Today we had lunch in honor of my grandmother’s 95th birthday, a small gathering which included my grandmother, her youngest sister (who is 85), her sister-in-law (just about to turn 80), my aunt, Dar and I. We engaged in a lengthy discussion of what to order (I thought we ordered enough for seventeen hale young men), complained about the saltiness of the soup and mashed potatoes, smacked our lips over dessert, and sang birthday songs. My grandmother and aunt told my favorite story, how at age sixteen my aunt mistook the bagged sandwiches (which my grandmother had toiled over for hours) for the garbage bag. The trash bin outside was too full, and so my aunt not only put the bag inside the bin but jumped on the sandwich bag to make it fit.
My grandmother still sighs over this story today, more than forty years after.
So many of my memories are tied with my Safta. I loved her old house in Yad Eliyahu, Tel Aviv. She used to live in one of those houses that looks like a train, with three or four entrances and three or four floors. My grandma lived on the first floor, and because of that had a small yard attached to her apartment. The apartment was tiny, a small entrance hall, one bedroom, a narrow kitchen, a corridor, and two rooms that served as a dining room and a living room (and which always seemed to me to be furnished royally in furniture that ought not be touched).
In her closet my grandma had treasures, antique jewelry that she allowed us to play with, buttons the likes of which we don’t see anymore today, articles of clothing that she no longer wore. Outside buses ran, and their smog darkened the walls. Inside, we could hear the water running down the pipes whenever the neighbors used their toilets. Seems to me I remember the sound of my own eager two feet running on the path and up the three stairs leading to Safta’s door.
I am so lucky with my grandma, lucky that I can go on creating memories with her. Even though I live so far away, on my visits with the kids we spend as much time as we can with her. My daughter Eden had to write an essay at school about an important older person in her life. She chose to write about my grandmother, her great-grandmother. After describing my grandma (with particular emphasis on her hair and teeth) and what we do together when we visit her in Israel, she ended her essay by saying that she will always remember playing Rummikub with Safta Miri, and that Safta Miri always won. That story is totally true (Safta tends to bend the rules to fit her needs). And so now a third generation is creating memories with the grandmother I love so much.
So happy birthday Safta! I’m so happy I got to be in Israel for your birthday this year, and I hope to celebrate with you many many more! Mazal tov!