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 – CCCXXXVI. Wedding Bells (4 of 8)

Because of the distance, our courtship was carried out through correspondence, talking over the phone, and meeting on weekends.

We exchanged letters at the rate of about one a week.  I remember coming from work and going straight to the pile of mail on my desk; Norma used pink stationery, therefore, it was easy to spot her letter in the pile.  If there was a letter from her, I would open it carefully, almost religiously, and even before taking off my coat, I would sit and read it at least two times; only then would I undress and get into more comfortable clothes.  While eating my supper, I would take the letter with me and read it over and over again.  At the beginning we exchanged details about our daily life, but as love began to grow in our hearts, we exchanged words of love, tender and beautiful.

When the yearning for Norma would be too much to bear, I would call her despite the fact that long distance calls were expensive in those days.  I can still remember her sexy voice calling my name breathlessly.  We would talk and talk, exchanging news and reaffirming our love, until one of us would remember that this was a long distance call and we would then very reluctantly terminate our call.

Whenever I could take time off work, I traveled to see her.  The second time I went to New York, I was unlucky.  My arrival coincided with a 24 hour subway strike and we never managed to meet.  All we could do was to chat endlessly over the phone.

For our third date we went to a movie and then to a coffee house where we ordered cheesecake and coffee.  I don`t think any of us made a dent in our cheesecake.  We were still very nervous with each other.  When we parted at the door we exchanged a tender kiss and she wished me a safe trip home.

On the way back I mistakenly took the milk run, and the ride was interminable.  But I didn`t mind for it gave me time to think about the wonderful new person who was entering my life.

Subsequent dates were eagerly anticipated and thoroughly enjoyed.  Norma showed me around New York, and there was so much to see.  Our favorite place was the Metropolitan Museum for we both enjoyed art very much.  We were eventually able to go to restaurants together without our uneasiness getting in the way of our youthful appetites.  When I came back to Montreal, I was in a daze for a few days afterwards.  I was so happy I wanted to shout my joy from the rooftops.

This was not a one-way street; Norma came to Montreal a few times, and it was my turn to show her around.

When I went to New York, I stayed in a hotel, but when she came to Montreal she stayed with Robert and Margot.  They were both impressed by her; in turn, she loved their Egyptian hospitality.

She also came once with Clara, and on another occasion both parents were with her.  This gave them a chance to meet my brother and his wife.

At this stage of the game, I needed the opinion of older and wiser adults; my parents being still in Israel (they would only meet her about a month before the wedding), I took her to the only relatives I had in New York, the aforementioned aunt Esther and uncle Joseph.

Both of them managed to make a very nervous Norma feel at ease.  In no time at all, she was chatting and joking with them as if she had known them all her life.  We spend a very pleasant evening and I could see that they were impressed by her.  I later called from Montreal and they encouraged me to get serious in my relationship.  Before that was to happen, I apparently needed to meet an aunt and uncle that lived in the Bronx.  I turn I wanted her to get acquainted with other Egyptians in their “natural” milieu!

Little did I know when I met for the first time aunt Paula (Clara’s older sister) and her husband uncle Eddie, that they would be part of my life for some 40 years!  Eddie died in his mid-90s, whereas Paula died at a 101!  But, in 1966, they were a vigorous and strong-minded couple, with a definitive opinion on almost any topic!  They left no stone unturned; they questioned me in depth; they simply put Clara and Hugo to shame.  At the end they declared that they liked me, and would receive me with open arms in the family (yes, these two expressed their opinion loud and clear).  Their vote of confidence though came with many “thou shall …” and “thou shall not …”

To this day, aunt Paula and uncle Eddie hold a very special place in my heart.

Norma also had to pass her own test, and as we shall see, she did so with flying colors.

I had asked Adrienne to invite Norma to an Egyptian gathering where the congregation would act, well, like Egyptians.  She went overboard and invited many friends and relatives on Victor’s side (she herself had few relatives in Montreal).

When Norma walked in the house, she was greeted by a scene to which few bona fide Jewish American girls are ever exposed to.

I was rolling the dices here.  But after the initial shock, she loved it; for she had never been amidst such a crowd.  Everybody was talking together, and they were laughing at the least provocation.  The din was incredible; exchanges were made in English, French, Arabic, and a smattering of Italian.  She was hugged and kissed by everybody as if they had known from childhood.  Food and drinks (mostly non-alcoholic) were circulating continuously.  She was questioned mercilessly, and she was encouraged to do the same.  The young crowd (Adrienne and Victor’s children, and Victor’s nieces and nephews) soon monopolized her.  They fell for her and the feeling was mutual.

During our married life, there would be many occasions for her to be part of an Egyptian crowd, and she always thoroughly enjoyed it; but that evening at Adrienne’s home stands alone; she still talks about it.

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