Right now as I am about to go to sleep there are people waking up all over the world starting their day. The earth continues to spin, bringing me soft cotton blankets and images of sleeping baby lambs. On the other side of the world, in Israel, people are waking up with the energy of a newly performed puppet show for grinning children.
There, old women with white hair put red and blue carpets outside their apartment windows and beat the rugs rhythmically with a broom. That same sound would wake me up in the morning when we visited. Plumes of dust would escape the beaten rugs and disappear into the blue sky like magic. Once awake, I would tiptoe to the living room window to see the stray kittens and cats on the ground floor crying out, begging for food. I would slip behind my step-grandmother’s back and throw bits of chicken or bread out the window every day. I knew I wasn’t supposed to do that but that was not going to stop me. I would do the same thing today.
There is a main street in the city, Dizengoff Street, that is filled with shops of all kinds and numerous outdoor café houses all in a row. It was a tradition after an afternoon nap to pick a place and have coffee and cake, or in my case, iced chocolate and cake. There was never a question if we would go, but rather where we should go. The one that had the deep chocolate fudge cake or the one that had lemon meringue tarts? Where could we get orchestra seats, a front row table, to watch other people go by. Everyone knew each other back then and it always felt like we were being welcomed back home. My mother was the star, the queen from America; often, people would recognize my mother and come over to say hello and join us as they smoked cigarettes, one after the other.
I felt safest here, walking alone at night with yellow globes of lit lamps along the street and a steady stream of people cheerfully talking near me. I did not fear missiles or bombs or terrorism. I had little more to do than try to avoid eating some of my step-grandmother’s moldy cheese. She would keep little squares of cheese and cut the mold off and say the rest was fine; she did this with all her food. She would hold on to tiny bits and pieces of food in her refrigerator and never throw them away. I tried to stay away from the her home-made dark tuna salad that reminded me of cat food.
During the early morning we would go to a beautiful pool club that was next to the ocean. The pool water was bright, glimmering blue, sunlight crystals sparkling on top of the water like freshly polished diamonds. People would play beach tennis on the beach; the hot sand only a few seconds away. The tide was strong, pulling, pulling, like repetitive pain. The current could go from challenging to dangerous in a split second. Lifeguards blew their whistles here too.
My mother would hold my hand as a child and take me from store to store to find American Cheese and Nestle’s Quik for my milk, I was always a fussy eater. Once we found corn flakes in a tiny store no bigger than a closet and that was a major triumph. On every street corner there were at least one or two vendors selling freshly squeezed orange juice or grapefruit juice. We always stopped for a glass as we walked on the steaming pavement under the blazing sun. I can almost taste the fresh orange essence dancing on my tongue.
In three days my friend’s son is getting married in a forest in Israel. Two interwoven trees, black and white, were beautifully hand drawn on the invitation. I wish my whole family could have been there but it is a long way from home and very expensive. I imagine the happy couple, friends and family, dancing joyfully. I imagine endless platters of food: vegetarian only: hummus with pita, salad, platters of eggplant drizzled with olive oil, home-baked goods and people cheering and celebrating into the wee hours of the morning. Dogs and children playing on the forest floor making happy sounds, babies gurgling with delight.
I need to go back with my husband for a visit. I would like to return to a place where I have a lot of colorful memories from. I would also like to take my mother back to her home. She wouldn’t need to find me chocolate milk or cheese; it’s my turn, this time I would take care of her.
Congratulations Daniel and Nora!
Dedicated to my Mom.