It felt like (yet another) home, turning the key and walking in to my elder cousins’ apartment when the taxi dropped me off in the center of Tel-Aviv. Still vibrant at 85 and 91, they were excited to hear all — and great bate for testing the attention span for listening to my Kibbutz stories. And how fun: they actually worried about me – loved having parental units again.
I planned three days in Tel-Aviv to unwind before heading back to Paris for ten, priority being a hair appointment to nix the gray (oh yeah) with my cousin’s wife, Hanita. She’s one of those women you instantly connect with — smart, attractive, interesting and interested. We sorted through stories from our weeks apart, sipping tea, non-pulsed by the sight of brown paste framing our faces.
At 49, she’s happily married to my cousin Yossi (51), a terrific guy who owns his own business and competes in triathlons just for fun. She handles his company’s human resources…and power walks bi-weekly for an hour with the Israeli version of my gal pals back in NYC. Ex- military, they are quite the jocks, albeit now post-menopausal. Their names were as difficult to remember as every other Biblical reference so I tagged them:
“The General,” the shortest who led the pack and the pace, relentless in her determination that we not do one minute less than the full hour … “Dog Whisperer” who bravely and nonchalantly cleared the way when confronted by real 4-legged, snarling barkers (Israeli dogs are as aggressive as their masters) . . .
“Snooty,” a fellow American who said “hi” — and that was it… no offer to translate even a partial sentence/thanks pal … And “Colorful” — the gal with the most grace and a sort of U.N. look/style.
All working suburban women and there for each other; one divorced, one widowed, 3 married — one lost a son in the military … the others with children in various stages of going in or coming out (of the Army). Hanita and Yossi have a son just out (and another going in). There are stories about the late night phone call from him during the Gaza War, whispering “I’m leaving on a mission; won’t be contacting you for a while. I love you.” And how he, trained as a medic, saved lives on both sides of the issues. And how she, weeks later, hearing he was safely back at his Base, organized her neighborhood to bake cookies for all the soldiers in his Unit, knowing they couldn’t refuse entry to a mother with baked goods. It worked.
He’s just back from 2 months in Thailand, R&R post discharge and I could feel the strong mother-son connection, living in a country faced with suicide bombings, war and now intense criticism. An eyewitness to 9/11, I know too well, the underlying gnaw of living in a target zone for world terrorism … And yet, here we are, casually chatting in a hair salon a million miles away from that underlying gnaw, 2 ladies in polyester robes.
Hanita is renovating her house; creating a healthy environment for a healthier life. Whether through genetics or stress, she’s a breast cancer survivor — twice. “This year,” she declared, is a year dealing with contractors, not doctors.” If she “makes it to 50,” she said when we celebrated my 60th, she’s heading to an Ashram in India and invited me to join her. Now there’s an idea to munch on…wonder what they wear on an Ashram…?
I was still drawing parallels between miss-matched, multi-layered clothing and life the way I was living it when I caught up with an American film producer in Jaffa, who’d also spent time at Neot S’madar. “After years of producing, hoping audiences will come and investors will recoup/profit,” he sighed, “there’s something beautiful about the finite nature of bottling olive oil and labeling jam.” “Yep, there is,” I laughed.
It was such a nice conversation — and such a beautiful day, I decided to return Speedo’s many messages too. I’ve been where he is and I wanted to offer up some kindness, my last day in Israel. So, I wound up back at the same cafe -for another hour of friendly conversation… He was more real/honest in daylight — and closer than the last time we met, to being the good guy he wants to be.
I don’t know if my deep connection to the State of Israel is about the Holocaust (Never Again), the Six-day War (Jewish pride), or how sexy/hot Israeli guys are (older, they still smolder) but I know I feel safe here. And that, on this crazy trip of mine, which drops me down in places to be instead of to visit, I see more than I ever have before. Not only the fabric of their lives, but the multi layers of mine.
I miss my friends in New York, very aware that their lives are going on without me. My children aren’t children, but there’s so much of their day-to-day I’m not hearing. My niece wants me to stay in Paris; I found people just like me in the middle of a dessert a zillion miles away from another place I call “home” — and I don’t know what to do with that. Relationships, evolving … choices.
The region was in political chaos when I danced with Bond,James on SKYPE one evening, alone in the WIFI room on the kibbutz, listening to the kind of music that makes me wanna dance. Peter, Paul & Mary were “weaving the sunshine out of the pouring rain” — and I was too. Shaking off the past, trying to make sense of the present, wanting, just wanting...what??
The 8-year on-again-off-again BF wounded me deeply and I still wonder why it didn’t work. Surfer Dude was a bump in the road, but I wonder too about those particles of attraction floating around, tugging at Dicks & Janes — cupid’s arrows or neon warnings? Good women get breast cancer, boys go to war and protesters get shot …
I’ve got trust issues. With men and with the Universe. So I’m belting it out, wishing away the outer noise and dancing with a guy on my computer screen — who seems to like my groove.
But now it’s time to pack up all my wondering and save it for the view from the airplane window. As I indulge in my last bit of hummus and leave the Promised Land, my mirror reflects “a wanderer” in miss-matched layers — loving her family in Tel-Aviv, missing her new friends in the dessert, looking forward to her buddies in Paris — tuned in to her inner noise.
In prep for my upcoming intra-European flights on no-name airlines with ridiculous weight restrictions, I shipped my winter clothes home and hoped they wouldn’t be weighing me. And, on my 100th day journeying, I said goodbye to the people I know in the country whose language, even after two months of living amongst them, still evades me — and boarded Air France for Paris.
NOTE TO SELF: Eat (√), pray (√) Mmmm . . . .