Thinking of You
What an adventure we had today! Mom and I took a walk down town and ended up in a curio shop that we’d passed before but never entered. I was looking for a place that might either buy or sell on consignment the beautiful, vintage bone-china tea and coffee sets that my parents inherited from my grandmother, as well as the exquisite set of Mikasa crystal glassware. It makes no sense to move them to their new home when they haven’t been used in years—or not at all.*
The owner of the store, an older man named Michael, said he might be interested. He had two grandchildren with him in the store, and another customer who was selling him silver spoons. He knew Mom and remembered my grandmother fondly.
Suddenly, he broke into song, singing us love songs in Georgian, which was his mother tongue. He had a pleasant voice with a slight vibrato, and Mom was so enchanted that she started singing, too.
“You have a lovely voice,” she sang, arms dancing in the air. This from the woman who, as a teenager, when she was once on a date, danced around a lamppost because she was so happy. (That boy never called back.)
Then Michael translated the songs for us, and they were like poetry. “The stars come out one by one above the tiny village,” he recited. “Everyone is sleeping, but I lie awake thinking of you.”
We left the store in such good moods but were immediately enveloped by the overwhelming August heat and humidity. It was as if we were bright balloons slowly losing air, all fizzled and damp; we could not sustain the laughter.
It seemed to take longer than usual to walk home, and by the time we returned, Mom was angry, unfocused and using foul language.
She did calm down eventually, once she had rested for a while on the couch in the cool living room and had eaten lunch (a tuna sandwich which she ate with her knife and fork). We sat together and watched a short snippet from Oliver! while I snipped her nails.
And then it was time to go.
I’m having a hard time saying goodbye to Netanya. I’ve been visiting that city on a regular basis for the last 25 years, first to my grandparent’s house, then with my kids to my parent’s house, and most recently, to help care for Mom. I love its sidewalks and cafes, the fountains and statues of dancing musicians, the green-blue sea, the crowded grocery store where everyone knows Mom’s name, and the people we meet each week….
I have experienced the city in all its glory: in the morning when the trash trucks rumble through the streets at 5:00 a.m.; during the rainy winters, boiling hot summers and in between; the stretch of sandy beaches where we jumped waves and rode boogie boards; and of course, the enchanted evenings when the stars came out one by one. I will lie awake tonight thinking of her.
I wonder which memories of the past two decades of life here will manage to evade the brain tangles and stay with Mom just a little bit longer.
Hot summer afternoons are the perfect time to serve cold spicy salads. I offer this pumpkin salad as an evocation of the wonderful city of Netanya—slightly piquant, cubed with precision, with a hint of the spontaneous.
Just the color alone will temp you. This salad is a hit every time I put it on the table.
500 grams pumpkin, cubed
3-4 stalks green onions, sliced
2 Tbsp sweet chili sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Toss cubed pumpkins in a large pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil then simmer until pumpkin is soft. Drain and set aside. Add onions and a sprinkling of sesame seeds, salt and pepper. Pour on chili sauce and soy sauce. Mix. Serve chilled.
*These items are available for sale. I’m happy to share the photos or arrange for a viewing.