Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – V. My Early Childhood – Heliopolis (2 of 2)

Until the age of 4, I was a holy terror.  What saved my parents’ sanity, was the help extended by my grandmother, aunt, or the maid.  As well, the neighbors would volunteer to take me off their hands.  Next door to us, lived an Armenian couple who had no children of their own; they apparently adored me and kept me in their home for hours.  I am told that I spoke Armenian before I spoke my own native languages!

This episode I partly remember even though I was only 3.  I see myself opening the china cabinet and quietly taking the china and dropping it on the floor.  What joy to see the china shatter into small pieces!  I managed to break quite a lot before my parents came to stop the carnage.

I remember a sad incident.  We had a canary named Nelson (after Nelson Eddy).  One day while my father was cleaning the cage, he forgot for a moment to close the door.  Nelson flew out of the cage, and out of the balcony door which was also open.  He landed downstairs in the garden where a cat promptly pounced on him and killed him.

For days I was inconsolable.  I couldn’t believe that the happy little fellow who sang his heart out was no more.  This probably was the first time I experienced deep emotional pain.

Already at the age of 3, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up and whom I would marry!  I wanted to be a trolley car conductor, for it would mean that all day long I would give tickets and blow on a whistle.

One floor below us, there lived a young couple with a daughter my own age.  Her name was Juliette and her nickname was Yetta.  When I played with Yetta, I would sometimes misbehave and pull her hair.  When she cried, I would feel guilty, and would promise to marry her when I grew up.

Early on, I suffered from rickets.  Plenty of milk and cod liver oil was prescribed.  For a time, the doctor ordered my parents to give me jennet’s (female donkey) milk!

Ultimately, the impact was minimal; I walk like Charlie Chaplin!  I also presently suffer from osteoporosis; this illness, however, is hereditary (more than one member of the family had it).  I doubt it’s connected to my early brush with rickets.

When I was 3 (apparently, this was a pivotal age!), an experiment was tried.  There were a few cases of whopping cough in the area and one in the building.  As it happened, my grandmother was planning to go back to Alexandria.  The adults in my life hatched a daring plan.  What if Bida took me to Alexandria to escape the whopping cough and the punishing heat of Cairo?  It would also give Nessim and Flora a period of blissful peace.  Of course, if I missed my parents, somebody would have to bring me back.  Miss my parents?  Not a chance.  I stayed in Alexandria for 3 solid months!  I swam in the sea, played with my cousins, and got to know the Alexandria clan.  On occasions, my parents came to see me, but apparently, I never asked to go back with them.  I was having too much fun; even at that tender age, I knew on what side my bread was buttered!

A child knows who his parents are.  He also instinctively knows that they are the most important people in his life.  I was so happy in Alexandria, they expected me to raise Cain when the time came to go back.  Their fear was unfounded.  Apparently, I was happy to go back home.

Over time, through questioning my parents and other relatives, I was able to reconstruct my early childhood in Heliopolis and on Rue (street) Tour Sina.  There are, however, early childhood episodes that remain etched in my memory.  For example breaking the china and the unfortunate demise of Nelson.  My 3 months in Alexandria are totally forgotten except for one incident.

We had been invited to spend a day at the beach in a relative’s cabin.  I remember a lot of hubbub.  I was no doubt subjected to the “he is so cute” routine.  Eventually the adults started doing their own things and I went to play by the sea edge.  A little doggie joined me and played for a while.  At a certain point, he left and came back with something in his mouth.  I tried to pry it, but he nipped me and then left for good.  I washed the wound in the water and the incident ended there – or so I thought.

I never cared for dogs; indeed fear of dogs is one of my major phobias.  Is this due to what happened on that day?  Perhaps.  I will never know for sure.

Before I move on to Rue Tour Sina, I would like to talk about what I call “The Clan Effect.”

I wrote a comprehensive article called “Child-Rearing – An Ancient Formula.”  The article addresses the problems of parents having to raise their children without the assistance of relatives, friends, and neighbors.

We are primates.  We are social animals.  We need to feel that we are part of a clan or a large group of people.  The way we raise our children in a small cell – mom, dad, and the kid sister – goes against the dictates of our species.  We ultimately survive for we are very resilient.  But it is unhealthy.  Witness the numerous adolescents who are confused about life’s values, take drugs to forget their misery, and engage in sex at an absurdly young age.

I was blessed to have been born in Egypt, and to have been brought up in the ’30s and ’40s.  I was able to fully benefit from the clan effect and to grow up in a way befitting a human child.

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