First, sorry so few posts this week so far. We were in Tel Aviv staying in "Hotel Shnitzel," otherwise known as my husband's grandparents' apartment. And it occurs to me that having Polish grandparents (or Iraqi grandparents, or Yeminite grandparents, or whatever) is a very Israeli characteristic. Before I met my husband's grandparents for the first time, he told me that they are "very Polish," and I wasn't sure what he meant. Israelis, on the other hand, know the stereotype of an "ima Polanit" very well, so they would have been prepared for the following representative conversation, which is all based on actual conversations with my husband's almost-90-year-old grandparents (follow the link to see their pictures) that we had over the past two days:
Polish grandfather: Do you wear sunscreen? Sun in Israel is very, very dangerous. On the television, from morning until night, all they talk about is how dangerous the sun in Israel is.
Me: Yes, we brought sunscreen with us. [Never mind that I'm actually sitting inside a house with all the windows closed!] Look, SPF 34.
Polish grandfather: It's not Dr. Fisher brand. I heard Dr. Fisher brand is the best. I don't know about this brand. We should check it.
Polish grandmother: Do you want this bottle of SPF 70 that I bought the other day? Here, take it, and I bought you bath foam also.
Polish grandfather: SPF 70 is unsafe! It is too heavy! It might give you cancer!
Polish grandmother: Nu, this is what the pharmacist told me was the absolute best.
Polish grandfather: Do you wear a hat? It is very, very important. The sun in Israel is very, very dangerous. All they talk about on the television from morning until night is how dangerous the sun is.
Me: I'm fine, thank you-- we have two bottles of sunscreen at home already. [Attempting to change the subject.] Lunch smells great! What are we eating?
Polish grandmother: What do you want to eat?
Me: Oh, I love everything you cook! Anything is fine with me!
Polish grandmother: Do you like salad?
Me: Sure, I love salad!
Polish grandmother to Polish grandfather: She wants salad! Go to the grocery store, I don't have vegetables. Nu, go now! Quickly!
Me: But of course, I'm fine without salad too...
Polish grandmother to Polish grandfather in Polish: Hurry! We must have food ready before the grandson arrives home from work so that he doesn't lose his job for spending too much time at lunch! All I prepared was shnitzel with garlic, shnitzel without garlic (so Grandson doesn't lose job over bad breath), meatballs, gulash, shell pasta with buckwheat groats, chicken soup, fried mushrooms, boiled potatos, salat chaztilim picanti, rolls, and hummus, all in varying shades of beige, but she wants salad!
Me: No, really, I'm fine.
Polish grandmother: Why didn't you tell us sooner that you want salad? We would have had salad ready for you!
Me: I don't think I feel like salad today.
Polish grandmother: Of course, I have vegetables in the refrigerator that I bought two days ago, but I'm afraid they aren't fresh. Grandson might get sick if he eats them. Nu, Grandfather, go to the store!
Grandfather leaves for the store. As he leaves:
Polish Grandfather: It is very important to put on a hat when you go outside, because the sun in Israel is very, very dangerous. When I was in the Russian army during the war...
Polish Grandmother: Nu, hurry! Grandson is on his way from work! They want salad! Why didn't you tell us you wanted salad?
Me: I'm sorry...
Polish Grandmother sits down in 20-year-old recliner with pencil, scissors, stapler, and a towering stack of papers.
Me: What are you working on?
Polish Grandmother: Oh, you said this morning that you wanted to learn how to make blintzes.
Me: Yes! You said you would give me your mother's recipe.
Polish Grandmother: Yes, I just had Grandfather xerox a book of blintz recipes for you.
Me: A book? I thought you said you were going to give me one recipe!
Polish Grandmother: Of course, the cookbook didn't fit on the glass in the copier, so I have to write in the edges of the recipes.
Me: Er, I'm sure I can figure it out!
Polish Grandmother: Now let me just cut the pages out and staple them together in order. Where is page 265? Never mind, I'll just rip it out of my book and include it that way.
Me: No, really! Please don't bother!
Polish Grandmother: You can call me if you can't read anything. That is, if you aren't too busy.
Polish Grandfather returns from supermarket with iceberg lettuce, radishes, and tomatoes.
Polish Grandfather: When I was in the Russian army, we were off in the woods and there was a very pretty young woman who was recently widowed, and...
Polish Grandmother: Nu! Get the salad ready! I'm too busy writing out these blintz recipes! And I have to sit by the phone in case Grandson needs to call!
Polish Grandfather to me: Do you want me to peel the tomatoes?
Me: What? Why would you peel the tomatoes?
Polish Grandfather: It is very, very dangerous in Israel to eat the peels of vegetables. All they talk about on television from morning until evening is how there are pesticides on vegetables.
Me: It's ok, really! Can I please help with something?
Polish Grandmother: No! Everything is ready and there is no room in the kitchen. Here, sit down. Why aren't you eating anything?
Polish Grandfather (as Polish Grandmother rolls up his sleeves for him one at a time): You know, I know how to cook too. I can make salad, soup, matzo brie...
Me: Oh, I love Matzo Brie!
Polish Grandmother: She wants Matzo Brie! Quick, go to the supermarket and buy Matzo! Why didn't you tell us sooner you wanted Matzo Brie?
Polish Grandfather: When I was in the Russian Army...
... and so on. I should caveat this by saying that I truly love my husband's grandparents. They are sweet, caring, and intelligent people, and they have lived remarkable lives. Nothing feels better than to arrive at the door of their tiny apartment and see their faces break into smiles that we actually showed up (I suspect they always worry that we will change our mind en route). But when I visit them, I find myself in a constant state of fear that I will say something that will result in them bending over backwards to, for example, buy us a lifetime supply of antiseptic ointment.
As my husband told me before I met them for the first time, they are very, very Polish.
Follow the link for a wonderful edition of Haveil Haveilim, from one of my favorite bloggers: http://me-ander.blogspot.com/2009/05/presenting-hh-217.html (Sorry I'm a bit late in posting this link, Muse!)
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