our tours included a climb to Masada, a site we had long looked forward to visiting.

Not wanting to be disingenuous, I must admit that we didn’t climb from the very bottom. As hiking was not my thing, I opted to take the cable car, which was available for anybody who wished to take advantage of it. As I was fearful of heights, I planned to keep my eyes closed on the ride up to the top—or to what I assumed would be the top. Being a supportive husband, Hubby elected to forgo the climb and got into the cable car with me. From Hubby’s perspective, the ride was fun and the scenery was spectacular. I enjoyed none of that. It’s hard to see when one’s eyes are closed.

It didn’t bother us that we didn’t climb the stairs as most of the others in our tour group were doing. I assumed that when the ride ended we would find ourselves on top of the mount. Hubby knew otherwise but, wisely, he chose not to tell me. Little did I know that the car did not go all the way to the top. When the ride ended, I stepped out of the car and was surprised to learn that we still had some climbing to do. I discovered that there were still 88 steps that had to be climbed before we would meet with our group and tour guide at the summit.

There was no choice but to start climbing. As I recall, the stone steps were narrow and uneven and the climb was difficult. Hubby got to the top about a minute before I did. When I finally arrived at that plateau, not only was I was schvitzing, but I was breathing like a racehorse and gasping for air. Adding to my discomfort was that the sun was in my eyes, momentarily blinding me. But after a few seconds, when my eyes had adjusted to the sunlight and I was able to see clearly, I looked around and saw Hubby, along with the other members of our group. All of them were seated and sipping from water bottles. Just at that moment, as I was weakly making my way towards my better half, the guide, who was standing in front of the crowd, was saying, “Nine hundred and sixty people died here.” Finding it hard to catch my breath, I weakly held up a hand and gasped, “Make that 961 because I think I’m fading fast.”

Everyone in the group, including the guide, burst out laughing in unison as Hubby groaned aloud and turned beet-red with embarrassment. Foolishly, he had been hoping that nobody would remember that he and I were together. Of course they did! The group had been together for two full days, so the others had seen us together and knew we were husband and wife. Only a few were unaware of that fact. But not for long.

To Hubby’s chagrin, I immediately made it clear to all that we were together because I plopped myself down on the ground next to him and, without an ounce of shame, grabbed his water bottle and proceeded to take a swig before resting my head on his shoulder.

Over the years, he often reminded me of that moment. Neither of us ever forgot it, and until this very day I chuckle when I think of it. That’s just the way I roll and that’s just the way it is. n

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-295-4435. Read more of Hannah Berman’s articles here.

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