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 – Canada – CCCXXX. Difficult Beginnings (13 of 15)

There was no lack of rooms available for rent; but I needed a room that met my requirements.  For three days I perused the “Montreal Star” classified ads; eventually, I came across an ad that indicated that the landlady was an elderly widow, that her apartment was situated on St. Kevin, and that the monthly rent was $50.00.  If she was an elderly widow, then she probably lived alone, therefore, this was a quiet house; St. Kevin was a nice street that crossed both Victoria Avenue and Côte des Neiges, even more important, it was a short bus ride from the bus terminal on Dorchester; finally, the rent was reasonable.

And so I called and indicated that I was interested in the room.  Before I could inquire, she started questioning me!  And she had many questions; when she was finished, she had in effect answered most of my own queries!  Next I tried to make an appointment to go and see the room.  There was a moment of hesitation before I was finally invited to come.

She lived in a one bedroom apartment, and she occupied the only bedroom; in effect she didn’t have a room to rent; what she was offering instead was space in her living room, and a chesterfield to sleep on!  That was fine by me; I paid her the first month rent and moved in a day later.

And this is how Mrs. Teicher entered my life and stayed there for a year and half.

A few days later, her son came ostensibly to visit her.  Of course, he was checking the new boarder.  After talking with me, he seemed reassured.

My life with Mrs. T. proved very interesting.  She was a wise lady and I learned a lot from her.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that she lived on the edge of poverty.  What was her source(s) of income, I do not know, what I do know was that she lived very frugally.  She didn’t spend a dollar unless it was absolutely necessary.  That being the case, I tried to help out, in a discreet manner, of course.

When I cooked, I asked her to share my meal using the pretext that I prepared too much.  She wasn’t fooled, of course, but my invitation was a sincere one, and she therefore didn’t hesitate to partake of my meal.

As it happened, she liked my Egyptian cooking, and discreetly inquired when I would be cooking again such and such dish.  I did my best to accommodate her.  There were exceptions; for example she found that tehina had a funny texture which for her was a turn-off.  Of course tehina and hummus are ubiquitous today, but back then, Canadians had never heard of those dips.

I used the excuse that I couldn’t finish a block of cheese, or that the eggs were going to go bad if they were not used soon.  When it came to sugar, spices, and tea, she officially used my supply.

If only I could turn the hands of the clock back, and find myself sitting at the dinner table talking with Mrs. Teicher.

Her husband had died many years ago and she never got over that loss.  She told me about their life together, and how hard it had been.  But they loved each other so much; they overcame all the vicissitudes and heartbreaks that came their way.  I could share a lot more of what she related to me, but it would be futile, couples tied together by such strong bonds are now extinct.

Back when I was living with Foufou on Côte des Neiges, I had bought, on the instalment plan, a small 7 inch black and white TV.  That TV was now in the living room, and Mrs. T. was urged to come and watch with me.  She liked wrestling, and wondered if I didn’t mind putting wrestling fights on!  I care very little for such matches, but I was certainly not going to deprive her of her favorite program.

On Sunday nights one program superseded all others:  The Ed Sullivan show; and she referred to it as the Ed Solomon show!  (Thus an Irish Catholic acquired a Jewish name; but not to worry for there was a Jewish connection here; Mrs. Sullivan was Jewish!).  Nothing short of an earthquake would have moved Mrs. T. away from the TV when that show was on; needless to say the telephone was blithely ignored if it rang.

We didn’t just engage in idle chat; she sought my opinion if she faced a dilemma.  A typical example was when her landlord approached her and proposed to her to paint her house if she would be willing to accept a small rent increase.  Now, Mrs. T. lived in an apartment that came under an old regime of rent control; there weren’t too many apartments still subject to that law; but she had been there for many years, and the landlord could only increase her rent by insignificant amounts; a more substantial increase could happen with her approval only.  Thus painting the house was his way to secure a more reasonable rent for her unit.  She asked me what she should do; without any hesitation I urged her to accept the rent increase and enjoy a freshly painted house; she needed to be fair to that man, and to also maintain harmonious relations with him.  As it turned out, she had asked her son and he had expressed the exact same view.  (After she leaves, the landlord can again rent her house at market price; but Mrs. T. had no intention of moving; hence the mention of fairness).

One day, out of the blue, Mrs. T. mentioned that I had rented a lucky (or perhaps unlucky depending upon one’s views) room.  Why?  The person before me got married a year after he rented the room.  Perhaps that would also be my destiny.

Unbeknown to her, there was indeed something on the back burner!

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