עץ המברשות האדומות

עץ המברשות האדומות

ראשון לציון, 1951

גיילי היתה בת שלוש וחצי כאשר הוריה, מנחם וקלַריס, החליטו בלב כבד לעזוב את הקבוץ שאותו הם ייסדו עוד לפני קום המדינה. קמו, ועזבו לראשון לציון, הָעיר שכבר הכירו: שם, במרכז העיר, ככה בין שדרות רוטשילד לז’בוטינסקי, החלוצים נטו את אוהליהם, בעודם ממתינים לאישור “לעלות על הקרקע”. אלא שהפעם כבר לא היו אוהלים וצריך היה למצוא דיור. קרובי משפחה לא היו להם, אבל חברים כן, ואלה עזרו להם למצוא דירונֶת: חלק מבית נאה שחולק לְארבע יחידות דיור, בדרך עפר צדדית בשם רחוב לבונטין. לא משנה שדֶרך הֶעפר לא היתה סלולה. העיקר שהחלבן עבר בעגלתו עם כַַדי מתכת ומכר חלב, ומוכר הקרח עבר שם ומכר שליש בלוק קרח לכל דורש. החדר הגדול ביותר בבית, יחד עם מטבחונצ’יק ופינת אוכל, הושכר למנחם וקלַריס. בחדר הסמוך אליהם, גר זוג מבוגר. בחדר קטן אחד גר בגפו קשיש חביב, ד”ר פדוקלר, ובחדר הקטן השני גר לבדו מאיר — סטודנט צעיר. בית-השימוש והמקלחת היו בצריף קטן צמוד לבנין.

בחצר היו עצי-פרי ריחניים. כל בוקר התעוררה גיילי ושאלה את אִמה: איפה טובה’לה? איפה ניצה? איפה תלמה? וכך היתה עוברת על שמותיהם של כל חבריה לבית הילדים.

אבל בית הילדים נשאר בקבוץ, ומנחם וקלריס הלכו לעבודה. וגיילי מתולתלת השיער והחייכנית מצאה את עצמה בסוג אחר של בית-ילדים: “מעון” של ארגון-אמהות-עובדות, מבנה מסוגנן ואצילי-למראה, עם חצר סביבו, כמה ערוגות, ארגז-חול, והעיקר – הפרט היפה והאצילי ביותר – עץ המברשות האדומות. תוכלו

רחוב מוהליבר 40

לראותו גם היום, ברחוב מוהליבר

עד מהרה מצאה גיילי במעון נפש תאומה: ילד נבון, קצת נבוך ואבוד כמוה, יוני שמו. אולי העובדה שאמותיהן דיברו אותה שפה תרמה להתקרבותם. באחד הימים, כאשר האימהות באו לאסוף את ילדיהן, שמעה קלריס אמא אחת מדברת באנגלית אל בנה, ומיד הצטרפה לשיחה והציגה את עצמה. היתה זו הקלה בשבילה לדבר בשפת-האם שלה, במקום לשבור את השיניים בעברית ישראלית. קלריס ואורנֶלַה שמחו לראות את ילדיהם מתידדים.

הם שיחקו בארגז-חול ביחד; התנדנדו בנדנדה ביחד; אספו את המברשות האדומות שנשרו מהעץ, וישבו זה לצד זו ליד שולחן העץ הארוך בשעת ארוחת הצהריים. גיילי לא אהבה את הבצל הקצוץ שבסלט, אבל הגננות מרים ויהודית לא ויתרו בקלות: לגמור את כל האוכל שבצלחת! אין “לא אוהב!” גיילי הציעה את הבצל ליוני, אבל הוא סרב – הוא בקושי הצליח להתמודד עם הבצל שבצלחתו. בצר לה, שלפה גיילי את הבצל, חתיכה אחר חתיכה, מן הסלט, ודחפה את הירק לתוך הסדק הצר שבין הגרב לבין נעל העור החומה הגבוהה, עם השרוכים.

אחרי ארוחת הצהריים הגיעה שעת המנוחה, השעה הכי פחות חביבה על גיילי ויוני. איזה שעמום! אסור לדבר, אין סיפורים, אין שירים, כלום! צריך לשכב על הבטן, לטמון את הראש במזרן ולישון. המזרנים הונחו על מחצלות על רצפת החדר הראשי שבמעון. תריסי העץ הוגפו. הילדים כוסו בסדין (ושמיכת “קוץ” בחורף), ורובם אכן נרדמו. רק גיילי ויוני, שמזרניהם היו סמוכים, שכבו על צידם, פונים זה אל זה, והמשיכו לפטפט בלחש. “ששש!…” אמרה יהודית, שעברה בין המזרנים לוודא שכולם מכוסים וישנים; “יונתן ואביגיל! להתהפך על הבטן ולישון, בבקשה”

גיילי ויוני החליפו מבטים שובביים, התהפכו, חיכו כמה דקות עד שיהודית יצאה מהחדר והם יכלו לשמוע את קשקוש הכלים במטבחון: המטפלות והעוזרות ישבו לשתות קפה ולאכול.

“בואי נברח!” הציע יוני.

עיניה של גיילי נצצו בהתרגשות. “כן, יאללה! ניקח את העגלות ונלך הביתה!”

“בדיוק!” הסכים יוני. “אבל בשקט!”

בזהירות, גלשו השניים מהמזרן, ונעלו את הנעליים הגבוהות שלהם. גיילי הסתבכה קצת עם קשירת השרוכים הארוכים, אבל יוני עזר לה והצליח. בשקט-בשקט, הם יצאו מהחדר והתגנבו החוצה. הגננות, עסוקות ומדברות ביניהן, לא ראו ולא שמעו דבר.

הילדים יצאו מהדלת הקדמית של הבנין אל החצר. בצד, היו מסודרות כל העגלות. כל ילד הכיר היטב את העגלה שלו. העגלות לא היו קשורות לשום דבר. יוסי וגיילי חילצו את העגלות שלהם מבין השאר. הם לא ניסו בכלל את השער הראשי לבנין; במקום זאת, הם הקיפו את הבנין ויצאו מצידו השני, שפונה לרחוב פיינברג, ובתחושת נצחון והרפתקה, דוחפים את עגלותיהם לפניהם, הלכו במעלה רחוב מוהליבר, לכיוון שדרות רוטשילד. הם הכירו את הדרך היטב. בקרן הרחובות יש בנין שחזיתו מעוגלת, ובה קיוסק. הוריהם של הילדים אמנם נאלצו לספור כל גרוש, אבל פעם בשבוע היו קונים שם פלאפל להורים, וגלידה לילדים. ממשיכים עוד קצת לכיוון בית הכנסת הגדול, וחוצים את הכביש בזהירות רבה. לא שהיתה שם תנועה רבה, אבל בכל זאת – חינוך זה חינוך. הם נעצרו ליד תיבת הדואר האדומה, עם סמל הכתר הבריטי, וניסו כמו תמיד להציץ פנימה, אבל אי אפשר היה לראות כלום. משם, פונים ימינה, וצועדים במעלה רחוב “אהדהעם”. איש לא עצר אותם, איש לא שאל אותם “איפה אמא ואבא?”

“לאן נלך?” שואלת גיילי. “לבית שלי או לבית שלך?”

“זה לא משנה, ממילא אין לנו מפתח ולא נוכל להכנס לבית,” השיב יוני בטון המעשי שלו. “אבל אני חושב שאמא שלי חוזרת מעבודה לפני אמא שלך, אז בואי נלך אלי.”

השניים המשיכו במסעם עד שהגיעו לצריף הקטן שבו גר יוני עם הוריו, והחנו את העגלות לצד הצריף. היה יום קיץ חם, אך למזלם היה ברז מים בחצר, והם שטפו את הידיים והפנים, ושתו מים ישר מהברז.

הם התיישבו על האדמה כשגבם נשען על הצריף, וכשהתאוששו קצת מהטיול, חיפשו דבר-מה להעסיק את עצמם, ומצאו חבל לא-עבה אך ארוך למדי. גיילי השתעשעה קצת בחבל, ואז פנתה ליוני:

“בוא נקשור את עצמנו ביחד!”

“ביחד? אחד לשני?” ברר יוני, ליתר בטחון.

“כן!” התלהבה גיילי, “ואז לא יוכלו להפריד בינינו, ונהיה ביחד כל הזמן!”

השניים ניגשו למשימה בכובד ראש: עמדו זה לצד זה, ירך אל ירך, כרכו את החבל כמה פעמים בגובה המתניים, עשו כמה קשרים בזה אחר זה ובדקו שהם אכן קשורים קשר איתן. השכן בבנין ממול ראה אותם מבעד לחלונו, גיחך לעצמו, משך בכתפיו וחזר לעיסוקיו.

גיילי ויוני ביצעו כמה נסיונות-היפרדות, כדיי לוודא אם משימתם הצליחה. ואכן, היא הצליחה מעל למשוער: כל צעד של אחד מהם, גרר גם את השני. הם נעו כאיש אחד לקצה הזה של החצר, צחקו, מעדו ביחד, קמו ביחד, חזרו לדלת הבית, התעייפו, זזו לעבר הפינה הכי מוצלת, ונחתו ביחד על הארץ, מתנשמים ומתנשפים. עם גבם אל קיר-העץ, כתפיהם וראשיהם נוגעים זה בזה, השניים נרדמו.

ואם אורנלה לא היתה חוזרת הביתה ומשחררת – במאמצים רבים – את הקשר ההדוק, אולי גיילי ויוני היו נשארים ביחד עד עצם היום הזה.

 *    *    *

Three months later… The Scarlet Bottlebrush Tree

[The Hebrew version to be posted soon!]

Rishon Lezion, 1951

Abby was three and a half when her parents, Nathan and Clarice, decided with a heavy heart to leave the kibbutz which they had helped found shortly before the establishment of the State of Israel. They upped and left, moving to Rishon Lezion, the only town they were familiar with: in the center of that town, across the road from what would later be its first department store, the pioneers had pitched their tents, until the land allocated to their kibbutz was ready for construction. But this time there were no longer tents around, and they had to find suitable accommodation. They had no relatives in town, but they did have a few friends, who helped them find a small place to rent. It was in a decent house that had been divided into four units, on a dirt road named Levontin Street. No matter that it was a dirt road. The main thing was that the milkman came by every morning with his horse-drawn cart and sold milk by the pint from his large metal jugs, and the ice man came round and sold ice by the block to one and all.

The largest room in the house, along with a tiny kitchen and square dining nook, was rented out to Nathan and Clarice. In the adjacent unit, there lived an elderly couple. In one of the smaller units lived a solitary, friendly old man, Doctor Fedokler, and in the small unit across the hall there lived a young student, Meir.  The communal toilet and shower were in the wooden outhouse attached to the building. The yard had a few fragrant fruit trees, mostly lemons and oranges which  the residents enjoyed picking.

Every morning Abby would wake up and ask her mother: Where is Talma? Where is Nitza? Where is Tamar?  And would go on asking, naming each one of the friends she left behind in the Children’s House.

But the Children’s House remained in the kibbutz, and Nathan and Clarice went to work.

Curly-haired Abby found herself in a different kind of children’s house: a daycare run by the Working Women’s Association. It was a stylish, elegant-looking building, with a yard, a few flower-beds, a sandbox, some toys, and the pièce de resistance, the loveliest and most elegant looking tree: the scarlet bottlebrush. You can still see it, right where it used to be, on 40 Mohliver Street.

The house on 40 Mohliver Street

Pretty soon Abby found her soul-mate and kindred spirit: a bright boy, somewhat lost and bewildered like her, named Josh. The fact that their mothers happened to speak the same language may have contributed to their friendship. One day, when their mothers came to pick them up, Clarice heard a woman speaking English to her son, and quickly joined the conversation by introducing herself. It was a huge relief for her to speak in her mother-tongue rather than breaking her teeth trying to speak Israeli Hebrew. Clarice and Ornella were delighted to see their kids getting along so nicely.

They played in the sandbox together; sat in the swing together; collected the red brushes that had fallen off the tree, and sat next to each other at the long wooden table during lunch. Abby didn’t like the chopped onion in the salad, but the nursery teachers Miriam and Judith did not give in easily: “Finish everything on your plate! It’s good for you!”  Abby offered her onion bits to Nathan, but he refused – he had enough difficulty coping with his own salad. Under duress, Abby picked the bits of onion out of her salad one by one, and shoved them into the narrow space between her sock and her lace-up brown leather shoe.

After lunch it was nap time, Abby and Josh’s least favorite part of the day. What a bore! There was no talking, no stories, no singing, no nothing!  You were expected to lie flat on your tummy, your face stuck in your pillow, and sleep. The mattresses were placed on straw mats on the floor of the main room. The wooden blinds were closed. The children were covered with cotton sheets (plus an itchy woolen blanket in winter), and most of them actually fell asleep. Only Abby and Josh, whose mattresses were next to each other, lay on their side, facing each other, and continued their conversation in whispers.

“Shhh!” said Judith, who was tiptoeing between the mattresses, making sure everyone was covered and asleep. “Abigail and Joshua! Roll over and go to sleep! Right now!”

Abby and Josh exchanged mischievous glances, rolled over, and waited a few moments until Judith left the room and they could hear the clinking of dishes in the kitchenette: the staff all sat down to have their lunch and tea.

“Let’s run away!” Josh suggested.

Abby’s eyes glittered with excitement. “Yes, let’s! We’ll take our strollers and go home!”

“Exactly!” Josh confirmed. “But quietly!”

Cautiously, the two slid off their mattresses and put on their shoes. Abby had a bit of trouble with her shoelaces, but Josh helped her and got it right. Quietly and furtively, they left the room and snuck out. The teachers, busy chatting and drinking their tea, didn’t see or hear a thing.

The children left the building by the front door, and down a few steps to the front yard. The strollers were aligned in rows by the side of the building, not tied or secured to anything. Each child recognized his own stroller. Abby and Josh carefully extricated their strollers from among the others. They didn’t even try the main gate. Instead, they went around the back of the house and exited the yard on the other side, the one facing Feinberg Street. Feeling triumphant and adventurous, they walked up Mohliver Street, pushing their strollers ahead of them, towards Rothschild Boulevard in the center of town. They knew the way well. At the intersection of the two streets there is a building with a curiously rounded corner and a kiosk window. Though both kids’ parents had to count their pennies, once a week they made an exception and treated themselves to a falafel and the kids to an ice cream cone. From there, you continued a bit up Rothschild towards the Big Synagogue, then crossed the road very carefully. True — there wasn’t much traffic in those days, but still – they were properly brought-up. They stopped by the round, red mailbox with the emblem of the British Crown, and as always tried to peek in, but as always you couldn’t see a thing. From there, you make a right and walk up Ahadha’am Street. No one stopped them, no one asked them “Where’s your mom and dad?”

“Where shall we go?” Abby asked, “To my place or yours?”

“It doesn’t matter, we don’t have a key to either and won’t be able to get in,” replied Josh in his matter-of-fact way. “But I think my mom comes home from work before your mom, so let’s go to my place.”

The two continued on their journey until they reached the small structure Josh called home – more a shack than a house, and parked the strollers next to it. It was a hot summer’s day, but luckily there was a faucet in the yard, so they rinsed their hands and face, and drank some water straight from the tap.

They sat down on the ground, their backs to the wood boards, and once they recovered a bit from their trek they looked around for something to play with, and found a reasonably long rope. Abby tried skipping with it, then had a bright idea. “Let’s tie ourselves together!” She said to Josh.

“Together? To each other?” Josh asked, wanting to make sure.

“Yes!” Abby enthused, “So no-one will be able to separate us, and we’ll always be together!”

The two put their minds to the task with all seriousness. They stood side-to-side, hip to hip, wound the rope around themselves at waist level several times, then tied one knot and another and another, pulling them tight and making sure they’re well-secured. The neighbor in the building opposite watched through his window, chuckled to himself, shrugged, and went back about his business.

Abby and Josh carried out several attempts to pull apart, to make sure that their mission was a success, and indeed it was successful beyond reproach: Each step made by one of them, dragged the other along. They moved around as one, from one end of the yard to the other; they laughed, tripped together, got up together, trod over to the door of the shack, got tired, moved over to the most shaded area, tottered and collapsed together on the ground, huffing and puffing. With their backs to the wooden wall, their shoulders and heads touching, they fell asleep.

And if Ornella hadn’t returned home and managed, with great effort, to undo the tightly knotted rope, who knows – maybe Abby and Josh would have remained together to this very day.

*                      *                      *

Are we post-Covid?

How much longer?

Is it almost over?

Are we there yet?

For most of the world, unfortunately, the answer is “Ha! I wish!”
Brings to mind kids in the back seat of a car, on a trip from A to B, C, and/or D, losing their patience and nagging their parents.

But I live in Israel, and in this tiny, multifaceted and intriguing country, the general atmosphere is “Phew! It’s over!” And it’s quite catching. Even if you know that there are still cases of infection; that hospitals still have a wing with people struggling to breathe and attached to Oxygen; even if recovered patients are still suffering from serious side effects. All that doesn’t change the fact that, overall, the situation seems to be constantly improving. Restaurants and cafes are full, both inside and out; gyms and studios (yoga, Pilates, etc.,), swimming pools are open. Kids are back at school, parents are back at work — though not necessarily at the office. I can’t say life is back to normal. But compared to the situation a year ago — wow, it’s, like, Real Life!

Yes, we had to show our “green card” at the entrance to MenTenTen ramen bar in Tel Aviv a few weeks ago, and at Fish in west Rishon LeZion last Friday. And we had to present our green-cards in order to be allowed to practice yoga at the studio, as opposed to from home, via Zoom. And we avoided public transport when going to see the grandkids in Tel Aviv, say. And we’re no longer obliged to wear those irritating masks on our faces when out and about. But, on the whole, life has definitely been on the right track, gradually getting back to normal. Great, right???

So why am I feeling so confused and out of focus?

What am I waiting for?

I remembered seeing an article in Haaretz, my go-to newspaper, about feeling lost. It’s by American-Israeli psychologist Amalia Rosenblum. (See link to the Hebrew version.) I started reading it and lost interest. Either because I’m old enough to be her mother and suspected that she had nothing new to tell me (at least on this subject); or else because, generally speaking, I’ve become more impatient recently.

Anyway, it took me a while to realize that what I should do is get back to one of my favorite activities, one that helps me focus and gives me peace of mind and satisfaction: Writing! (Um… guess what? That’s one of Rosenblum’s recommendations: Go back to base; to one of your old, fave habits.)

I decided to get back to my mother’s memoirs. I’d stopped at a pretty crucial point — shortly before I was born! But getting back to Clara’s stories required serious choices between existing chapters, and/or digging through tons of old letters of hers. So I procrastinated — something I’m adept at. But I promise I’ll get back to it. (Hey, family in the U.S. & Canada — feel free to nag me! Fern – thank you for the scanned letters!)

In the meanwhile, my cleaning-lady happened across an ad in a local paper, advertising a competition of short stories and poems. Knowing that I write, even though I’d hardly written a word that wasn’t mundane text messages for over a year, she sent me a link to the relevant ad. It was a challenge I couldn’t resist. I will update you of the outcome, even if I fail miserably. I don’t think I’ll be miserable; I’ll know I’m on the right track. Ta-ta for now!

What I’ve been doing during COVID-19

Bottom line? – Nothing outstanding. Unlike many of my friends and acquaintances, who did wonders. Some cooked and baked and experimented with mouth-watering recipes. Some sorted through piles of old letters, pictures, knickknacks, clothes, books, toiletries, meds, toys, junk — you name it. Some read books, binged on fave TV series, sewed, rearranged the furniture in their house…  My hairdresser around the corner spent an entire month cleaning and repainting his salon, replacing the light fixtures, and more.

Yoga: From Suryaluna to Karma Center

Can’t believe it: I’ve been practicing yoga now for four years! Not counting all those sloppy, amateurish sun salutations that I picked up from a book, and did them without any guidance for over thirty years. The book is still on our bookshelf in the living room:

Alternative Health Guide

… and here’s the page with the sun salutations: (Please don’t follow the example below; my teachers would have a fit!)

sun salutation

I’d started translating it from English to Hebrew in… let’s see… late 1984! But that’s a different story. This story is about moving from Suryaluna to Karma Center, both in central Rishon Lezion.

Suryaluna was never the perfect studio. In fact, many potential students were taken aback by the crumbling building which looked more like a decrepit old stable than a modern gym. Because that’s exactly what it was: a structure built in 1886, containing administrative offices and lodgings for Baron Edmond de Rothschild‘s clerks, and a decent stable for their horses.

Since this building was of historical importance, it had to be preserved both inside and out, which meant the interior was, and still is, er, not ideal as a fitness, dance, or yoga studio. Nonetheless, with shelves full of Iyengar-yoga equipment and with professional, motivated teachers it served its purpose.  Follow this link to see what Suryaluna was like. It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand Hagar’s narration in Hebrew; just watch the clip. (I’m not in this vid – it was taken before we joined.)

For several years the studio flourished. One of the nice things about it was its student diversity: there were young students and old, men and women, skinny and hefty, stiff as a two-by-four and flexible like a circus acrobat. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. My husband and I went twice a week, then increased to three times a week, and were tickled pink by our progress. Even Hagar was surprised that old fogies like us had mastered the headstand. Okay, maybe not exactly mastered it… we still haven’t learnt how to do it without support… But we’re working on it.

What we, the students, didn’t know was that the studio was not financially viable, and was forced to close down at the end of October 2019. We were given advance notice, of course, and we all started looking around for an alternative. As it turned out, Iyengar yoga is not very popular in our town. Most young people prefer a more energetic, aerobic version of yoga, such as Ashtanga. The two or three studios we did find were not suitable. Last, but not least, we approached Yaniv and Shelly, the owners of Karma Center. (Feel free to ignore the Hebrew text… just look at the pics!) 

Shelly and Yaniv invited us — the students I referred to as “the ex-Suryaluna DPs” — to a “getting to know you” session, and said they’d be happy to find a time slot for an Iyengar class, provided we’d bring along one or two of our teachers. And of course, we were welcome to try any of the other classes offered at the Karma Center. Our friend Emilia, for example, can’t stop raving about Yaniv’s Tai Chi – Chi Kong class. (Of course I’ll try it one day!)

So far, it has worked out brilliantly. Most weeks, Michael and I have been attending two Iyengar classes, plus one Hatha yoga class given by Yaniv, who is an amazing teacher. So we’re learning new moves, a different approach, new ways of getting in and out of familiar asanas, and a few unfamiliar ones. In terms of convenience, walking to the studio now takes us 17 minutes, compared to the 15 minute-walk to our previous yoga haven.

Now, if I could only master this technique of a wall-free headstand…

headstand sans wall

 

Merry Christmas?

For the life of me I can’t get into the Christmas Spirit this year.
Not that every other year I’ve been donning a Santa hat and filling stockings with gifts. I’ve always treated Christmas as Someone Else’s holiday, and did my best to enjoy the sentimental Christmas episodes of all the usual TV series, be it NCIS or The Big Bang Theory.

But somehow, I feel as if Christmas has been more visible in Israel in recent years, and I’m more exposed to it on my own territory, as it were, as opposed to in the general background, such as on TV, FB, or the odd shop in the center of town offering small synthetic Christmas trees and glittery decorations.

Not that I mind; so I feel a stranger to the festivities, so what?

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, as of Nov 2017, Israel’s population includes some 170,000 Christians, making up 2% of the population. The actual number is far higher, because the above figure relates to citizens and therefore does not take into account all the temporary residents, migrants, long-term visitors and so on.

Another considerable segment of the population which celebrates Christmas here is people of Russian extract, be they new or veteran immigrants. Most of them don’t connect to the religious aspect of the holiday but to its seasonal nature; a good reason for a hearty, happy celebration.

Yet another segment is the Anglo population. People from English-speaking countries, for whom Christmas was just part of Life before coming to Israel.

Obviously(?), being born to American-Canadian parents, I was introduced to Christmas from a young age, even though there was no television in Israel at the time. Jingle Bells, White Christmas, and others were part of my childhood home’s soundtrack (as were all Danny Kaye songs…) But for most of my adult life Xmas (as I learned from Uncle Harry to refer to it) was someone else’s holiday (albeit lots of “someone else”s) and didn’t concern me at all.

At the risk of sounding old, bored, and blase, I’ll admit that I’m rather tired of traditional, ritual-laden holidays, be they Passover with its Seder night or Xmas with its trees, bells and whistles.  So the fact that Xmas is suddenly more present in my life than ever before is a bit strange. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a bother, because it doesn’t really demand anything of me, except sending Xmas cards or at least sending virtual greetings of Facebook.

When my cousin and her significant other here in town, a mere 20 minute walk away (as you can see on my Fitbit log),

A 20 minutes’ walk

invited us to their Christmas-themed wine-and-cheese evening, I may have rolled my eyes a bit, but I happily collaborated, and a delightful evening was had by all, as you can see in the pic below, in case you haven’t already seen it on FB.

Xmas eve

I’ve been awfully remiss at sending greeting cards. My mom was sooo good at it! Even during the fledgling state’s (i.e., Israel) when there were no card shops, and even the measly selection available was out of her financial reach. She used to make them out of typing paper and pictures of roses cut out of American magazines sent to us by Uncle Harry. (Yes, those were ads for whiskey…)

OK, so this year I’m celebrating Xmas this way:

My Baby Is Moving Out

In 1995, our eldest packed her bags for the traditional post-military-service trip abroad. She was headed for South America, plus a meaningful visit with family in the U.S., traveling with her best girlfriend.
We made a reservation at one of our favorite restaurants, the Taj Mahal in Old Jaffa (which sadly no longer exists.) It was a lovely summer day. The Taj Mahal roof was beautifully set up for a self-service lunch.
Below is a picture of our three kids looking out at the Mediterranean.

The kids on the balcony of Taj Mahal in Jaffa

The kids on the balcony of the since-defunct Taj Mahal Indian restaurant in Old Jaffa

Twenty-one years later, this picture is still on my desk. I used to look at it and tell myself that, as much as I adore my kids, I won’t mind when they spread their wings and fly away.

Ha!

Our three kids all moved out at a relatively young age — before they hit twenty. And all did quite a bit of moving from one apartment to another, be it in the same city, to different cities, or in a different country. Leaving behind them, in our wardrobes, cupboards and on bookshelves, piles of stuff: books, notebooks, vinyl records, video tapes, letters, photos, stuffed toys, knickknacks, souvenirs, clothes, and pieces of furniture they laid claim to.

Every once in a while, when they visit, they might go through some of that stuff and retrieve a needed item such as a sleeping bag, hat, pair of socks or a book; they might condemn a piece of paper to the shredder; or give their okay to pass a furry pink panther or a box of Lego on to the grandkids.

Pink Panther & Cottage

Pink Panther & Cottage

Once in a while, my husband complains that Ms Eldest should go through “all those papers” that are taking up valuable space in Wardrobe A. And once in a while I wonder how come the socks I bought Mr Youngest are still in his drawer, never worn. Or else we both look nostalgically at the Monty Python videos and ask ourselves what on earth are we to do with them. Yes, everything’s available on YouTube these days… But still… to actually throw them out? Along with, say, the Charlie Chaplin videos that my mom used to cherish? Isn’t that, like, sacrilege?…

So long as the kids are living in rented apartments, never knowing how long they’ll be there before high rents or objectionable landlords cause them to move, we’re quite resigned to keeping their belongings. Our own parent did the same for us. But, lo and behold! Mr Youngest has recently become the proud owner of a small housing unit in south Tel Aviv! And he’s come to pick up his stuff! Tons of it! Books, games, papers, and a biggish piece of furniture which I don’t even know how to describe! It has doors and drawers, bookshelves, and a drop-down desktop. My parents had it in their bedroom for many years, but it’s not an “antique”. They’d bought it at Shomrat HaZore’a, an Israeli furniture firm known for its high quality. I’m not bothering with a link because I’m totally unimpressed with their website, and disappointed that it’s only in Hebrew. Anyway, at some point I’d removed the scores of paperbacks that had accumulated on the top of this unit, stored them neatly elsewhere, and sent my son a pic of the top part of this cabinet, which we usually referred to briefly as “the HaZore’a”. The pic below doesn’t show it in all its glory or size, but you get a rough idea:

HaZorea cabinet prior to dismantling

HaZorea cabinet prior to dismantling

Well. The day came, and out came all the stuff. Three men worked and hammered and pushed and pulled for two hours, finally taking the cabinet completely apart, then carrying its components down to the car, to be hauled to the new habitat. This is what the room looked like during the process:

Nina taking a pic of the mess

Nina taking a pic of the mess

I am still in shock. The room looks so strange. There are a few holes in the wall that need filling in. And a gap in my heart [boo-hoo] that will need to be filled. Possibly with the help of some paint, new bookshelves, and the three grandkids, god bless them. Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to the housewarming party!

I Like to Move It, Move It

Sorry guys, this post is not about the movie Madagascar… it’s about exercising. But since I’ve been exposed to the Madagascar movies more times than I can count, thanks to my grandson, this phrase just popped into my head and I couldn’t resist it. Besides — I do like to move: exercise, dance, walk, skip, and demonstrate “Christopher Robin goes hoppity hoppity” (which is universal) and “Whenever I walk in a London street“, which works also in Tel Aviv, but only on the old sidewalks with the large tiles. Hate the new tiny-tiled sidewalks.

The other day I wrote on FB: “Went to yoga class this evening, for the first time after a 30-year gap. Wasn’t as thrilling as going to ballet class for the first time after a 55 year gap 🙂 But it felt good. Teacher great. Studio stinks. I mean, literally reeks.”

Then, a few days later, I posted: “Went to yoga class this morning. This time Vinyasa for beginners. Didn’t feel like beginners’ stuff to me 🙂 Though the [excellent, amiable, and Canadian] teacher assured me that usually the pace is faster. Plan to go again next Sunday. If I’m up to it, after 1-2 more Iyengars + 1 Anusara planned for this week…”

Got a few “Like”s from friends, but also one private message from a concerned colleague: “… I saw your post and, if I may, […] I wouldn’t do more than 1 class a week in the first month or two. Unless the classes are *extremely basic*. People aren’t aware, even most yoga teachers, that it’s so easy to tear a ligament or a tendon if you haven’t exercised for 30 years, as you say is your case. Best to start out *extremely slowly*.”

I thanked her, of course, but immediately set the record straight. I guess my first yoga-related FB post was not clear. Yes, my lifestyle is basically sedentary. I’ve been a translator and editor for many years, for heavens’ sake. You know what that entails: sitting, sitting, and more sitting. But I’ve been also exercising for most of my life.

My mom, Clara, is responsible for instilling in me the love of ballet. I grew up leafing through her Dance Scrapbook (early version of Pinterest, Picasa, Flickr etc) and The Victor Book of Ballets and Ballet Music; Ballet book_0487and watching Moira Shearer in The Red Shoes and The Tales of Hoffman; Zizi Jeanmaire in Hans Christian Andersen; Leslie Caron in The Glass Slipper, Lili, and An American in Paris. At the movies, guys! There was no TV in Israel in the 1950s…

So no wonder my first form of “exercise” was ballet at the Holon Conservatory of Music and Dance.

Nina on stage

Then jazz [dance] classes. First around 1971 or ’72, when I was living in Ramat Aviv, before my eldest was even conceived. After we moved to Tel Aviv, when I was a single [i.e. divorced] mother, I searched for a dance studio and found the wonderful Ruthie Lerman (whom I also interviewed for LaIsha magazine in August 1975). Then my friend Lynne Richardson took over. At some point I switched to Jane Fonda’s workout – still have 2 books and 2 audio cassettes… Lynne and I and a few other “girls” did them together at whatever space was available without rent… After that I took classes at Alma Frankfurt’s studio, which was then conveniently located on Ben Gurion Blvd in Tel Aviv. The same studio offered also pre- and post-natal yoga classes, which I eagerly joined when I got pregnant with my third child. (Didn’t like the let’s-see-in-how-many-ways-a-delivery-can-go-wrong group I attended during my 2nd pregnancy.)

prenatal yoga_0490

Nina doing prenatal yoga 1985

prenatal yoga_0489

Can’t recall the teacher’s name, but I still do the sun salutations I learnt there some 30 years ago.

Fast-forward a few years. We moved from Tel Aviv to Rishon LeZion. We tried one Country Club, but that was mostly for the sake of taking the little ones to the pool in summer. Then we tried a closer Country Club, where we went swimming for a summer or two. Didn’t care for their gym. Eventually I joined Studio C, when it was still a hole in the ground, literally… in a small converted basement of a residential apartment building. Quit for some reason. Returned a year or two later, only to quit when I realized it was doing me, or at least my hips and thighs, more harm than good.

For a while I had physiotherapy for my hip-and-thigh pain, and when that didn’t help, I started looking for an exercise class that would be less demanding than Studio C with its endless repetitions of movements aimed at beating one’s figure into as shapely a shape as possible. By sheer luck, I found a class of “health-promoting exercise” (hit’amlut bri’utit, in Hebrew), subsidized by Maccabi Health Fund, and led by Hagit, a conscientious, unassuming physiotherapist. There I found a group of middle-aged to pension-aged women of all sizes and ethnicities, who loved to stomp to the sound of Andy Williams’ Can’t Take my Eyes off You, Cher’s Do You Believe in Life after Love, and a jazzed-up version of the super-sentimental French hit, Aline. Oh yes — they also loved to tell racy jokes, exchange recipes, laugh a lot, and kvetch as they did their abdominals. It was perfect.

Exercise class “girls” with Lidor on Hanukka

I stayed with this group for seven years, give or take. When Hagit left to pursue her love of Egyptian archaeology at the Hebrew University, she was followed by a string of other teachers, the most recent one being Lidor, a sprightly young blonde whose specialty is actually energetic stuff like Zumba and TRX, but who adapts her routine for us ladies.

I said “stayed” because I’ve given notice, sort of… taking a break to try out yoga, in a more serious and methodical way than just slap-dash sun-salutations.

As I said, the studio rather reeks… probably from so many bare feet and possibly not enough ventilation. But I like the teachers, and I feel the stretches are doing me good. So I’m giving it a chance. The studio’s website is only in Hebrew — that is, until I persuade its owner to let me do an English version 🙂

Image

Cataract Surgery, Right Eye

Looking at the three very-colorful scarvebag & scarvess and the multicolored, zany Desigual handbag I bought in Barcelona recently — a far cry from my usual sedate blue, black and grey bags — I ask myself: Would I have bought them had the trip not taken place before my cataract surgery?

 

I first experienced this “Let there be light!” feeling when the brownish haze is removed from the world, a few years ago, when I had cataract surgery on my left eye. It was such a revelation, that I wrote a blog post about it. Quite a detailed one.  Now the time had come for my right eye. The cataract was far gone enough. I went to the same surgeon, the inimitable Dr. S., and a date was set. I had a vague recollection that the procedure wasn’t as “nothing” as some people told me. So I reread that post of mine, but stopped mid-way. Because it scared me. I didn’t want to re-live the discomfort and didn’t want to anticipate it. I wanted to arrive at the hospital with an open mind, optimistic smile, and no preconceived notions.

To make a long story short, this surgery was a cinch, from my point of view (no pun intended…) . In spite of myself, I kept waiting for the room to go black, or for pain in the back of the eye socket. But none of that happened. I listened curiously to the whirring sound of the machinery and to its metallic-voiced instructions (to my surgeon, not to me); I concentrated on the pink-and-blue shapes that looked like cat’s eyes; I felt the frequent rinsing and mopping. I heard my doctor asking his assistant for a scalpel or some such tool; I realized when the new lens was being maneuvered into place; and before long it was all over.

As we left the hospital, I had my picture taken and promptly posted it on Facebook, where everyone wished me a speedy recovery, and my dear cousin Gee Bee wisely observed, “If you are already sending FB messages, you must be OK…” — and that about sums it up!

Nina post cataract op

I went for a check-up the following day, having already removed the plastic protective shield, which I keep just for the hell of it, because I’m a bit of a hoarder… The doc said everything is fine, and gave me a prescription for three types of eye drops plus instructions on applying them during the weeks following the surgery. The main thing that bothers me is not being allowed to get my right eye wet, which basically means I can’t properly wash my face. In Israeli summer, not being able to rinse one’s face is a bummer. Really awful. Luckily, we’re having a very mild winter, so without the humidity and stickiness associated with Israel’s Coastal Plain, I can somehow survive with delicate eye-wipes and a refreshing skin toner. And of course, I have to be super-careful when shampooing my hair.

But all that is trivial compared to the brightness of the world and the improved vision. Now all that remains is to order new glasses; and to look forward to the next procedure — called YAG — designed to remove the secondary cataract from my left eye.

 

Ghosts of People Past

I’m sure it’s happened to you.

You’re browsing one of your usual social media sites, such as Facebook or Linked In, and the site helpfully suggests names of people whom it figures you might know and may want to add to your circle of friends.

You glance at the list, and a name or picture , or both, jump up at you and startle you: the image of a person whom you knew, and possible cared about, who is definitely dead. Deceased. Passed on. Expired and gone to meet his or her maker. This is no joke, so I’ll cut short the Dead Parrot reference; you get the idea.

Recently, two persons whose online profile keeps popping up this way are a beloved cousin who died in November 2013, and a hated surgeon [name withheld] who irresponsibly caused me much pain and grief before dying on the operating table. I shudder to even mention them in the same breath.

Obviously, I can’t expect any social media site or app to know that a certain person is no longer among the living. For all they know, the person has simply taken a break from Facebook and the like — if they know that much. As for the goner’s family, I suspect that, initially at least, they have far more pressing matters on their mind than notifying the website/company that their dearest has departed for good and the account should be deleted.

But here’s the question: Say you — no no, god forbid, not you personally; some other, generic “you” — email a notification of the death, and a request to delete his/her account. How is the company to know that it’s not a hoax? Are you supposed to attach a scanned death certificate? Are there any rules or guidelines? If you know of any, do tell.

When my mother, Clara Caren Rimon, was alive, I’d opened a Gmail account for her, so that she could correspond with her family abroad — something she did consistently at least from the time she left the States (1946), if not years earlier, when she left home to go to hachshara (training farm for pioneers). When she died, in 2009, that Gmail account was the last thing on my mind. Eventually, I thought I’d better check the Inbox to see if any mail had arrived for her, and then delete the account. However, by then I’d forgotten both the user name and password for the account…

So I googled “how to find someone’s gmail address”, and though most of the suggestions weren’t relevant, the simplest and most obvious one did the trick. So now I just have to reconstruct the password. Wish me luck.