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 – XLVIII. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – My Paternal Family (1 of 9)

Countless times this exchange took place in our home: “Je vais chez la nonna Helene” (I am going to nonna Helene). My mother’s response was almost always the same, “Bon.” (Fine). Sometimes she would add, “Prend Robert avec toi.” (Take Robert with you). Often, she took the initiative: “Vas visiter la nonna Helene.” (Go visit nonna Helene). Either way, she was given a break.

My grandmother lived in an apartment on Rue Tour Sina; her house was a carbon copy of the apartment we had rented during the war. It was huge. Many of our toys and some books were left there. The house was so big, there was enough room for me to race with my scooter from one end of the house to the other. Ditto for the tricycle. Another attraction was the expansive balcony overlooking a large garden. Since my grandmother lived on the ground floor, it felt as if I was actually in the garden. But it didn’t end there. There was a rocking chair in the balcony; when I was tired of playing, I just sat on this chair and read.

When Robert came with me, a hilarious scene took place; the moment the door opened, we raced through the house to get to the chair first. Only after one of us had won the race did we bother saying, “Hi, how are you?” It was rude, but not totally unexpected from 5- and 10-year-olds!

The chair was the property of Fola; in turn, it had belonged to her dad. She stored it by her in-laws since we had no room in the Ghamra apartment.

There were other attractions. Next door, my grandmother had colorful neighbors. They had moved in after we had moved to Sakakini. Nobody in this house spoke any French, just a nice earthy Arabic peppered with swear words. When I was there, Helene winced when certain words were uttered. But this lady never took the hint, and, as a result, I found myself “enriching” my Arabic vocabulary.

This family had a son, Jacques, who was a year older than me. I don’t remember ever playing with him, but we chatted by the hours. I found his Arabic totally fascinating.

This family may have been of a different class, but they were goodhearted people. As well, they made sure that their children got the best education possible. Jacques eventually went to medical school and (I assume) completed his studies and became a doctor.

I often had lunch and/or supper by my grandparents.  Their fare was somewhat different from ours, and I loved it. At a young age, I often slept there, less so when I grew up (because of school).

When I was there for an extended period of time, I always asked them (nonna and aunt Angele) to show me the content of the big steamer trunk they had. The expression “To open a Pandora Box,” invariably summons the image of that trunk.

It was a carefully choreographed ceremony. Angele carefully took each object and told me the story behind it. When she made an error, Helene, from a distance, corrected her. Of course, I had gone through the process many times; the trunk held no surprises for me. As for the stories, I could have recited them in my sleep! Nevertheless, this remained for me, for many years, an utterly captivating show. More so, since the stories took many twists and turns as time went by. The principle of poetic license was freely used here!

Today, unfortunately, after all these years, I neither remember the objects, nor the stories behind them.

When my parents wanted to go out, and nonna Bida was no longer in Cairo, nonna Helene babysat us (Robert and I). On such occasions, without fail, I asked dad for money to buy falafel. Very special falafel. Around 6:00 PM, we listened carefully until we heard the special cry of the falafel man. It sounded like the hoot of an owl! When he went by our house, we called him, and purchased large cones full of his falafel. The falafel were stone cold! That was part of their charm! We always turned down the offer of reheating them. No language has the words to describe their taste. Robert and I carefully ate them one at a time; without bread, of course. It would have been unthinkable to eat anything else with that.

No one has ever been able to figure out the recipe. It was a closely guarded secret. What was not a secret was what the merchant said to hawk his falafel. When you asked him, he hooted again like an owl! Therefore, despite the removal of that particular confidentiality aspect, this man took two secrets to his grave: His falafel recipe and the slogan he used to market them!

I will now take you to meet the members of the Ezri Clan. Later on, when I talk of Alexandria, I will do the same for my maternal family.

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