Saturday, January 18, 2014

Caretakers, singers and others

My married-to-a-Morroccan daughter was instructing me on how to roast chicken:

"Ashkenazim roast at 165 c but Sephardim roast chicken for 2 hours at 200 c."

I thought I had heard it all and knew all the differences between our communities, but this is definitely a new one for the books.

And then it gotme to thinking about other communities, the non-Jews working here as caregivers.

You see, my next door neighbor has Alzheimers, and I had no idea of this until about 2 years ago when she buzzed my door and said she didn't know how to get into her apartment. Hubby and I instructed her step by step to look into her purse for her keys and then we took the keys from her to open her door. She thanked us profusely as if we were rocket scientists and did the impossible for her. We got ahold of her son who told us tearfully that she had Alzheimers and it wasn't long before she had a young caretaker from the Philippines living with her.

I didn't really have much contact with the new caregiver. Just a few smiles and thank you's when we borrowed stuff from each other. When the typhoon hit the Philippines earlier this past year, I was worried about her family, but they lived far away from the disaster. I was relieved.

This past week, I heard my doorbell ring 10 times, like someone was agitated. I thought it was the ultra-Orthodox beggars coming to ask for money again. But when I looked through the peephole, I saw it was Donna, my neighbor's caregiver.

"Can you please fix my television? I really want to see the X-Factor and it doesn't work by me."

Of course, she needed to see the Israeli version of that show. From the Philippines, Rose Fontanes was the finalist in the Israeli X-Factor, who had a deeply beautiful voice. She hadn't been living in the best of circumstances. With Jewish immigrants to Israel, it's difficult enough, so imagine the difficulty 10-fold for non-Jews. She was living in a cramped apartment in Tel Aviv with 7 other people. But she instilled a sense of pride in other caregivers like her and everyone from the Philippines was rooting for her.

So there I was in her living room, the remote control was in Hebrew so I changed it to English, but the channel itself was not working, much to her dismay. I definitely understood her angst. I remember as a teenager, my dad not letting me watch the Beatles or any one of them on a show if it was on the Sabbath, which made me sneak out to a neighbor during on a Friday night to watch, because I had to. I just had to.

So with her charge sleeping blissfully, I invited her across the hall to my apartment where we could watch it together. She was so delighted and I felt like I was saving her life. "Are you sure? Don't you need to go to sleep? Are you sure?"

Sure I'm sure.

We munched on chips and drinks and heard Rose sing a couple of songs but Donna wouldn't stay for the results, and said she would find it on the internet later on. So I hung on to watch it for her and celebrated Rose's victory in Donna's absence.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Wise Woman of Jerusalem

There I am just sitting in a crowd. It could be anywhere, for a happy occasion, a sad occasion - doesn't matter. All I have to do is just sit there and people who know what I've experienced in the 18 years that I've been in Israel come over to me for advice. I'm actually quite flattered by the attention. Even social workers and psychologists have been consulting with me, for free I might add, about kids, in particular.

Woman #1: My son just got engaged to a girl whose parents are Moroccan. Any advice you can give us?

Me: Yes. Of course. Good luck. First of all, if they invite you over for dinner, you better not leave right afterwards. Plan to stay at least 2-3 hours minimum afterwards, or they'll think you're rude Americans.

Her husband mentioned they were going to meet them for the first time and were bringing wine for dinner.

Me: Oy vey. If you bring only wine, they'll take you for cheap Americans.You must go to a nice gift shop snd get them something nice for the house, even if it will end up in their daughter's home after she marries your son.

I based this on the times when my daughters' in-laws would show up at our house for dinner with microwaves, expensive flowers and chocolate baskets, good quality housewares, etc. Just wine and flowers won't do.

I also told her that they may try to lasso you in for an expensive glitzy wedding. They'll have 700 guests and you'll have 50-100. So tell them what you can/can't afford up front. They'll surely bitch about it but they'll get over it eventually.

Woman #2: How did you cope with the demands your teenage daughters have? Could you afford everything they asked for? How were you able to with 4 daughters?

She proudly introduced me to her daughter who was wearing a sweater she had gotten for her. I could see her daughter thinking - yeah, so you bought me one friggin' sweater.

Me: I couldn't and wouldn't. Between tampons, makeup, hair stuff for 4, it was impossible to clothe them in the stylish trendy manner they wanted, so I sent them to work when they were 15. Yes, I know about child labor. Instead of helping them with their homework, I steered them in the direction of working after school, so they could buy all the shoes and clothing their teenage hearts desired. All the ugly designer sports training pants and jackets with numbers on them were finally theirs.

Woman #3: How did you cope with their insolence? I'm fighting terribly with one of my daughters.

Me: When you have 4 daughters, the fighting is between them usually. Then I would retreat to my room and ignore them totally. I'd give them free rein and pretty much let them go and do whatever they wanted to do, except hitchhike all over the country. I'd go work overtime whenever I could and I then put locks on each of my daughters' closets, so the fighting would be kept to a minimum - even though they still managed to steal clothing from each other when the clothes were hanging out to dry or if they forgot to lock up their nail polish or eyeshadow and left it on their dresser.

Woman #4: How did your kids all marry Sephardim?

Me: Must have been all that Moroccan music I was playing when they were little kids, and all those Shabbat afternoon teas with old Mrs. Bouganim before I moved to Israel. They seemed to have copped the attitude that American boys were nerdy and wanted to be more Israeli than the Israelis.

Meanwhile, some of my kids are expecting kids themselves and since I'd been there 5 times myself, I could answer their questions and worries, like telling them I won't let their mother-in-laws in the delivery room, even though they are begging them to see the birth. I, for one, would not want to see my daughter-in-law giving birth. Feh. It's one thing to be with your own daughters, another your son's wife. But my son has got a few years to go until he brings me home a daughter-in-law. And, yes, they can have sex throughout their pregnancy if they're having a normal pregnancy and even though they laugh and are horrified at me for telling them this, I'm equally as horrified at them telling me they're too scared to have sex while pregnant! How did my kids become so Third World? I worry that they'll take epidurals and won't nurse.

But while I helped another pregnant kid move from one apartment to another, she called me up afterwards to thank me and to tell me her hubby wanted to shower with her in their new flat after they finished unpacking at 1 in the morning. I hope you did, kid.