I suddenly find myself in the recently built block of flats: the Hanei-Moglu buildings. My only memory of our stay on the ground floor is a mild earthquake nevertheless strong enough to send us all rushing to the balcony at the back of the house. It is when we moved to the third storey that the memories come flooding in. My mother’s sister and family come to live opposite our flat.
…. MY OWN ROOM …I do not remember my two brothers in Hanei-Moglu. Away in France preparing for the Grandes Ecoles?
My dream – a balcony around the whole flat with a view to the sea in the distance. On the other side, the main street with other houses and the grocer. My aunt on the ground floor orders her food needs from her balcony. A Bougainvillea flower climbs on the wall of the next door house.
Visit to the Sook (Market) with mother: I’ve never been in this space before. A wonderful variety of people dressed in amazing different coloured outfits. I choose a dull green material to fit my room from the curtains to the bed covers and chair. Mum is not too happy but I insist that it is My Room . I have a record player next to the bed. Where did it come from? My first disc : Paul Robeson.
GrandMother has her own room where she is served her meals by the maid. (Father cannot tolerate the noise of her false teeth at the table). She spends her days at the window observing people coming and going. She never fails to run after us with jackets when we prepare to go out. She gets to recognise the friends who come to pick me up for outings. When we have visitors, she rushes on her flat shoes to offer some sweets to the guests.
How old was I? (Some of my memories do come up but I cannot place them in time.
Youngest Brother’s Barmitzvah
A Bar or Bat Mitzvah is a coming of age ceremony for Jewish boys when they reach the age of 13. Nowadays it involves young girls as well but not then. I soon get tired of the felicitations to members of the family, the Hebrew readings and prayers but worst of all the complete blindness to my presence. The ceremony takes place in the big dining room. I disappear to my room where I discover a mountain of presents. I grab a black box and turn its wheel … It is camera… All I can remember is that the family were upset by the loss of a film but I was not admonished in any way…
The School: how old was I when I became the best sprinter of my class. I boasted when I ran faster than the older sister of a friend of mine. I remember how the gym teacher told me laughingly. “Don’t get too proud, you will soon have your periods and you will get slower”.
During a break in the garden a tall student tells me of the NAKBA. It goes unregistered until years and years later in London.
Visit of the school head: Why did he visit? The two older brothers were already signed in to the Grandes Ecoles. A vague discussion about the daughter not ‘as bright as the boys’ : Maybe a school of Pharmacy? I listened from behind the door. Was it traumatising? My father did not say anything but it became clear that I was not going to be sent to France like my brothers.
Did I decide at that point that I would do what I want and decided to ignore the Geography and History subjects? My reasons to family and teachers were: They mean nothing to me as they are the Geography and History of France. I have nothing to do with France…
AT THIS POINT I HAVE NO RECOLLECTION OF THE EVENTS AROUND THE TRANSFER TO THE HIGHER CLASSES IN THE MIXED SCHOOL.
(of course I could easily check my recollections with my brothers or cousins, but I have decided not to pretend objectivity.}