Nostalgia

My younger brother is at my mother’s now (he was gone for a few months but is back again) and has been sorting through all kinds of things in her flat. He came across more old family pictures (just like he had back in the spring), some of which I don’t think I’d ever seen before! Among other things, he found some pictures of what apparently was my christening when I was two months old. I think I have seen that first picture here below before, but I always assumed it was a picture of another baby a year older than me who my parents had fostered for three or so years (I vaguely remember her), but nope, apparently that little baby is me.

Three things about these pictures: everyone is so young, I’m so tiny, and oh my goodness, I adore my older sister’s outfit!

On a side note: I am the daughter of a Protestant theologian, baptized by an Anglican priest from Jerusalem’s St. George’s Cathedral, in the Catholic chapel of the convent which was neighbouring our house. A truly ecumenical event. We rented our house from nuns in a little village just outside Jerusalem and my mother chatting away with these nuns in the following picture tells you just about all you need to know about the warm, happy relationships we had with them.

Anyway, my parents weren’t photographers and took very few pictures, I’m not sure if they even had a working camera. They must have had something, as pictures do exist, but my mother always said that most pictures usually came to them via others who visited us (and we always had many visitors). So, there are virtually no newborn pictures of any of us. This means that, apart from the above baptism pictures where you can’t really see me, the earliest pictures of me that I know of are these two that my brother also came across (with on my cheek the remnants of a birthmark that faded away over time). I haven’t seen these in forever.

There are so many more discoveries my brother made while sorting through my mother’s apartment, such cute pictures of my siblings as well, but I can’t share all of those here. I’ve got to say I was especially pleased with those baptism pictures, they are so beautiful and it’s hard to imagine that that tiny baby in my mother’s arms is me.

Every year for Christmas I make a photo calendar with pictures of my family (my parents, siblings, aunt, my kids, nephews and nieces) for the following year. As we have all barely seen each other this past year due to Covid-19 and as there just aren’t too many new pictures available, I decided to make a “nostalgia calendar” for my family this year which features many of these cute treasures that my brother found.

It’ll be a surprise for them to receive a different sort of calendar this time around and I’m already looking forward to getting it to them. And hey, if you have now become a little nostalgic as well, feel free to share your baby pictures via blogs, Twitter or even e-mail. I admit, I’m curious. 🙂

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.

A cat, childhood & Jane Eyre

Just as I wanted to start typing this post, this happened…

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My black cat decided to stretch out between me and my laptop. I was distracted by a 30 minute portrait of Orson Welles on BBC TV (after watching another one on Joan Fontaine) and before I knew it there she was. I was able to shift her…

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… but she didn’t stay long and has now found a spot on my daughter’s lap…

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No work today, which is nice for a change. I was tired yesterday after a busy week and a busy working morning. In the afternoon I met up with a neighbour for a walk while we kept our 1,5 meter distance. It’s quite weird taking a walk with someone while maintaining a distance but it is doable and was actually quite nice getting away and chatting like that. Mr Esther, the kids and I had dinner infront of the TV last night with a lovely glass of red wine.

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I was talking to my mother on the phone yesterday, she was asking me for the 2011 Jane Eyre movie that isn’t available on Netflix and wanted to watch Pride and Prejudice as well. So, after two weeks at home and being extremely careful with no sign of sickness, we all decided we felt safe enough to venture out carefully and drop some DVD’s off at my mother’s house. It turned out that she had no DVD player anymore so my older brother found a spare one and offered it to her. To minimize outside contact between my mom and others I arranged to pick up the DVD player at my brother’s and then drive on to my mother’s to loan her the DVDs she and I had selected over the phone (picture taken so I know which DVDs to ask back)…

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Mini-Esther joined me and while on the road we saw signs saying, “Just stepping outside? Keep a distance of 1,5 meters!” and “Together against Corona. Avoid busy spaces.”

At my brother’s house we kept our distance, which is pretty weird when it’s family. No hugs hello or goodbye, no touching. Surreal. My brother, his partner and their kids (15 and 13) are doing well so far and my brother remarked how we were the first people outside their little family to enter their house in two weeks. First time we’ve been inside another house in two weeks as well. We stayed for only 10 minutes or so and then drove on to my mother’s to give her the DVD player and the DVDs. There too we kept our distance to my mother and my younger brother who is staying with her for now. Again, that felt surreal.

We visited longer with my mother and brother, catching up. My brother has been sorting through all the family photos and I took a few pictures of some of the old ones, like this one of me (little girl in the pink dress) taking a walk next to my grandfather (my father’s father) when I was 3 years old and he visited us in Israel…

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He died a year later and it must have been the last time I saw him. I have two vague (and warm) memories of my grandfather. One memory is of him reading me a book before bedtime and the other is of me holding his hand while we were out walking somewhere. It could very well have been on this exact walk!

There were pictures of us visiting the zoo in Jerusalem with my grandmother (my mother’s mother), it must have been around a similar time…

I also enjoyed this picture of us visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, even though you can’t see that much. We are right infront of the altar built over the spot where Jesus is said to have been born. My dad is on the left, I am on the right, closest to the wall.

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There’s a fun picture of me meeting Sinterklaas at the Dutch embassy that used to be in Jerusalem (later moved to Tel Aviv). I think I was 7 or 8 there and I still remember that dress and that necklace! I looked at the picture and exclaimed to my mother, “Isn’t the man playing Sinterklaas Mr. M?”. She said it was indeed. Mr. M. held a high position at the embassy and was a family friend of ours at the time. We used to play with his kids (who were the ages of my eldest brothers and sisters). He had kind eyes and I’ve got to say that after all this time (some 40 years!),  I surprised myself that I still recognized him underneath that outfit.

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There was a picture with my other grandmother (my father’s mother) enjoying a falafel with us, I think I’m about 9 years old here. Not the most flattering picture of me but it made me grin.

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The final picture was taken not long before we left Israel to live in Germany. It think this picture was taken while we were loading the van we had for our journey north. We had bought the van a year or two before in The Netherlands while visiting there on summer holiday and had driven it to Israel (via land and ship). Our final trek away from Israel was also the ship and land route and this was taken just before we embarked on that adventure.

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How our lives would change after this moment in time! Ah, the memories…

Mini Esther and I left my mother’s after about an hour and it’s back into full on isolation again here at home. My mom was going to enjoy The Nun’s Story as we left and it’s taken ages to type this up because (after that Orson Welles portrait on the BBC) they aired 1943’s Jane Eyre with Fontaine and Welles. It’s just finished (it’s a pretty good adaptation!)…

… so I can now proof read this post again for corrections and finally hit “publish”. And so we arrive at dinner time during another day in isolation.

A smile back on my face

First off, news on the Mr E front is very promising as his health is improving! They want to keep him in hospital for a little longer to see if his improvement continues. If blood levels are good on Monday morning (which looks likely going by how much better they were today), then he can come home again on Monday afternoon. 🙂 This is a great relief and now leaves a little room in my brain and heart for other, more fun, stuff again.

One such fun thing is what my younger brother shared with the family today. He is staying with my mother for a few days and came across these two pictures from my childhood. Going by how small my younger brother and sister were (they are 7 months apart in age, two babies that had joined our family from Nazareth in 1973), and the sweaters we were wearing (this is just outside Jerusalem, which got a little chilly in winter but was warm in summer), these pictures must have been taken in the winter of 1973/1974. I know the pictures but haven’t seen them for ages! I was close to 4 when these were taken, I’m the little blonde girl on the right. I have a fleeting memory of these pictures being taken as I distinctly remember sitting on that wall for these pictures, something I wasn’t normally allowed to do on my own.

20181231_092535img-20190111-wa0011The brother who shared these pictures is the little baby in the front in this second picture. The guy in the back with the curls is not a sibling of mine but is a violinist who stayed in our small back garden guesthouse for a while. I have no idea how he came to stay there or how my parents knew him. He gave my older sister (in front with the babies) and brother (beside me) violin lessons. His name is Volker Biesenbender, I just looked him up and he is quite prolific. He was a student of Yehudi Menuhin and I even found clips of him on YouTube, like this one:

I remember Volker’s face and his name, but I don’t recall what he was like or how long he stayed. It’s so sweet to see the little black dog in Volker’s arms. He was our family dog, Lalo, and we absolutely adored him until he died when I was 10.

I can now walk around with a smile on my face: Mr Esther is getting better, I had to finish off some work today which I at first totally botched but then managed to fix again and then got the task done as well, and I have sweet childhood memories flooding back. Real life duties call now, but that’s not so bad if you can smile. 🙂