It's so simple to be wise.  Just think of something stupid to say, and then don't say it.     Sam Levenson (1911-1980)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Meetingplace / Marketplace

The short flight had been uneventful.  As we disembark, Blondie Boy waves a casual Shalom to the two youngish ground crewmen assigned to monitor passenger progression from plane to gate.  I try to focus his awareness to the idea that from now on, for the next few weeks, he must speak English to those around him.  The next day, in the Brent Cross shopping mall, Elder Princeski wonders if we will encounter any Israelis here.   My response -- Just keep your ears open! -- is cut short by a mother speaking Hebrew to her two kids as they cross our path toward the escalator.

Brent Cross is a multicultural hub;  families from everywhere, kids of all skin tones.  Women in robes, dresses, headscarves in a spread of colors both bright and drab.   An endless flow of mother tongues, alongside English delivered in multiple cadences.  And so many Jews, they barely glance at one another in any attempt for recognition.   My own moderate headscarf does not register a perceptible glance from anyone, and I feel a sort of relativity effect, an at-oddness with both the bare-headed, spaghetti strap world on my left, and the thoroughly wrapped opacity on my right.  Neither covering, nor lack of one, exposes the ideas and beliefs within the minds around me.

If I were a white Christian male here, I would feel left out, slightly noteworthy, a minority. Perhaps this rainbow effect now means the white majority no longer feels comfortable coming here.  Perhaps it no longer exists, or never did.

At home I sometimes joke about retail therapy, the occasional -- and temporary -- pick-me-up for an emotional trying day at work.   Abroad, it has already become both a chore, albeit an enjoyable one, and an opportunity.  Elder P taking mental notes on the people around her, asking few questions while, I can assume, sitting tight on others which will surface eventually. She's an observant kid, she knows how to make comparisons, and one day soon knowing the answers will become more urgent.

Meanwhile, my headspace is still lingering back at home, ruminating over its own troubled comparisons.  If, here, those people wearing head coverings are drawing any suspicion, I cannot feel it, although they themselves might.  

The marketplace has always been a meeting place, and no less now than before, among our skylights and window dressings and vast air-conditioned spaces.  Retail as the great commons, or commonality.  I enjoy being here, and even knowing such a place exists, whether I come to purchase, or to find comfort and captivation in the purchasers.

Keep the balance,



Anonymous said...

So you're in England.
Did you see numerous women dressed in burqa there? I am asking since this is a controversial issue in France at the moment and apparently this has led the British to discuss it too.

muse said...

Brent Cross...
We were on shlichut in London when it opened. It was walking distance, about a mile, from our apartment.

A Living Nadneyda said...

Muse - I'm sure not much has changed, except maybe the population of shoppers.

ID - I seen quite a few women in long burqa-like robes, including many with head-covering that left only their eyes showing. It's not clear if they live here or are tourists. Sometimes I see one man accompanied by several women and I wonder how many are wives.

I have seen many schoolgirls wearing school uniform and head covering. One or two were wearing floor-length (as opposed to above-knee) skirts with their uniform-issue white shirts.

On a school outing to Kew, one of these girls got together with her friends and forcibly took our Blondie Boy (age 4) off a low wall to make room for themselves. Afterwards she asked our girls whether we were Jewish. I reported her behavior to an accompanying teacher.