We became inseparable, after six hours. I wanted to know everything about him as quickly as possible. I felt that we were absolutely meant to be together but I knew nothing about him.
“Tell me about your parents” I asked. “How come your aunt is religious and yet your mother lives in the middle of the country married to your father who is not even Jewish”.
He smiled at me. Well it is a very long story. My grandfather, Beate’s father was Austrian and a doctor”.
“My mother was originally Austrian” I told him. “They came to Israel just before the second world war and her father was also a doctor. What a coincidence”.
“Well my grandfather didn’t want to leave Austria and like thousands of others, he thought that all the anti-semitism would just die out. He left it so long to leave that they didn’t think they could get out. The one hope was to get the children out. He arranged for his old friend from medical school to sponsor the children. That was Beate who was about eight, Hans who was about six and my mother who was four. Anyway, his friend and his wife had two sons and took the three kids. My grandfather thought they would get out eventually and join them.
Well of course neither of them got out at all and after the war the Red Cross told them that they had died. My father’s friend brought up those three children as his own and educated them how each individual child needed to be educated. He sent Beate to secretarial school, Hans to Yeshiva (he was into religion) and my mother, well that is a whole different story.
My mother was only little when she came to England. She thought of her new mother as her only mother. She didn’t have much experience of Judaism and when it was introduced to her, she just couldn’t relate to it.
She aspired to be a country housewife like her new mother and achieved it. I told you the new family had two sons, well the eldest was ten years older than my mother. He always thought of her as a baby until one day, he came home from travelling Europe one summer and saw that my mother had grown up. He broke off his engagement and they married”.
“So,” I repeated “your mother married the elder of her two new brothers?” He nodded “that is actually so romantic. Were they happy together?”
“They are a very loving couple, a little too loving at times” he said. “How can they be too loving?” I asked “you will see” he replied.
I was happy. “You will see” means he is going to introduce me to his parents.
“What about your parents?” he asked.
“Well, as I said my mother was born in Vienna and her parents escaped to Israel. My grandma thought that she was the elite living in Israel, well still does as a matter of fact. They are a very arrogant family. They managed to get loads of money out of Austria (who knows how) and bought a nice house which she still lives in. Prime Tel-Aviv real estate. When she finally moves out or dies, they will be offered millions and a huge hotel will go in its place.
Anyway, after the war, one day my mother was looking out of her bedroom window and she saw a boy/man, whatever, fixing a motor bike. She thought he was very good looking, dark, very Sabra looking. He looked up and smiled at her and then he drove off.
She made it her life’s work to find him. My grandmother hated him. My father is Greek. He is from Salonika in Greece and when the Nazis came they hid out in the mountains for years. My grandma didn’t think he was good enough for my mother and still doesn’t as a matter of fact.
My mother’s family were academics. He was a mechanic and a builder now. Well, he owns a building company. Even though they have made a nice life for themselves, it is not good enough for my grandma. She hates him.”
“It is that Austrian arrogance. My mother lost that when she came here but Beate has it of course. Are you scared about us?” He asked as he changed the subject.
“Yes” I said bluntly “I am. I am scared about getting hurt. I am scared about hurting you. I am scared about taking this too quickly although that is the only way for me to go here. I’m sorry”.
Before I could answer my mobile rang. I could tell by the ring, it was my mother. “My mother” I announced “I will take this and for you to listen I will speak in English and not Ivrit”. “You don’t have to” he said but I did anyway.
“Hello mother” I said
“in English, where are you? Why are you talking in English”.
“Because I always think it is very RUDE to talk in another language in mixed company”.
“Where are you?
“I am with Dan actually” I answered.
“Really, this early. Did you stay the night?”
“Yes I did stay the night?”
There was a very long pause.
“Oh. Why didn’t you come home?”
“I didn’t want to come home. I was having a nice time here”.
“Um, did you happen to notice that well ....”
“Notice what mummy?”
I held my hand over the phone “I think she is going to ask me if I noticed that you use a wheelchair I’m not sure”.
“I think you may have noticed that” said Dan, “you may be a little short sighted but there is a possibility that you might of tripped over it”.
“Well Beate told me that he can’t walk. She said that sometimes he walks with crutches? Is this true”.
“Hold on mum” I answered deliberately repeating back the last bit so that Dan could hear what she just said “Did you say that this Beate said that sometimes Daniel walks with crutches, implying that sometimes he doesn’t need to”.
“Yes??” she said “so what. He was in an accident a while ago and sometimes I suppose his legs get tired”. This last bit Dan actually heard. “So” I thought “my mother didn’t know either after all” but then of course that meant that my mother was not going to be too thrilled with the situation, I was certainly sure about that.
“no mum” I said quietly. “That is not exactly how it is. Whether Dan uses crutches or not I haven’t seen as yet but the rest of the time he uses a wheelchair.” Dan and I looked at each other and waited for her reaction.
“Do you realise?” he whispered, “this is your first time about explaining about me to people. This will happen a lot”.
“I don’t care” I replied “I think you are going to be worth it”.
“Oh “ said my mother. “I didn’t realise. Well ...” I think she was speechless. “Did you like him anyway?”
“Yes” I smiled “I really like him, really, really like him”.