Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Panic Sisters

Sis called me in a panic. It was midnight, her time, and she wanted
to make sure that I was not dead. More specifically, my mom wanted to
make sure that I was not dead, so she enlisted my sister as a sentry.

"Mom wants to know if you're still alive," Sis said.

Still here," I told her, as I brought my swimsuit in from the balcony
where it had been drying. "Still enjoying our vacation."

Well, why don't you tell Mom? She's worried," Sis implored. "She's
calling me every two seconds, freaking me out, right as I'm falling
asleep from Tylenol PM. Please talk to her."

My mother is in
Israel for two months. She left without leaving me her phone number,
address or any contact information. But she still managed to be mad at
me for not keeping in touch while I was in Oahu and Hurricane Flossie
threatened the Big Island.

This is what Mom does: panic. As Sis
points out, "When she's home all she does is watch Fox News and listen
to bad stories about Israel, and when she's in Israel she just sits
there and hears bad things about here."

It's a charming habit, one that has imbued the Saar Sisters with profound neuroses.

sister is terrified of burglaries – not that she owns anything she'd
actually miss. She won't share food. And she used to worry that if we
walked our dog, he'd get attacked by cats.

I won't drive with
my doors unlocked, and I'll only crack the window open a bit – not
enough to allow, say, a carjacker any access. I stash cash in odd
places around the house, lest the Cossacks suddenly appear on the I-405
and I have to flee.

It doesn't matter how ridiculous we know our
actions to be, Sis and I can't help it: If Mom told us there's a risk,
then there's a risk.

This is especially true when a phone goes
unanswered. Colleagues used to look at me aghast when, in the middle of
an important meeting, I'd answer my cell.

"Sorry," I would explain. "I always pick up if my mom or sister call."

What I never told them is why I
always pick up. In other people's families, an unanswered call usually
elicits a voicemail message. Not so in Casa de Crazy Chicks.

our household, an unanswered phone is an invitation to dial up another
phone. Let that backup phone go to voicemail, and the panic sets in.

you heard from your sister today?" is one of the most common greetings
I get from Mom (It ranks right behind "How is Zev?" and just above
"Hello"). She usually follows that up with, "She's not picking up any
of her phones."

So when I failed to tote my Treo to the beach, my
Flossie-watching mom was beside herself. Never mind that the gusts were
poised to hit an island I wasn't on – Mom had heard disaster was on its
way, and her hurricane of anxiety would not be downgraded to a tropical

News of the hurricane didn't even register as a blip on Sis' radar until Mom called and recruited her into the family panic.

telling me there are 150 mph winds and that it's pouring rain," Sis
told me, when she reached me in my hotel room. She then warned me that
Mom was going to call again, so "please pick up."

When I did, my
mom was relieved, thanking the (still clear) heavens and scolding me
for not immediately answering my phone. She then grilled me about the
discrepancies between what she saw on Israeli TV and what I saw out my
hotel window. Still suspicious of my assurances that, really,
everything was fine, she asked if I'd still be able to fly home, as
scheduled, the next day.

Yes, I told her. Everything we had heard indicated that we'd be fine.

we were. I boarded the plane with a sleepy, lei-wearing toddler and tan
husband in tow, settled Zev into his seat and then got into my own. But
before the plane left the gate, I remembered something and stood up. I
opened the overhead bin, reached into my bag and rooted around for my
cell phone.

Happily, I turned it off.

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