We were on a plane back to the USA in the days before the flights were non-stop. We would be stopping at LHR, London, Heathrow for a refueling. Our travel mates on the huge El Al 747 were our daughter Amy and her two little boys, Eitan and Josh. Eitan was around 4 and Josh 2. Eitan is now a grown father-to-be and rabbinical student. Josh serves in the IAF. And there are now 3 more boys by the way. We flew and, I suppose, as it always does, so did time.
On this flight we were dressed one step above pajamas, for comfort. It would be a long trip. The news of the delay was unwelcome. Keeping the boys happy would require that much more effort……not to mention effort in keeping ourselves happy.
We were squarely in the Economy cabin, not as squishy as today, but no lie-flat bed with luxury linens either. We gave the boys a little freedom. Not much point in confining them until we had to. Josh kept running into the Business cabin. Amy kept running after him. Finally she said, there’s a woman there who’s staring at us. I suppose Josh is annoying her.
Sof, sof Amy came back and said the woman is Matt’s mother and sitting next to her is Matt’s father.
Matt was the boyfriend of our daughter Pam. We had met him but it was not yet time for the parents meeting. The kids were not engaged and we lived in New Jersey and they in London. An accidental meeting was not at all possible. Or was it?
I guess it was. There they were, and we, in our one step above pajamas, met them in their elegant duds. We fell in love with the parents and the kids fell in love with each other and got married and are parents to 4 of our grandchildren, one already in college and one just accepted.
The real mystery was how Amy and the inlaws figured this all out. It actually was sort of simple. Matt’s mum (English style) was not really staring at Josh, as cute as he was and is. She was staring at Amy. Finally she asked Are you Pam’s sister? By resemblance alone! And so it was that we became friends flying over Europe and have been sharing our lives ever since.
Strange things can happen. Unexpectedly. I think especially when you are a member of a small tribe. The Jews.
A few years ago we were having lunch in a kosher restaurant in Rome. A woman walked in who resembled someone I hadn’t seen in at least 30 years. I stared, impolitely to be sure. Finally I spoke. I’m so sorry to be staring at you but you look exactly like someone I used to know, a long time ago. She asked me who that might be and I responded with the person’s name. She laughed and said, I resemble Sheila W. because I am Sheila W. Unplanned but much fun in catching up. These days we’d probably have become Facebook friends and kept it going. Here’s a plug for FB. In those days we parted after lunch and have not been in touch since.
Hence it was not totally surprising when our now grown grandson Josh told us about an unexpected meeting he had this week. He said, I met my kindergarten buddy the other day. Josh went to a day school in New Jersey where they had a cute program of matching the older kids to a kindergartner to help with the klitah. Both the older and younger kids loved the program since it was a confidence builder for both. So here was Josh, in his IAF uniform and here was his kindergarten buddy, no longer in NJ, but here in Israel in his own Tzahal uniform. How likely was that? Not at all, but nonetheless there they were.
And then there was the time a few months back when we exited the Ayalon and were at the frantic corner where the Azrieli towers stand tall and where thousands of people seem to be trying to get across the street simultaneously, and suddenly we saw Carmelle, a beautiful young woman soldier who we knew from our shul in New Jersey. Miraculously, in the frenzy, we were able to engage her and she hopped into our car, caught up and, ten minutes later hopped out near Sarona.
And so, dear life, you are never boring. Sometimes that’s really bad. But oftentimes it’s memorable and fun. And very unexpected.