Recently, on a shopping trip in Jerusalem, I stopped by a Superpharm, Israel's largest drugstore chain. Being the kind of girl who used to meander through Duane Reade back in the day to see what our friends at Maybelline were thinking up, or if there had been any advances on the toothpaste front, I popped in, with an eye toward some Ahava products to give out in the Exile on my upcoming trip. Nothing says "Israel is WAY more awesome than America" more than a jar of scented sea salts or a packet of squooshy, nutritive mud.
As my 5 and a half month old daughter needs some early training in the shopping arts (get them while they're young, ladies), I took her along, pushing her eager, pudgy little body through the store in her stroller.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Israeli drugstores, they aren't the casual browsing experiences you recognize from the Diaspora. Israeli drugstores also contain WILDLY overpriced American and European cosmetics and their corresponding makeup counter ladies. These aggressive but friendly women are squeezed together in the middle of the store, guarding the really expensive makeup and perfume and concurrently trying to get you to wear it, making that the very, very last place in the store one wants to go. However, like an onion with so many layers, there is a second layer - the lamer European cosmetics and the Israeli stuff, like Ahava and Dr. Fischer. These articles are found in the aisles on either side of the main center aisle, and are serviced by only a few women, who are generally more relaxed, though equally as made up as their Estee Lauder-touting counterparts.
So I maneuvered my carriage through the tightly-stocked store, arriving finally at the Ahava section. At that point, my daughter started to cry, so I took her out of the carriage, and carried her with me as I looked through the products. That's when she saw us - I don't know her name, but you know her. She sports a big grin, powerfully highlighted hair heretofore unseen in her native Morocco, long acrylic nails and a snug cotton/lycra shirt not stamped with the Badatz seal of approval.
"[Gasp!]" I turned around quickly to see what could have gone wrong, who fell, who died, whose pants ripped up the back.
"Wai wai wai!!!! Aizeh metukah! Chamudah! Kapparah aleichem!! tfoo tfoo tfooo!" Translation: "Wow, wow, wow! What a sweetie! Cutie! ...[not translatable - if you want to understand, come live in Israel]"
She approached us with enthusiasm generally reserved for long lost relatives or the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. She asked if she could hold my baby, who, like a true Fleisher, was glowing from all the attention, and smiling a big toothless smile. So I agreed, inherently trusting most Moroccan women of any hair color. She started to play, to coo, to dance with my baby. She asked her name, which I told her, and she started talking and singing to the baby. I thought to myself "that's so sweet. Gosh, people are nice."
And then it happened. "Rachel!! Come over here! Did you see this baby?!" Rachel (not necessarily the actual name, but bear with me for purposes of the story) turned around, saw my daughter, and the same ecstatic greeting was repeated. Rachel skittered off to another aisle to alert the cell phone saleswomen, who turned the corner, saw my baby, and emitted a high pitched noise I have only heard from dog whistles and Russian women. The cell phone saleswoman, with high, scary heels, asked if SHE could hold the baby, which I acquiesced to. Then the first lady scurried over to the main cosmetics area to get the other cosmetics saleswomen, who arrived in a group of about 5, while the second lady went off to help a customer in the now service-free store.
At some point, I just kind of walked away, and found the Dead Sea creams and salts I was looking for, while my baby was celebrated and shared, passed from a Russian lady to a Yemenite, to another Moroccan, to a German. They squeezed her legs, pinched her cheeks, bounced her up and down and blessed her with a long life and good health. When I came back, the newcomers asked me her name, where we were from (good PR for Samaria!), and wished me lots of nachat (nachas for you in the Exile) from her, with glowing faces and real warmth. Some of them saw her and proposed shidduchim (marriage proposals) with their sons and grandsons. One by one, after wishing me a good day and a mazal tov, they returned to their work, pushing eye shadow and body creams to the Israeli masses.
Twenty minutes after arriving in the Ahava aisle, we left the store with our purchases. I put the baby back in her carriage, where she lay quietly gurgling to herself, fully satiated by all the love and admiration.
I thought about America, where "other people's children" are rarely handled, except by a licensed professional, and then frequently with some sort of supervision or bio hazard barrier for fear of someone being accused of or contracting something. I was gratified by the honest, effervescent love of these Jewish women for my baby, and for me by warrant of being her mother. Superpharm ladies, we love you, too.
Labels: America, Humor, Love, Malkah
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