Friday, July 21, 2006

Moroccan Mimosa Memories

colori, originally uploaded by mafaldablue.

Mimosas were my step-grandmother’s favourite flowers. We always stopped on the way to Tel Aviv to pick the long stems, bubbling with yellow pompons, and make a wild bouquet just to make her happy. By the time we arrived at her doorstep for a Friday night dinner, we have left behind us a trail of mimosa pollen, from the station-wagon, all the way up the stairs, and honestly – I don’t know if there was much left of the flowers at all. But I think it still made her happy to hold real mimosa stems in her arms.

This photo reminded me of her, and of “habana” - a heavy Moroccan blanket, made of thick wool in vibrant colours. These must be perfect for an icy Moroccan desert night, but for my little girl’s body, cuddling underneath it felt just as restraining as taking a nap in a coffin. I still can’t understand the admiration it got from my parents…

My step-grandmother made the best Moroccan food, only from scratch, of course: couscous (but really from scratch, you just can’t compare it to store-bought couscus in a million years), mufletta, galette biscuits to dip in the sweetest spearmint-black-tea, coconut cookies adorned with a tiny silver ball, almond cookies with a clove bud stubbed at their heart, and my favourite of all - beet salad, and candied miniature eggplants, spiced with cloves. It’s unbelievable what you can turn into jam if you follow a good Moroccan recipe, you can practically turn rocks into candy! Because she spent so much time in the kitchen her face and skin was always soft and a little bit glossy from the oil. The food was always very colourful and flavourful, but now that I look back it seems as if she lived a very grey life. She was always working hard and serving her family, raising 6 kids in the depression of the 50’s in Israel when everyday commodities were sparse; and so she had to be improvised - shoes were cut-to-fit the growing feet, and stale bread was made into fancy patties soaked in tomato sauce. These were just some of the legends I heard of her life as a young mother.

The only thing I remember of her that would hint that she actually did something to indulge herself was her collection of perfumes. She had quite a few, but they were all in her bedroom, which I only remember as very dark, and so I don’t have any vivid visual memory that would support my theories about which scents these could be.

As a great admirer of the French culture, I am sure she had No. 5. And so she should have. But also, whenever I smell Cinnabar and Youth Dew EDP, I immediately get a glistening glimpse of a hidden retro bottle with dark juice and gold cap winking at me from a dark room. It took me a while to connect it to her. So I think she must have had at least something similar to either of these American scents. Bal A Versailles is another possibility… These will all remain mystery, as my step-grandmother took her perfume secrets to the grave. She died of a heart attack after receiving the news of the assassination of Israel’s Prime Minister Izthak Rabin.

What was it in mimosa flowers that made my step-grandma so happy, I would never know. Maybe it was their vivid yellow colour. Maybe their delicate scent reminded her of Morocco, where she was born and raised.

I hope that my mimosa perfume, when it is ready to emerge from its genie incubating tube, and meet the skins and noses of living people, will form yellow clouds of happiness around them.

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At July 21, 2006 5:52 AM, Blogger chayaruchama said...

You make me want to weep.

A tender, insightful tribute to a woman whose legacy is now a part of your being-which you , in turn,will share with your children...

This is the way of our people.

Through the age-old gift of storytelling [ literally, through song,dance, cuisine,custom], we ensure that future generations may glean wisdom and revelation.

Thank you for your candor, and your willingness to share these moments of profound intimacy...

Shabbat Shalom to you and your loved ones, from me and mine, thousands of miles away...

A lebn offn dayn kop!


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