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  • Writer's pictureIris Saraf

My Grandmother Renia

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

My perfect summer holiday includ

ed visiting my Grandma Renia in Tel Aviv. Grandma lived next to the zoo and from her house I could hear the screams of the monkeys and smell the elephant's food.

My grandmother used to make dolls. Her living room was full with dolls of cats and mice and monkeys, Princes and princesses dolls, big dolls, little dolls, lots of birds, some snakes and one camel she made especially for me. Grandma's whole house was full of boxes: a box of fabrics, a box of furs, a box of eyes, a box of noses, a box of beads, a box of colored threadscolorful threadsthem all by her side and sew dolls.

Grandma had a piano. She loved to play and we both loved to sing. I taught her songs in Hebrew and she sang to me in Yiddish:

"Gegangen is a yingale

In feld tzevishn zangen ... "

Grandma Rania sang the song in Yiddish, after a short explanation in Hebrew.

Grandma Renia was a small woman, she had thick glasses and she looked mostly over them. Grandma laughed a lot, her laugh rolled and rolled, and she sounded like a little girl herself.

"Grandma, let's go to the zoo" "No Yi'ris, you can go to the zoo with Dad and Mom. Let's make us a zoo here. A doll's zoo, and I'll tell you a story, you know I like to tell you stories."

We stayed home and Grandma sewed dolls. Then we heard on the radio a program for children: "Cat in the Bag". Grandma peeled an apple and gave a slice for Yi'ris and a slice to Grandma, and by the time the apple was over we heard chapters of "Little Lord Fauntleroy" and "Lottie and Lisa", songs by Leah Goldberg and the speech of the invisible radiocaster from Jerusalem. Grandma said we had to make lunch so we went to the kitchen. Grandmother's kitchen was small: a six and a half foot marble counter and a fridge. Next to the counter, was a backless chair, made of metal with three steps and a plastic cover inlaid with red and green. Grandma stood by the sink, took from the fridge potatoes, tomatoes and cucumbers and I climbed: one step, two, three and - ​"Grandma, tell me a story, please... " And grandma told me all about Yossi who was abducted by robbers, but he received from their horse three magical golden apples, and with those they both survived.

""Grandma, maybe we can go to the beach?" "You have enough beach in the village! The beach of Tel Aviv is dirty. We will stay here." "So maybe we should go to the zoo today?, Do you hear the elephants?" "No Iris. I told you - to the zoo you'll go with Dad and Mom. Let's listen to the radio and make dolls." Grandma peeled an apple again, she gave a slice for Yi'ris and a slice to Grandma. In the "Cat in the Bag" program, the radiocaster said he came straight from a sad visit to an orphanage. The children, he said, are sad. They do not have enough food. They each have two shirts and one pajama. They have no heaters, books or toys.

Grandma and I listened very quietly. We didn't talk on the way to the kitchen either. Grandma opened the fridge and took out meat for meatballs, and I claimed: one step, two, three, and .. "Grandma, a story?" And Grandma told again. About a prince who loved a princess but her stepmother was jealous and turned him into a blue bird. We made another doll. We sang more songs. We laughed a lot of little girl laughs. At night, I told my grandmother that I was constantly thinking about the orphaned children in Jerusalem, the ones we heard about on the radio, and how poor they were, and they had no one to love them and no toys and there is no sea in Jerusalem. Grandma said: "Yi'ris, I have an idea. Dad will bring a sack from the village, I will make cats dolls and send them to the orphaned children in Jerusalem." In the morning she started sewing cats: White cat with green eyes, Mottled cat with big ears, Red cat with yellow patches on the back and a long mustache and more and more. "Grandma, maybe we can go see a movie today, "Gone with the wind"? I've heard so much about it" "Go to the movies with dad and mom. What's wrong with us here? Let's make dolls, hear programs on radio. Here's everything is beautiful. We have nothing to seek out there " We went to the kitchen. Step one, two, three and - "Grandma, please go on with the story .." And Grandma told. About the adventures of the bird prince and how he broke free from the magic and married the princess. Dad came to get me and brought a sack from the village. We put all the cats in it and I wrote a letter, said that my name is Iris and I am nine years old and live in a village called Bustan Hagalil (Orchard Of The Galillee). And my grandmother, Grandma Renia, lives in Tel Aviv and she makes dolls, and we send dolls to all the orphaned and poor children in Jerusalem. We closed the sack and sent it to Jerusalem. I took two plastic bags and filled them in with air carrying the smell from my grandmother's house. I opened the first bag in rations all the way home and smelled the dolls and flowers and birds. The next day I opened the second bag, under my blanket in my bedroom and remembered all the stories my grandmother told me. When Grandma died, I got to the house in Tel Aviv. I packed all the dolls in big crates, I put all the small boxes in, too. A box of fabrics, a box of furs, a box of eyes, a box of noses, a box of beads, a box of colorful threads and lots of boxes of buttons. I packed them all, also the piano and sent them to the village. Dad bought a big container and Mom arranged everything in a container like Grandma's living room in Tel Aviv. My brother Shai painted the outside of the container and wrote: Grandma Renia's dollhouse. We left Grandma with us in Bustan Hagalil and on her grave we wrote: "Grandma Renia, Grandma of the Dolls"

" A m e c h a y e ! "

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