This was my response to a story in the newspaper that encouraged readers to write and ending to the story that they started.
“Do you miss Bubba?” she suddenly asked him.
Nachmann was taken by surprise “Vot?”
“Do you miss Bubba? Everything here, the stopped clock on the wall, her coffee cup on the window ledge, the solitary banana in the bowl, everything here seems to be always remembering Bubba”.
Nachmann smiled ironically, “Yes, well I know I may well be missing bubba, but I wouldn’t have thought the things around me would also be missing her”.
“I guess, it just struck me now how much you still seem to be living in her memory. What is it that you think you miss most about her?”
Nachmann let out a long sigh, he didn’t know if he even wanted to recollect Fela’s memory with Zoe. Zoe was still so young, would she be able to understand if he said what he missed? Nachmann thought of her everyday and most moments of the day. When he woke up in the morning and turned over to see that she wasn’t in her side of the bed. When he walked in to the kitchen, it wasn’t brewing with her slow and steady motion. He missed her laugh, he missed her thoughts about their children and grandchildren, he missed looking into her eyes and feeling the warm sense of familiarity of many moments shared. Remembering Fela made him feel melancholy. Nachman almost always felt melancholy. Nachman frequently gave long sighs.
“Oh I missed so much where would I begin? Your grandmother was a wonderful lady, someone, a granddaughter could be proud of. You know, I think she may have had your nose... only maybe not with the sparkly thing inside.
Zoe spontaneously touched her nose with her hand and felt her nose stud. It was still new, and she was still getting used to it. She was dared to get her nose pierced by her boyfriend just a couple of weeks ago. She thinks she likes it. However not wanting to talk about the circumstances around her nose stud she pursued her Zaida for more information about Bubba.
“Well how did you and Bubba meet Zaida?”
A smile naturally came to Nachmann’s face at the memory “I knew your Bubba before she met me. I would see her at the town library reading books on different cultures. I think your Bubba always wanted to travel, to see all the very many different people of this world. But I could not go and say hello to her because in those days you had to be introduced by another person before it was polite to talk to a nice young girl. So I had to wait and wait and hope that she might speak to someone that I know. Maybe someone that I know just even a little bit, or maybe someone that I know that knows someone that she knows. But Fela was a quiet girl and didn’t seem to talk to anyone at the library. Then months and months later, my older sister, Alenka, do you remember her when you were a little girl, from Sydney? She begged me to come to some silly dance with her that was being put on by the jewish youth movement in Bilgoraj. I didn’t want to go to, but she must have said something to make me because I went with her anyway. When I walked in the door I remembered why I did not like these dances. The boys looked like penguins, and the girls were all ice queens. But there I saw Fela. I asked Alenka to go over and talk to her so that she could introduce us. Alenka was our match maker, Oleha Hasholom”.
In the mood this recollection created Nachmann again felt melancholy. Zoe also appeared deep in thought staring with blank eyes at the fruit bowl.
Nachmann decided to turn the conversation around. Perhaps not more out of a change of mood, then concern, he asked her “Now tell me about this sparkly thing in your nooze?” emphasising the “ooz” in his Yiddish accent.
Zoe did not really want to tell her Zaide about her nose stud and the boy who was the catalyst for it. Luke was a non-jewish guy that she met at tennis matches on Saturday afternoons. She liked Luke almost straight away. Sure he was cool and good looking, but the thing that really drew him to her was that he really just seemed to enjoy the moment. All the Jewish boys at school were always so self-conscious, looking over their shoulders to make sure that everything they did had consensus opinion. No one ever did anything fresh or different or unusual. To Zoe they all seemed like carbon copies of each other. Luke often acted ridiculously, carelessly ridiculous. Not giving any thought to the spectrum of responses his behaviour could bring him. He would turn his tennis racket upside down and start singing on it like it was both a guitar and a microphone. He would tell jokes and stories that were weird.
“well it was my friend’s idea, he encouraged me to get it, but I like it. It sought of shows how I feel on the inside”.
“What do you mean, how is it that you feel like this thing on the inside?”
“Well I suppose this nose stud is different, it’s out of expectations and I feel like my life at the moment could follow any two contrary paths, and I don’t know which one it will take yet, so I feel like I am out of expectations in a way. On the one hand, I meet people who are different to me, but I like the way they live. But on the other hand I am also intrigued by the world you left behind. This very old Jewish world, where people seemed sure of who they were, were dedicated to a purpose and passionate about a belief. I saw it in the way you said shma with us as kids and the way bubba told us stories of her family in Poland. I saw it, but I don’t know if I have it, to me it seems covered in mystery”.
That moment was interrupted by a car beeping outside. Zoe looked behind and saw her father’s car on the road out the window. “That’s dad beeping, I better go. Take care Zaida” she kissed him on the cheek and he smiled as he watched her go.
The next day Zoe popped into Nachman’s apartment. “I brought you this for your fruit bowl”. She handed him a raw banana that had a slight tinge of green. Nachman held out his hand to take it. “At least the two bananas can share the same destiny together” she said as she sat down. Nachman smiled and kissed his granddaughter on the forehead.
“I hope so” he replied.