How To Rescue An Airplane

We were in the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv some years ago coming home from a long and amazing camp.

One fun thing of that trip was that after only one day of walking in Jerusalem, my favorite pair of sandals gave up. I had to put them in the trash and cared for the biggest blister I’ve ever owned.

Adults and children, the seventeen of us, were worn out from the intense travel in the past weeks and barely could standing on our two feet to go through the security check. I saw the security guard asking my youngest daughter to take off her shoes, and they searched them manually. I’d been in other airports before, but this was one very well watched. And that was good.
One of my friends and I were a little worried about the bag of dirt each of us had in our luggage, ( I like to bring dirt from where I go abroad, I brought some from China and they didn’t mind it.) We successfully passed the “dirt test” in Tel Aviv and went to the gate. They validated our tickets and showed us to the bus.

Here comes the mystery.

Everybody in the bus had a carryon, a bag, or something.
I watched that woman. Tall, thin, dark, curly hair, dark eyes with a pretty masculine forehead, her entire attitude was suspicious. My detective intelligence got alerted and I was Agatha Christie’s best friend. What was extremely suspicious for me was the fact that she didn’t carry a bag.

I looked at my friends, but I couldn’t share with them my discovery for the sake of keeping them at peace. I chose to bear this terror on my own shoulders, alone. I was terrified. I knew inside me that this woman was there to blow up the plane. People who know me have no doubt that I am a woman of action. That time, right there in the heart of our beloved Israel I was ready to step in and uncover the enemy’s plans.

We get on the plane and yes, I call the flight attendant and show her the questionable person on board.
“I watched her since we got on the bus. She doesn’t have a carryon, she is so serious.Please, search her. I’m sure she is up to something.”
I knew that my professional information along with my deep wisdom were rescuing a full plane of passengers from certain death.
“No, no, you don’t have to thank me,” I was ready to reply to the flight attendant who was staring at me with open mouth.

“This is an Israeli diplomat working for the Israeli Embassy in Bucharest, ma’am. She is just fine.”

I needed a glass of water.

Three Things I Hated as a Child

I wanted a happy childhood, but my parents knew how to ruin it.
There were a few things with the power to put me in misery, and mom and dad knew how to keep them on the table. Everyday.

1.The worst of the worst – Naps
Mom was in charge with them. She was making me quit what I was doing and showing me to my bed.
“You are taking a nap.”
Pleading with her and trying to bribe her never helped.
I had to get in the bed, turn my face to the wall and sleep in the middle of the day. She would let me quiet down for a while and tiptoe back in the room to see if I was asleep. Never happen. My whole body was alerted when I would feel her bending over me to see if I was sleeping. The hard I was trying to keep my eyes close, the harder the tiny muscles of my eyes would tremble, giving me away.

2. The bad experiences every single day – Meals
My body constitution was fragile since I was born. In spite of being skin and bones I was full of energy and vitality. It was a mystery for people how I could be up and running for 14 hours a day on crumbles. I didn’t like most of my parents’ cooking. Soups, meat, milk, they were my enemies.I could live with one egg, french fries and chocolate every day of my life. My mom didn’t know what to do with me anymore to help me eat my food. All the sandwiches for school ended up in the trashcan.
“You will die from starvation one day,” she used to say.
I didn’t.

3.Monsters eating my freedom – Chores
By the time my parents would come home from work around 3PM, I had to make my bed, put my things away,do my homework and wash my feet on summertime.
With the exception of doing my homework, I.Hated.Doing.Everything.Else.
“Don’t touch my freedom! Let me do what I like!” These were my strong principles.
Anyway, I was so fast in getting everything done, that from 1PM to 2:45PM I could read one of my books, chat with my next-door friend, Irinutza, or make myself earrings from the colored wire my dad had in the shed.I was super fast in doing my homework, and most of the times my parents would find me at the table pretending to focus on my textbooks.

That was my childhood.
I know you feel sorry for me.

The Size of a Nail

When you are born in a world of fear, corruption and a particular level of poverty, your brain goes into the survival mode and you are less vulnerable. You learn how to manage it.

My parents didn’t have money to spend on what I wanted, but I knew what to ask from mom and what to ask from dad in order to get it. My father bought me books, notebooks, pencils, sweets and fruit. I didn’t need anything else to be happy after doing my homework when the weather was bad and I couldn’t go outside to play with my friends.
On the other hand, I could ask mom to buy me a piece of cake, and she would buy it. Chocolate, candies, mother wasn’t convinced to make the financial sacrifice.

I was my last year in kindergarten and it was my dad’s turn to pick me up at 2:30 PM and take me home. Mom was working the second shift. He opened the door to my classroom and caught my eyes. “Let’s go!” It was summer time and changing from the uniform into my light personal clothes was piece of cake. I placed my uniform and my indoor shoes in my locker and grabbed my father’s hand.
“Would you buy me a piece of chocolate, please?”
Tata (“father” in Romanian) looked at me with a sad smile.
“I’m sorry, we don’t have money for chocolate today.”

We got on the street and hurried to the tram station. There were crowds of people waiting, and when the vehicle stopped, everybody was trampling on everybody. Finally, we managed to get in.
The news that we couldn’t afford to buy a piece of chocolate wasn’t in fact news. That happened often, but sometimes because I asked again and again, tata would give up and make the investment.
“I need a piece of chocolate, dad.”
He didn’t answer. I could see he had a lot on his mind.

We changed trams, and after about 15 minutes, we finally got out by the market in the Iosefin area.
“Would you buy me a chocolate, dad?”
“I don’t have the money to get you a chocolate, my daughter. Why don’t you understand?”
“How about buying me the tiniest one?” I didn’t let go.
My father halted in the middle of the sidewalk and dropped his hands.
“What do you want: bread or chocolate?”
I looked at him with serenity and declared:

He didn’t say anything.
We went and bought a loaf of bread from the bakery and took our way home by the Bega River. Just when I lost my hopes about my treat, we entered the small ABC store on Pop-de-Basesti street.
And dad bought me the minuscule piece of chocolate ever, “Dwarf chocolate”, the size of a nail.
That made my day.

But I Knew

I just realized that we didn’t have heat in the kitchen for the first 13 years of my life. No, I’m not kidding. It never crossed my mind that from October to May when the cold was sharp in that part of Europe, we – mom, dad and I, and later my sister, managed life like that. I remember having a nice terra-cotta stove in our only room, which my dad “tata” used to enhance its function to perfection. I also remember being too warm in that room and begging mom to let me wear short sleeves.
“Who in the world would wear short sleeves in December?”
So, I was closely supervised to keep my sweater on to avoid catching a cold.

We didn’t have much.
My parents were workers in a factory, but there were two things that we never missed: food and dry clothes. I longed for nice dresses since wearing a nice dress would get you first in line in the kindergarten’s restroom. The rule was that the one girl on the only toilet was the one to judge and decide which girl was next. All the girls were lined up around the one on the “throne” and the “queen” picked the one with the nicest outfit. I always wanted a dress in squires or in polka dots, they were in high demand in our young community,but mama had me in sport pants all the time.They were cheap and resistant to dirt since doing the laundry on winter time was always a toil.
My father would bring buckets of water from the fountain in the street and mom would warm them up on the cooking light in a huge kettle. This task would take a long time. The laundry operation could start only after that. Drying the clothes outside was another challenge, it was almost impossible during the rain season.
But we managed.

I can’t forget the Sunday mornings when my parents were off of work.
I was still in my bed under the window reading a book or drawing, and the fire was on in the terra-cotta. The fragrance of the chamomile and mint tea on the stove and of ripe quinces displayed on the top of the wardrobe perfumed the room. Mom and dad were making breakfast, and the folk music on the radio station in the kitchen interfered sweetly with my parents’ voices.
Those were days of peace for me.
But my parents lived in the fear of the evil system and they tried to protect me for as long as they could.

I was young and I knew.

Life Among Saints -1-

In the Christian Orthodox calendar every day is designated to celebrate one or more saints. From that perspective, with so many people named after saints, I can say I live surrounded by saints.
Sometimes that can be scary.

I remember my Psychology teacher when I was a junior in high school. Her first name was Maria.
Tall, thin, with the jaw bone sticking out, she spread fear around her, and she liked it. Comrade Maria was the communist leader in the school. She had the last word in many decisions.
We lived in the same neighborhood. From the seventh floor where we had our condo, I could see her balcony across the market and her shade growing big when she was passing by the window. It was pretty sinister, even though I had just decided not to fear people anymore, but God.
It wasn’t a secret the day I became a Christian. I was in her class, and her job was to find out such things.

One day during the lunch break I wrote on the blackboard for my classmates when and at what time my baptism was going to be.

Comrade Maria called me in her office. I was shaking, but determined not to show it. By the time I knocked at her door, something happened and she had to leave in a hurry. “Come tomorrow and we’ll talk,” she said reaching for her purse.
I can’t describe the emotions I went through the whole night. My brain was alerted with scenarios about what comrade Maria could ask me and what should I answer. By the time I walked the hall to her office next morning, my entire body was exhausted.
I knocked at the door. Nobody was there. I waited. My first class had already started, but I had let my teacher know about my meeting. All sorts of terrible thoughts were crossing my mind while waiting. They could expel me or hand me over into the hands of the secret police, the militia.

The first period was half through when I got back in my classroom. The teacher stopped from speaking and looked at me with concern. “May I?” I barely could articulate those words. She nodded her head and continued to stare at me, a fly sentenced to death.

Comrade Maria came back to school a few days after our appointment and something weird happened. She never asked to talk to me again. She never threatened me, like she did with others.
A week or two after that, the principal informed me that I couldn’t go to college. I was perplexed. Then I understood why comrade Maria didn’t need to talk to me anymore.

After a number of years, the communists lost their power in that corner of the world.

Two years ago I saw teacher Maria with the corner of my eye, when I visited my country again. We passed by each other in the crowded street. My feet stopped in the middle of the avenue while I was looking back. Her loop of hair was sticking up over the crowd for a moment, then it faded away.

That saint had lost her shine.