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 – CXIII. Alexandria – My Maternal Family (4 of 5)

Aunt Linda

Aunt Linda must have cut a formidable figure for a young child. She was a big woman with a forceful personality. I remember my mother telling me many times that she had un coeur d’or (a golden heart). And so she did as I would later discover.

When we came to Alexandria, we stayed in her house on Rue Naga Hammadi. Since she was the person in authority, and I was a somewhat rebellious child, I did – when she no longer intimidated me – challenged her. She tolerated it until the day when I asked her to change the menu; she was getting repetitious. She told me in no uncertain terms that she didn’t need advice from a brat like me; indeed, if I didn’t like her food, I could eat at the restaurant. There was never again any friction between us after that!

Many years later, as she was getting ready to leave for Israel, I told her how delicious and varied her food was, and what an ingrate child I was. A much delayed apology which earned me a big hug.

Her husband, uncle Vita, was also in the schmati business. He was a born salesman who knew many languages and could sell the proverbial refrigerators to the Eskimos.

Vita and Linda were the Romeo and Juliet of our family. They exhibited a tender love towards each other. Linda would call Vita ya batti (my duckie), and he in turn would shower her with gifts.

During the summer, on top of all her work, Linda managed to prepare a variety of mezzes (appetizers) for her husband, children, and guests (us).

They had a large balcony which easily accommodated a table, a canape (a hard couch surrounded by cushions), and chairs.

In the evening, out came the ouzo and the mezzes. Uncle Vita sat on the canape, drank his ouzo, ate the mezzes, and related in his inimitable way his dealings with his customers. He also had an endless supply of jokes; as the evening progressed, and more ouzo was ingested, the stories became more and more risque. The anguished cries of “les enfants,” (the children) were ignored. The only children here were their son Michel, Robert, and myself. And we loved it, more so when Nisso was in Alexandria; the expressions these two exchanged would make a madame blush. Ultimately, the ouzo was blamed for all lapses in language. And speaking of languages, the tongues served here were an earthy Arabic, French, Ladino, Italian, and Greek; all of which were rich in swear words. When it came to Greek, Vita translated but left out the bad language, all of a sudden aware that there were children nearby.

If only you could witness one of those evenings, you would understand why the Jews were so joyous when they departed from Egypt 3,000 years ago; and why they were so sad when they were forced to leave in the mid-20th century.

Linda and Vita had five children. The oldest Ninette was known by her nickname of Nina (which is also a name in its own right); next came Joseph, then Gilbert, Victoire, and Michel. Michel automatically became Micho; however, for the purpose of this narrative, I will still call him Michel in order that he not be confused with the other Micho.

This Michael was 3 months older than me, and accordingly became a friend as well as being my cousin. We shared experiences, stories, and the occasional mischief. The most amusing incident was when Michel shared his knowledge about the birds and the bees. I didn’t believe a word of it, but Michel assured me that such and such couple were doing “it.” Nothing doing. Finally, he had to call the adults to the rescue. Only when my mother confirmed the whole thing, did I accept that these “strange” acts were indeed happening “out there.” As we shall see in the next section, in sexual matters, I was two steps behind my contemporaries.

Aunt Linda was one of the most organized person I have ever met. What the French call “Administrateurs Extraordinaires.” The kind of person that have the potential to run a big corporation and make the big bucks. Her family comprised 7 persons, during the summer, when we came, she catered to 10 people. On top of that, she occasionally entertained. And through it all, she managed to make it look easy. Truly a remarkable woman.

Uncle Vita was a somewhat lax dad. When he scolded his children, he put his hand on his mouth so that they couldn’t see him smile. Aunt Linda therefore had to be the drill sergeant. But don’t be fooled here. There were no “toughs” in this household. In matters of discipline, Vita and Linda followed a simple formula: Lots and lots of love and gentle persuasion. And their children became the kind of adults that I was always proud to call my cousins.

The impact of parents on their children is truly remarkable. Because Vita and Linda loved each other so much, each of their children can lay a claim on a touching love story.

Nina married Victor (AKA Toto) and both were tied by strong bonds throughout their lives.

Joseph married Rosette and they gave a new meaning to the term “a deep love.”

Gilbert married his sweetheart Esther (AKA Esty) and both are an example of the perfect couple; the kind you can use as a case history in a psychology textbook!

Victoire married the love of her life, Benjamin (AKA Benny). But there (for reasons I won’t get into) the sweet brew of love turned bitter.

Michel worked as a sailor. He was good-looking, the “knock ’em dead” type. In England, he met a tall and gorgeous girl, Carol; she fell in love with him and followed her heart which took her from England to Israel. Carol easily integrated in the clan, for, in addition to the Queen’s English, she, like her monarch, spoke a fluent French. Of course, in time, she added Hebrew.

After Egypt, all the family immigrated to Israel except for Victoire who went to France.

Aunt Linda and uncle Vita passed away sometimes in the early ’70s.

Sadly, Victoire died in her forties.

Nina who lived close to Haifa passed away in 2007 at the age of 84. By then she was a widow, having lost her beloved Toto a few years back. Nina kept in touch with us at all times. She gave us the latest news on the family. Because of that, Gilbert – in jest – called her, “Le Ministre des Affaires Etrangeres.” “Minister of Foreign Affairs.”

Gilbert and Esty spend their time travelling and spoiling their great-grandchildren (the way they did it with their now grown-up grandchildren).

Michel and Carol share their time getting acquainted with Europe and helping in the upbringing of their beloved grandchildren. Michel undertook and completed the enormous task of preparing a family tree; thanks to him we now have a ready reference when we need to verify facts (or relationships) related to our family.

Joseph – the only cousin that does not live in Haifa – resided in Holon (near Tel-Aviv). In 1996, he lost his beloved Rosette to cancer. In time, he met a Romanian dentist; and they both travelled extensively. She also eventually passed away.  Joseph eventually died in 2011 at the great age of 87.

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