Maybe it’s something to do with growing older, but it’s amazing how a few words, a casual incident, an unexpected phone call, can trigger memories that take us back decades, sometimes across oceans, to a life we have almost forgotten.
My parents both passed away a very long time ago and yet I often find myself quoting maxims or proverbs they once used to educate me. One of Dad’s favorite sayings was: “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” He was a model of tidiness, and I can’t ever recall him mislaying even trivial objects. My mother had the sweetest nature, and often trotted out the cliché: “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” When she died at 88, she had friends from every walk of life and in every age group, who loved her sense of fun, her kindness and her caring for others. Another truism she taught me was: “People may forget your words, but they will never forget the way you made them feel!”
Back in 1971, when we first came to live in Israel, we were sent to an Absorption Center (Mercaz Klita) in Upper Nazareth. The best friends we made there were a couple from South Africa named Edna and Bert (we were from Australia). Sadly, Bert passed away and because we settled in Jerusalem and they went to Haifa, the connection gradually weakened. But a year ago I called Edna to tell her I was writing a new novel based in the Absorption Center where we had studied Hebrew together 40 years ago.
As we talked on the phone, powerful images came back to me of how it felt to move to a new country, leaving behind beloved family and friends, your culture, your language. In my mind’s eye, I saw again the bare mountains outside our window, ;with a lone Beduin shepherd leading his flock of black goats. I heard the Winter wind screeching at night; the church bells ringing and the muezzin calling from the Arab city of Nazareth below. I also experienced again the warmth that came from finding a friend in this new country where everyone was a stranger and the future a big question mark.
All of these feelings I was able to write more vividly in my novel “In a Good Pasture”, which tells the story of 7 new immigrants trying to come to terms with their Judaism and their Zionism. Just a short phone call brought them all rushing back.
I remember reading Daphne du Maurier’s novel “Rebecca” when I was young. I have never forgotten her words: “How wonderful it would be if we could bottle memories like perfume; and whenever we wished, we could just remove the cork and live them all over again.” Well, I think we can. We just need to close our eyes, relax and let the memories we want to hold on to come flooding in. If pain comes with them, because of loved ones we have lost, remember the words: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
Dvora Waysman is the author of 13 books, including “The Pomegranate Pendant” (now a movie and which recently won the Shabazi Prize for Literature), “Seeds of the Pomegranate”; “Woman of Jerusalem” ; “Esther – a Jerusalem Love Story” and her novel “In a Good Pasture” Contact her if you are interested in any of her books.