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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Silver and Gold Binah magazine

Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.

When I was a kid, I used to sing this song and wonder: which type of friends are compared to silver? And which are like gold? And what’s the difference between them? (I’m not kidding. I really was a funny kid.) Although today I still don’t know the answer to this all-important question, I do know that there is something very special about childhood friends. They were there with you when you were becoming you, when you were all potential without any real accomplishments; when you were choosing the dreams that would eventually guide your decisions and form the basis of your life. They know who you really are, the real you, without all your layers of sophistication and accomplishments.

Which brings me back to the day my laptop crashed. I use it to stay in touch with friends (both old and new) via email. I need it to write my articles, and I use it to teach creative writing to women throughout the world. So when the technician informed me that he couldn’t fix it from afar and that I need to bring it to him in the morning so that he could work on it after Kollel, I turned around my entire schedule, placed my computer in its carryon bag and raced to the nearby light rail station.

Before leaving, my husband asked me when I expect to return home.  I assured him that I’d be back within the hour.

I boarded the train and confidently placed my electronic pass on the ticket reader. But instead of a soothing bleep, there was a screeching alarm sound, and the light blinked red instead of green.

The card was empty, and since I didn’t want to end up in jail (that’s another story. But yes, believe it or not, because of a mistake involving two shekel eighty agurot — approximately $0.60! — I almost ended up facing the tribunal!), I had no choice but to get off the train at the next stop.

Within ten minutes I was speeding through the streets of Yerushalayim on my way to the technician’s house in Beit Hakerem, assuming that I’d be home in time to make lunch and hang up the load of laundry that was in the wash cycle when I left.  

Somewhere on Rechov Yaffo, between City Hall and City Center, I noticed a familiar looking woman seated across the aisle from me. Enormous sunglasses hid most of her face, so it took a few moments until I was positive. The woman looked up, and instantaneously we both jumped up (well, actually, she jumped up. I struggled to my feet) and ran into each other’s arms. It was Corinne, my across the street neighbor when I was growing up.
Corinne and I were best friends. Her parents were both Holocaust survivors. Her mother had spent the war years in Auschwitz; her father, in Siberia. They had come to San Francisco straight from the DP camps and worked hard to create a beautiful Jewish family. They were wonderful, giving people; I have fond memories of Shabbos afternoon, sitting in their kitchen, slowly decimating the apple crumb cake (made from scratch, something unheard of in my parents’ modern American home!), or snuggling under the warm quilts (or as Corinne’s mother called them, perenehs, which even had their own special covers!) Sometimes, they even let me stand behind the counter of their tiny corner grocery store to wait on customers and operate the cash register; I felt so incredibly grown up!

If I had the flu, Corinne’s mother, who knew that both my parents worked and that I was at home alone, would appear at our front door bearing a full hot lunch, replete with a delicious thick soup (homemade, not from a can!), chicken with potatoes and some vegetable, topped off with made-from-scratch compote. She would sit at my bedside, keeping me company while I ate, pretending that she had nothing else to do, although she was probably one of the busiest women I ever met. Before returning to her own family, she’d surreptitiously leave a plate of homemade cake for me in the kitchen, in case I’d get hungry later on. (She was an expert in finding ways to give. The few times that she came to visit me in Yerushalayim, she'd phone a few hours after she left to tell me to take a look inside the vase on the bookshelf, or under the sofa pillow, and when I did, I’d find a nice sum of money hidden away.)

When I’d come to visit (which was several times a day), she’d insist that I “have a taste” of her delicious food, and if I didn’t, she’d run after me, laughing as she literally stuffed a homemade goody into my mouth. I’d try to resist, claiming to be on a diet, but it was impossible. Her food was irresistible!  

I loved Corinne, and I loved her parents, and I even loved her siblings, even though one of them would chase me around the basement with chicken feet, squeezing the tendon to make the toes move up and down in a very frightening way (Corinne’s mother koshered her own meat), causing me to scream in fright!

Now, Corinne was on the way to the Central Bus Station to catch a bus back to her home in Netanya. The previous day she had come to Yerushalayim to visit her daughter, and decided at the last minute to stay for the night, which is why she ended up on that train, rather than the one she usually takes. And I had to get off of my train to refill my electronic pass, which is why I ended up on a later train.

So although neither of us were supposed to be there, we were. And since we are both retired and no longer have to rush to get to work on time, we got off the train and found a nice coffee shop where we could sit and schmooze.

Several hours later, I realized one thing: although I don’t know which type of friend is gold, and which is silver, I do know that friendship is very, very precious.   And I also learned that sometimes it pays to be in the wrong place, at the right time. 

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