Sunday, April 1, 2012

My Large Family

Happy April Fools Day! You know, when I was, maybe 10 or 11, my wonderful father whom I love so well almost convinced me that he would let me skip school and would take me to an amusment park. I KNEW it was April 1st and still the only reason he did not get the chance to say April Fools was that I remembered that the parks would not be open this early in spring.
Today's 1st of April was a lot less eventful or trick-some, though sleeping in a room with blinds that actually keep out the sun meant I overslept by a lot (only a lot when you consider I have many places to visit and see and limited time to do and see them) I plan to write this post and then head out into the Old City of Jerusalem. But first, a little about my doings after Tel Aviv.
Kobi and Noemi, Adi's parents and my Dad's second cousins, picked me up from Adi's and took me to their GORGEOUS house in Raanana. Friday was a pretty chill day with a trip to the mall to get a video recorder as the highlight. It was certainly an educational trip though, because every car that parked in the mall's garage had to go through security that involved them checking the trunk. It felt like we were crossing the border, and Kobi makes this trip every week to get groceries. We talked a little about what life was like at some of the heights of the tension and what it is like for Kobi to go to another country and walk into a shop without going through metal detectors and having your bags scanned.
That night, I went to meet family I have almost definitely never met before. My grandmother's cousin Gerry and his wife Elaine, I may have met when I was a baby (same as almost all the family from my Dad's side) but I had never met their kids or grandchildren. It happened to be the date set to celebrate Gerry and Ellie's 60th Wedding Anniversary, so the whole family was gathered. I heard all sorts of things about my Bubbe and her mother, known in our family as Bubbe Pauli. Gerry told me that he was so happy his "tanta" (aunt) Pauli had such a wonderful namesake, and I blushed for the rest of the evening. I also got some dirt on my own bubbe!
I have always known my Bubbe Helen was an amazing lady. She knows a little something (and sometimes a whole lot more) about everything and always wants to learn more. She also loves to travel and I grew up with my mother and her taking trips all over the world (this fall they were in Spain and France looking at ancient cave art!). I had already known that when she visited my Mom in Ireland the two of them had hitch-hiked (I was quite horrified when I found that out). But Friday night, I learned that my Bubbe is even more of a daredevil.
I have not been able to confirm any of this with her, but the story I heard last night went as follows. The first time that she went abroad on her own was to Egypt. And she was taking a boat along the Nile when the boatman invited her to come to a Nigerian wedding. Ok, know what, that sounds really cool, and if I had ONE OTHER FRIEND to go with me, I would be there in a heartbeat. But wait, the wedding is on an island somewhere and the boatman will come and pick her up. Let me be clear here. My Bubbe, my grandmother, let a strange man take her to a wedding on an Island where she knew no one. Bubbe, are you nuts?! I mean, I know that a lot of my travel bug comes from BOTH sets of grandparents, but you would be horrified if I did something like that! I would be horrified if I did that! But since it all turned out fine (my bubbe is still going all over the world), when I get home, I want to hear all about this Nigerian Wedding.
It was a full family weekend, because Saturday we celebrated Itamar's birthday. Now I got to see all the family from my Dad's side. I went from my Mom's Mom's first cousin to my Dad's Dad's first cousin. Chava was amazing, though why I should expect any different from a Katz woman, I can't say. We sat next to each other and spent the whole meal going back and forth in English and Yiddish. She told me about why her family ended up in Israel when my branch came to the States. It seems her mother a nurse for the king of Egypt's family.
I am very lucky in family. We all live so far away, but the first cousins on both sides of my family have all been so close and made sure that they progeny felt the same way. In other families, 3rd cousins means nothing, but not in mine. First of all, I want to know more about my great-great grandparents who must have taught something of this to their children that they all stayed so close across the world at a time when there was no internet and cell phones, but telegrams and snail mail. And thank you to their families who all managed to continue the tradition of strong family values. We might not agree on anything politically or (more importantly sometimes) in sports, but we are family.

An Edit: I have been informed that it was a Nubian Wedding, not a Nigerian one. Honestly much cooler. And she did go with friends she had met on the trip. So, the moral of story is, I am following in my amazing Grandmother's footsteps. And she isn't as insane as originally thought.

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