Golden years

My younger brother found old slides in my mother’s apartment, I took them to be digitalized a few weeks ago in a store near me and today picked up the end result on a USB stick. What a little treasure it turned out to be! Memories of the golden years of my childhood came rushing back to me when I looked at the pictures, most of which were new to me.

The pictures of my childhood home brought out such warm feelings. This following picture was taken from the side of our house. We lived downstairs and there were two small, separate apartments upstairs that were rented to other people. The laundry you see drying must have been from our upstairs neighbour. I remember little of her (she moved away halfway through my childhood), I just remember she was an old lady called Frau Barur who liked to eat flowers and she scared me a bit. I remember she showed us pictures of herself as a dancer before the war, I think she was of Hungarian origin but not sure about that. She was also an Auschwitz survivor, I remember the number tattoo on her arm.

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The back of our house looked like this (you can see where the stairs are leading up to the upstairs apartment). We used to play on that little wall under the window. That used to be my bedroom that I shared with my older sister, I later moved to another bedroom. This picture was taken before I was born, though.

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In this next picture my older siblings are seated to the left of that back door to the garden and underneath the window that in later years would be the room I shared with my younger brother and sister. This looks like it was taken in the summer of 1968.

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We looked out over the valley from that side of the house and I used to adore looking at that view, at the houses below us and the rocks and trees and tiny buildings across the valley. I love that there’s a picture of that view in these slides. It’s also the view I remember seeing from my second bedroom at that side of the house. Between the trees, at the other side of the valley, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum is located. I remember looking toward those trees, trying to make out the museum and really wanting to visit it. My parents never let me, though, as they thought I was too young for that (we lived there until I was 10). I finally did visit Yad Vashem years later.

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Another picture taken at the end of the 1970s (I think, going by how big my younger brother and sister are here) shows how our back garden matured. We used to love to play there.

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The pictures also include a few with my oldest brother before he died at age 7 from an accident in March of 1969 (a year before I was born). This is him at the back of the house…

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… and planting trees (I think) with my father, my grandfather and other people I don’t know. That blue Renault was ours. I think I have a flash of a memory of it, but not sure whether it’s a real memory or just a memory connected to seeing pictures of it. In my mind it was a darker blue, though. I think these pictures were also taken during the summer of 1968.

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Speaking of my grandfather, there are also pictures of him and my grandmother. I barely remember my grandfather, he died when I was 4, but I do remember feeling a great warmth for him. This picture of him, taken somewhere in the Old City of Jerusalem, may be one of my fave pictures that I know of him! I have no idea who those kids are.

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I also very much like this one of my grandmother relaxing. I think it was taken in the gardens of the nearby convent which had a guesthouse. My grandparents stayed there when they visited. Our house also belonged to that convent, we hired our house from the kind and fun nuns who lived there.

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I think I even know the exact spot where this following picture of my grandfather was taken, right outside the convent’s guesthouse.

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The official entrance to the convent looked like this. The man in the picture is my grandfather, I don’t know who the lady is.

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There are also a few pictures from inside the house. We used to have an old olive press right in the middle of our living room. This picture was taken after my brother died and before my mother’s pregnancy with me showed, I think it must be fall of 1969 going by the sweaters everyone is wearing. The curtains behind the olive press lead to the door to our back garden.

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The next few pictures were taken during Christmas of (I think) 1976 when I was 6 years young. I’m the little blonde girl. We had a load of guests that year and were singing all kinds of Christmas carols. The first picture is of me and my brother performing a song, probably “Little Donkey” which is the only thing I ever remember performing with him.

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There were also some lovely pictures of my dad. In the second picture of all the clergy coming out of the church, my dad is the man in the middle (dressed in black). The third picture is typical of how my dad used to gesticulate when he spoke, I love that picture.

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Last, but not least, when my parents were engaged in 1959-1960 they went to Israel for a year (before moving there again in 1967). My dad was studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem for a year and my mother worked as a librarian in Tiberias at the ‘Scots Hospice’. They used to visit each other during weekends. This picture was of them during that time…

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The final picture I want to share here is of my mother and some sheep. Somehow this picture has a “the hills are alive with the sound of music” vibe to me. Going by the fact that my mother is wearing the same outfit as in the picture above, I think this may be outside Tiberias.

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There are of course more pictures (79 in total!) but these really were my favourites. It’s been so much fun discovering them.

Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there, especially to my own mother whom I love very dearly!

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My mother is a remarkable woman with a big heart, raising children she gave birth to and children she didn’t give birth to (of Palestinian and Ethiopian backgrounds).

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A mother hen very much at the center of our family, the glue that keeps us together and a shining example for me as a mother myself.

2010- IMG_2634I loved becoming a mother, whether becoming one through an unexpected c-section seven days after the due date…

… or through a scheduled and induced birth thirteen days after the due date…

Having (only) two children of my own makes me have an even greater respect for what my mother has done with eight children (and more who have also temporarily been in our family).  So, while on this Mother’s Day I am happy to be a mother myself, my thoughts mostly go out to my own mother who is awesome.

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I am happy she is still around and healthy at 84.

Message from my mother

My mother finally got around to watching Anne with an E after I had recommended it to her, oh, a long while back! I only found out she was watching it yesterday during a phone call with my brother who’s staying with her during this corona crisis. He too likes the show and thinks that Amybeth McNulty who plays Anne is really good. They were already halfway through season 3 when I talked to him yesterday afternoon. Then, this afternoon my mother called me and asked me, “Is this really the end of Anne with an E? They go to different colleges and that’s it? And what about Matthew? Doesn’t he die in the book and in that other show we watched in the 1980s? What happens with him now that he doesn’t die? Are there really no more episodes?”
I could hear the disappointment in her voice. Turns out she had binged the rest of season 3 yesterday evening until midnight and now she wants more.

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And it’s not only Anne she loves, she is very enamoured with Matthew (“such a sweet, gentle man of few words”) and she loves Marilla too (“a stoic woman of farming stock with a hidden soft core”). She just doesn’t want to let these characters go yet either. Oh, how I can understand her feeling of loss!

Alas, I had to give her the bad news that the show was prematurely cancelled by Netflix and CBC. I also told her there’s a fight going online to save the show and, although I have campaigned less in the last few weeks due to other priorities, I am still definitely rooting for and fighting for a renewal of Anne with an E! My mother is 84, not internet savvy and social media is beyond her – she can just about follow what’s happening on our family WhatsApp and on Facebook but she has never posted anything herself ever in her life. Even so, she does want in on the fight to get Anne renewed and I told her I could pass her message along.

So, here is my mother’s message to the powers that be: “I am devastated (her word!) that there are no plans to renew the show for a 4th season. How can that be? It cannot end here, the story isn’t finished yet! You just have to renew Anne with an E!”

And hey, CBC and Netflix, you wouldn’t deny an old and great mother, would you? She has the biggest heart but she can be stern too, so if my mama says Anne with an E should be renewed, you’d better listen!

The Littlest Angel

The new Mach’ was challenge is to do something with a children’s book. Immediately I thought of The Littlest Angel, a children’s book I have owned from when I was 6 years old. My The Slipper and the Rose book also came to mind, but I think I got that one a little later. So, The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell it is. It’s become a little tattered over the years and as a child I even traced over the letters in the word “Angel” on the cover.

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I know I’ve had this children’s book from when I was 6 years old because the book has an inscription for me written by my mother.

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Only looking at it now do I realize that the illustrator is named Sergio Leone! I don’t think it’s the Sergio Leone, the director of those famous Westerns. I’ve been trying to research it online for a bit but all I can find to connect the two Sergios is this blog post about a ‘same name syndrome’. That author also thinks these are two different men.

Anyway, The Littlest Angel used to be a favourite book of mine, otherwise I wouldn’t have kept it so carefully all these years. However, I don’t think I’ve actually read it since my childhood! It has moved with me from Israel where it was gifted to me, to three addresses in Germany, to five addresses in The Netherlands. Well, maybe four, I don’t think I took it with me to boarding school in The Netherlands. Recently, we set up new bookshelves in our living room and many of “my” books were transferred from the large shelves to the new ones. The Littlest Angel moved to the top shelf on the left, bottom of the pile, and it was the first time I had actually held the book and looked into it in years!

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The book is a very Christian Christmas story (not that I remember noticing that at the time) and is about a little angel, 4 and a half years old, who presents himself at the gates of heaven.

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I’m not sure I can post all the pictures I took of this book (you know, copyright and all) but the story is about this little angel not quite fitting in. His whistle is too loud and disturbs the “Patriarch prophets”, he sings off-key thus disturbing the ethereal sound of the celestial choirs, he has trouble flying with his tiny wings and he can’t keep his little halo in check: “However, owing to the regrettable fact that he always forgot to move his wings, the Littlest Angel always fell head over halo!”. I used to love the images of paths in between the clouds and the little angel chasing after his halo.

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The Littlest Angel needs a little disciplining and he dawdles a bit on his way to the angel he has to speak with…

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He gets to the Understanding Angel, immediately feels at ease, and tells the Understanding Angel that he’s a little bored and longs for a box he used to have under his bed which contains his earthly treasures. It is brought to him and he is happy. Then the time comes that the Christ Child is to be born and each angel has to pick a gift to give the Child. The Littlest Angel tries to figure out what to do.

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In the end he decides to gift his little box to the Christ Child but he also starts to feel embarrassed and inadequate because his gift isn’t as beautiful and glorious as all the other gifts. Oh wonder of wonders, the Hand of God in the end decides to pick that little brown box as the main gift for the Christ Child. It contains ordinary, child treasures, such as “a butterfly with golden wings, captured one bright summer on the hills above Jerusalem, and a sky-blue egg from a bird’s nest in the olive tree that stood to shade at his mother’s kitchen door.” Seeing that I was living right outside Jerusalem at the time I read this book, in a village in the Jerusalem hills, and there were indeed more than enough olive trees to be found, I could completely picture all of this in my mind’s eye.

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The little box gets lifted up into the heavens, it starts to glow, and ends up being the Star of Bethlehem, shining over Jesus’  crib.

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At the end of the book, you  can really see how tattered it’s becoming. It is, however, still in one piece, so that’s something!

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While I did remember large chunks of the story, I didn’t remember the end part. Maybe even then I thought the whole box as a Star of Bethlehem thing was a little far-fetched and tended to skip that part? What I mostly remember is that I liked it being about a little bit of a naughty angel who did his own thing and I liked the image of what life in heaven, up there on the clouds, must be like. I also had this image in my head of these angels sliding down to earth on a rainbow slide to paint the flowers and then later watering the plants with little watering cans from the skies, thus making it rain on earth. That must have been from another angel book, though, which I think I must now go in search of. My mum was always into angels, so has all kinds of angels throughout her house (like the ones in the pictures below). My kids even call her “Oma Engel”  (Grandma Angel), so it’s no wonder I had all these angel books growing up.

How fun that this Mach’ was challenge made me travel down memory lane and read that book again for the first time in 37-40 years or so! Thank you Herba and Die Pö.

A conversation with Gregory Peck

I was watching the documentary A Conversation with Gregory Peck on Netflix earlier this evening (I was very pleasantly surprised to find it there!). It was made in 1999 (4 years before Peck died) during a speaking tour he did throughout the US, where he spoke about his life and his career.

As I watched it, I realized I must have seen at least some of it before although there were also bits I didn’t remember. As an old-time Gregory Peck fan, hearing the stories he had to tell about his career (even though I already knew many) was an absolute joy! At one special moment in the documentary the actress who played his daughter, Scout, in To Kill a Mockingbird was in the audience. Apparently she still called him Atticus and he still called her Scout. 🙂  He also invited his wife Veronique up on stage for a little bit…

The documentary also touched on Gregory Peck’s political convictions. He was famous for being a democrat and liberal and in the video speaks of opposing the Vietnam war while at the same time being proud of his son Stephen who had served in the army during that war. He is also shown giving a speech in Philadelphia in 1999 about gun control…

He says,“Is it the culture or the guns that led to the massacre at Columbine High School? And it is of course both. What is wrong with keeping guns out of the hands of the wrong people?” Today, 19 years on, I could still give him a standing ovation for that. Gregory and I would certainly have agreed with each other politically…

What I loved even more in this documentary was the behind the scenes glimpses of him, with his wife and his family. His daughter Cecilia co-produced this documentary and was in it a lot…

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… but there are also glimpses of his other kids (two sons, Stephen and Carey, from his first marriage and a son, Anthony, from his marriage to Veronique). I loved the images of a family get-together, where they all sat around and watched basketball. Look at the anticipation on the faces of Gregory and his son Stephen here!

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I had to blink away a few tears when Gregory spoke of his son Jonathan who had committed suicide at the age of 30, with Gregory wondering whether he could have done more to prevent that. And I blinked away major tears when the film featured Gregory waiting at the hospital for his daughter Cecilia to give birth and then meeting his 10 minute old grandson! Most parts of the documentary are also up on YouTube, I’ll just share this part about the birth here (from 5.20 minutes onwards in this video)…

The fascination with his new grandson and the concern he shows over his daughter just after giving birth so very much reminds me of my own father (and my mother) after my son was first born. Yet again, here is Gregory reminding me of my dad, even in the way he was a dad to his daughter! My parents showed that same love to my baby and the same concern for me…

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… and their love and concern was repeated two and a half years later when my daughter was born..

The look of being in love with a new baby grandchild is very similar… It made me miss Gregory Peck and it made me miss my dad.

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Oh, how I still love Gregory Peck! If you like him too, I recommend you check out this documentary on Netflix a.s.a.p…