Thursday, April 30, 2009

The All Pear, Part 2

If you need to refresh your memory since it's been so long since my slack ass wrote anything meaningful, here is Part 1.

My parents decided to drop me off with Nadia at her parents' house which was way out in the middle of a mountainous snowy nowhere in Quebec. They would leave me there for a couple days while they went off and shopped and had some much needed time to themselves. Nadia thought it was a great idea because I would really be immersed in the French language there and because she had a younger sister who was fifteen. Only Nadia spoke English. All of them were Muslim.

Back then I had no earlthy clue was a Muslim was. None. My father was the first Jewish person to ever set foot in Millpond and the only foreigners we ever saw were Mexican migrant workers and we only saw them from a great distance picking crops. They even lived in special camps. Everyone in Millpond was Christian. Period. I had never heard of a Muslim. I had heard of Arabs. They wore those long white sheets on their heads. They rode on camels, but that was the extent of my knowledge. A few years before there had been hostages in Iran. Everyone in Millpond called the Iranians Arabs too. I figured Nadia's family would look exactly like the Saudis I had seen on the nightly news and imagining one of them hopping around in five foot deep snow banks, with the dream of opening a ski resort of all things, was really rather funny, even for a twelve year old. I wondered if they had a camel and if it liked the snow.

"Do I have to wear that on my head too?" I asked Nadia.

"Mais non cherie, you're too young."

I was relieved.

Nadia's family lived in a run down chalet at the base of what had once been a ski slope. They had recently purchased a resort that hadn't been in use for at least twenty years and they were trying to get it back up and running. I have often wondered if they ever reached their goal.

To my great surprise, Nadia's family looked fairly normal, disappointingly normal really and there was no camel. Her mother and sister looked much like Nadia. They were all short and rosy with curly black hair under their scarves. Nadia's father was tall and thin and dressed pretty much like my dad. I had my own room in their chalet and Nadia's sister Ghislaine instantly brought me a pile of Garfield books in French which I thought was just about the most hysterical thing I had ever seen. A cat speaking French??? Je deteste lundi. Garfield spoke French? I looked at these books in disbelief for hours. How could it be possible that Garfield spoke French? It couldn't be.

I liked being with Nadia's family. They hugged and kissed me and their chalet smelled like spices. Nadia's mother made couscous for dinner and what I loved most was that Nadia's mother baked her own bread, which you may recall, was a longtime fantasy of mine. I must have eaten thirteen of the round, coarse brown loaves she kneaded by hand during my stay. I just couldn't get over how lucky I was to travel to foreign countries, stay with people who didn't speak a speck of English who made their own bread. On top of that, Nadia's mother introduced me to two things that remain a large and important part of my life today: honey and peppermint tea. I never had honey on bread before, but Nadia's mother poured it onto my place and told me to put it on the bread. A whole new world opened up. After dinner, we all had peppermint tea in glasses, not tea cups, and it was like drinking a hot, melted candy cane. To this day I am fanatical about both mint tea and honey and sometimes I even combine them.

I'll tell you, I didn't want to leave. But while I was there, one night after I had gone to bed I heard Nadia arguing with her family and I heard two words that I recognized. Green card and Norman Horowitz, but we'll get to that in a minute. From what I observed, Nadia's family was religious. They had special prayers that frightened me a little and a different Bible. Looking back on this experience the funniest thing stands out to me. At this point in my life I was just being introduced to the Judaism of my new father's family. It was equally as foreign and strange to me as Nadia's family's Islam. To me, who had fresh eyes for both traditions, there seemed virtually no difference whatsoever in the two religions. They did almost the exact the same things. The Orthodox Jewish women wore head coverings too. The prayers were even similar. They both loved peppermint tea for goodness sakes. (Although when this story took place I had not yet had the peppermint tea at my new grandparents' house. That was coming soon and is its own story.)

But maybe that is beside the point. The point was that Nadia was arguing with her family. I had an idea of why that might be. For one thing, Nadia has no interest in being religious at all. She liked the Pet Shop Boys and American pop culture. When my parents gave her weekend nights off she'd go into the city and party with a group of young artists my parents had introduced her too. Nadia had also recently managed to get a boyfriend and his name was Norman Horowitz. I really did not like Norman Horowitz, so I was thrilled to hear that apparently Nadia's parents were even less thrilled with the idea than I was. That night as I lie in bed in the chalet listening to them arguing in French, I thought maybe I wouldn't have to plot Norman Horowitz's murder after all. Maybe her parents could talk some sense into her.

Norman was a nebbish. I had learned this word from Francine, the girl down the street who wore the scoliosis brace and was obsessed with her upcoming Bat Mitzvah and when I saw Norman, I realized exactly what it meant. I don't know where on earth Nadia met Norman or why she was attracted to him, but they had been dating only a short while when we went to Quebec. Things were already getting serious though. He came over several nights a week to watch TV with us and Nadia went out on dates with him on her nights off. He was tall, skinny and red headed. He had no visible eyebrows or eyelashes and he always looked kind of sucked in and seasick. His eyes were so pale that they were more white than blue. Norman was an accountant. He was extremely Jewish and when he spoke he sounded exactly like Woody Allen except whinier. A germaphobe, Norman wouldn't touch anything (except Nadia) and every time I had been around him he had mentioned at least twice that he felt like he was coming down with something. The strangest thing was, Nadia was terribly smitten with him and he with her. They giggled and blushed like idiots around one another.

When we got back from our winter vacation in Quebec, it just got worse. Norman started coming over every single night. Nadia spent all of her time off with him. One night when I had gone to bed, I snuck out of my room and caught them going at it on the couch in the den (we didn't have furniture in the living room, but we had a small TV room with a couch and that's where they were.) I was traumatized. Pretty soon they began talking about marriage and I was deeply alarmed. I wished Norman Horowitz would die because I knew what was going to happen. He was going to take away my beautiful All Pear and marry her and I would never see her again. We would never sing "Rock Me Amadeus" again. I would never get to go to Quebec again. I wouldn't have anyone to speak French to. My life may as well have just ended as far as I was concerned.

If this were a made up story, something exciting and unexpected would have happened. Maybe Nadia would have realized that Norman was a nebbish. My mother often said she thought Nadia was after him so she could get a green card. I will never know. If I were making this all up, perhaps twelve year old me would have had a revelation that when you love someone you have to set them free and all that nonsense. None of this happened. In real life Norman and Nadia got engaged before the daffodils finished blooming. They had barely dated two months. In real life I was pissed because I knew exactly what was going to happen and it did. Norman didn't want Nadia to be an All Pear anymore. He wanted her to move in with him, so regretfully she gave her notice to my parents and started packing her things. He even wanted her to convert to Judaism and she started classes at a local temple. I always wondered what her parents thought about that.

And just like that she was gone and I was alone again, singing "Touch me, believe me, the sun always shines on TV, hold me, close to your heart, touch me, and give all your love to me."


MtnMama said...

Ah, man! Nadia sold out!

I also discovered peppermint tea about that age; still drink it all time.

Love your description of Norman!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you were in the Laurentians outside of Montreal. Magical place no matter what time of year.

Poor Nadia... wonder what became of her?


Dayna said...

Did you ever see them again?
I wonder if they married and lived happily ever after or if she was really using him and he soon realized it.

Shannon Culver said...

What ever happened to the two of them? It sounds destined to fail, but who knows? Sometimes love does conquer all.

nandy said...

If you know what happened to them, this story deserves a Part 3 (or at least Part 2-1/2).

Jennie said...

Great story!

Anonymous said...

Hey Maureen, my family comes from the same region - go St Sauveur! -

Reading your story brought back great memories of March Break vacation spent skiing with my family! Nothing beats a chalet on a ski hill.

Have fun in LA!

Sam said...

Sometimes I find it hard to believe that you are an English graduate student. Your use of commas (or lack thereof), use of I and me, and the use of "too" in this story make it hard to believe that English is your specialty. I know that they are little mistakes, but they are mistakes that any grad student would (should) be able to catch.

(This isn't to say I don't enjoy your stories, but sometimes it makes me wonder)

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