Saturday, October 18, 2014


     On the other side of the table the phones were being pulled out and a lot of the technical jargon sounded in the men's excited voices. They looked, like they had a lot to discuss as well. I tried to translate, as much, as I could, of the pertinent news from Sofia, but the conversation with her seemed too deep to interrupt it.
     She had three sons. One died when he was six and a half years old. Even though we didn't talk about it, the third son is very sick. That's a lot of suffering in these parents' lives! She told me, how her remaining sons don't want to get married, and that breaks her heart.
     Time to time, Sofia would lean to her husband and whisper something to him in Hebrew. I asked, what was the matter. 
     - "Where is that food?" It takes so long!"
     - "Are you hungry?"
     - "No, we ate the whole chicken on the way to the hotel. I still am full from it!"
     Mr. Rosenthall, the waiter came and assured us that, our food is almost ready. 
     After a few minutes Sofia started to worry again:
     - "Go, tell them in English: the people are hungry!"
     Vova tried to calm her down: 
     - "They are just preparing it! It takes time!"
     - "How much time do you need to fry a steak?!" - Her voice rose at the end of each sentence. I suppressed the desire to smile. - "Two minutes - on one side, two minutes - on the other! Go, Dina, tell them in English: the people are hungry!"
     I heard that phrase from my mom enough times. For some reason, she thought that, men could get hungrier than women. I also knew: there is no use arguing with her, when she worried about feeding people.
     - "Mr. Rosenthall," - I said, walking up to the waiters' station.
    He took my hands in his own. I was a little put out by that, but continued to explain to him the concern at our table. He ran to the kitchen and came back with the same news: "Its almost ready!"    
     When Jewish people feel, like they are getting a preferential treatment from a member of their own race, they are willing to forgive a lot. For awhile, Sofia stopped glancing in the direction of the kitchen, pursing her lips and rolling her eyes in irritation. 
jpeg (259×194)    images (266×189) Our meals were great. Taka and I got lamb chops with balsamic reduction and tiny potatoes, Sonny and Vova ordered steaks. Since Vova refused to accept the potatoes with his meal, Mr. Rosenthall put a double portion of salad on his plate.
     Sofia liked her salad. Mr. Rosenthall created a                                                                           jpeg (344×147)
images (225×225)              special vinaigrette dressing for it, and she was happy. She also grabbed her husband's salad and distributed it among all of us, saying: "He doesn't want it anyway!"   
Auntie Rachel
     We continued to remember my mother and auntie. Unfortunately, those two didn't get along, and Sofia wanted me to tell her, why. I offered a suggestion that, it could've been because my mom was jealous of us paying affectionate attention to other people. It was true: she always got upset, when I found a friend among older women, and never failed to go check on my dad, when they studied English in school in New York. They were in different classrooms, and she'd go meet with him during the recess,
protecting "her own" from the covetous eyes of the other women. 
Dad's and his sister's love for each other ran deep, and mom could'n abide it.
     It seems, like I am putting my mother down. Its not so. She was, what she was, because of the painful memories of her father abandoning her in her childhood. She did her best and loved us the best way she knew how. 
     Back to the reunion.
     We sat in the restaurant for a few hours. Another party fizzled and left. Sonny sat with his cheek in his hand, eyes closed, and we knew that, he wasn't contemplating the world's problems! I gave Sofia my gifts, the perfume. She had the same idea and gave me perfume as well. I bought some gifts for my other cousin, Estella, and her husband and asked Sofia to convey them. She, for some reason, didn't look, like she wanted to talk about her sister, and I let it go.
     Time and again Sofia came back to one topic: 
     - "You are Jewish, which means that, your children are Jewish too. They have no business being in a "church"! You are a mother, you can influence them!"
     I tried to explain that, someone's faith is a question of their conscience and not to be dictated by a person's ethnicity. This was not something that she or Vova could agree on, though, and I resigned myself to nod and smile, when Sofia brought up the subject of the church.
We took pictures (I called on Mr. Rosenthall to help us). It was time to say goodbye, but we only just met! When will we be able to see each other again? 
     It was sad to say goodbyes. They took us to our car. We hugged, then they were gone. 
     Blood is thicker than water. I never met Sofia and Vova before, but now I miss them. I hope that, our reunion was as meaningful to them as it was to me.

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