Our Desire To Be Loved

I met Shosh in a foot medical centre. I had a problem with one of my foot nails and I was sent there for a couple of treatments. “You better ask for Shosh” they suggested.   I arrived with a book under my arm, my favourite weapon against queues, and Shosh – a pleasant woman who looks younger than her 60+ years – showed curiosity of a teenager and asked me to read something for her from the book while she treated me. This is how our relationship and trust had developed until one day she shared with me two crazy scenes from her childhood. Listen:

First Scene – I was raised in a small city in Israel as an only child to parents who immigrated to Israel from Yemen. It was quite unusual to be the only child to a Yemen family, but I guess   it was my mom’s choice since something in her relationship with my father didn’t work out. My parents were religious, my mother more than my father, but he still proudly grew his side-locks (‘peyes’ in Yiddish. The ultra-orthodox Jews grow long curly hair down both sides of their faces, near the ears). Unlike my mother, my father didn’t enforce the religion on me. It was rather important for him that I’d learn mathematics and languages rather than prayers. My relationship with my mom was quite cold. I didn’t like her coldness to my dad, I hated her Yemenite food and I hated our fights over eating.

I had many girl friends in our neighborhood, but the different appearance of my parents was their incentive to make fun of me. “Shosh the Peyes” they nicknamed me.  I’m then seven or eight years old, deeply hurt and insulted, feeling strange and different each and every time they called me “Shosh the Peyes”.

One afternoon I came back home and found my dad sleeping on his side. I don’t know where I found the courage, but with a kind of a crazy determination I took a pair of scissors, leaned quietly over him… and cut his visible ‘Peye’. I cut one and run to the neighbors.

At this point Shosh became silent and her eyes wet. “What is it?”  I asked.
“I ponder about what I was willing to do… to cut the ‘Peyes’ of my dad… just in order to gain some recognition and love from the other kids. It makes me feel sad.”

In the evening my neighbor took me back home. My mother opened the door, her eyes flashing in anger and the leather belt ready in her hands. I stood there so scared that I couldn’t control my muscles and peed in my pants. At that moment my father came out of the other room. He looked at the whole scene, noticed that I was scared and commanded my mom: “dare not touch her!”.  He sat me on his lap while my mother mumbled: “Don’t hug the criminal!”
He looked at me and asked: “Why?” In a stuttering voice I told him. Without taking his eyes off me he said: “You should have told me that my ‘peyes’ are the source of your suffering”
Then he stood- up, took the scissors… and at once… cut the second ‘peye’. I was overwhelmed… yet flooded with happiness.

And my mother…?  She looked at him incredulously and whispered: “With me, it is over!”

It took about a year before my mom left our house and after another year they divorced. For some long years our relationship had been lost and I lived with my dad. She didn’t relate to me as ‘binti’ (‘my daughter’ in Arabic) but as ‘binto’ (his daughter). I was punished to live for many many years with deep guilt feelings that I was the reason for their separation.

Second scene – My father and I moved to live with my grandma. He admitted me to a general school and not to an orthodox Jewish school, but we didn’t have money for books and notebooks. Despite the good relationship that I had with my dad he wasn’t a good role model and his interest in me and my growth was minimal. In school, in the fourth grade, I was a strange student – one book, one notebook, one pencil and crying out for attention. Yet, instead, I was reprimanded by the teacher for having no books.

One day one of my classmates was sick and our teacher suggested that we all pay her a visit. I remember it like it was today. We all were there, laughing and chatting. I was so jealous. How I longed for such attention…

It took me a few days to plan something. I pretended to be sick and stayed home.  A day passed; a week passed; a month passed…but nobody came to visit.  I was so deeply insulted that I decided to skip school until the summer vacation. Since still nothing happened I decided not to join school any more. I quit my studies.

End of story – I worked several odd jobs as a teenager and luckily I didn’t end up in low places.  I married when I was 16.5 (!!) years old and before my 21st birthday I had 2 children.  When my kids grew-up (I have now 3) and found out that there are basic things I didn’t know, it was the engine of shame then that pushed me back to school and only in my thirties I completed my matriculation exams and acquired my profession.                              

 

Shosh wrapped herself with silence and her eyes watered again. I had many questions to ask, but I just looked at her with admiration to her strength and kept silent… trying to digest. 
A wise man once said: “Under everyone’s hard shell there is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.” So don’t be stingy, say words of appreciation and love to other people… 

Fireworks (73)
Shuka, Thursday, January 27, 2011

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This one was worth the wait! Your posts are always better than the last. Thank you for continuing to do this!

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