Friday, February 02, 2007

But If You Could See Her Through My Eyes

I’m the child of a mixed marriage, from a time when such things were much rarer than they are now.

To most people, “mixed marriage” means a mixture of different-coloured people. Not in my case, though: for the Communist is Jewish and my mother is from one of those families perhaps best described as “Christmas C of E” – they did Christenings, Marriage and Death in church, plus a bit of Christmas, and not much in between. Mind you, the Communist’s parents weren’t religious either, or they would have kicked up far more of a fuss when he “married out”.

I didn’t think much about being half-Jewish when I was growing up: we didn’t have any of the Jewish culture or customs or religion. If there was any religion going on in our house, it was, of course, Communism.

But one day something happened that has stayed with me ever after.

My parents were out – I don’t know where – and my brother, aged about two, and I, aged about eleven, were being looked after for the day by my grandmother – my mother’s mother, who lived with us.

Two relatives from my mother’s side of the family suddenly arrived. I never found out whether it was by accident or design that they turned up when my parents were out. I had never seen them before and I didn’t know who they were – they were a man and a woman and that’s all I remember. We never saw them again after that day.

It was summer: it was a hot, sunny day of strange, distant whisperings and half-heard conversations about past times and other places. We had the paddling pool out and my brother and I played in it while the relatives sat on deckchairs a long way from us and chatted to my grandmother. I tried to talk to them a couple of times but they didn’t seem very interested in talking to me, so I just carried on playing in the paddling pool, with my blond-haired brother.

My grandmother went into the house and the relatives tentatively came towards the pool and peered at us in our swimming costumes. I couldn’t hear what they were saying at first. Then, suddenly, I could.

“Oh, it’s not too bad,” said one of them. “They don’t look as awful as I thought. You wouldn’t think they were Jewish at all.”


Blogger Ailbhe said...

Uh buh?


And I thought FIL's remarks about paddies were bad.

11:30 pm  

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