Reading Children

Blue Eyes and Purple Dresses

I don’t know how you feel about being taken for a ride. Personally, I really hate it. While organizing one of my closets I was reminded of one such occasion. I was trying to determine what to keep and what to donate. According to my husband, who has no right to speak as his closet is overflowing also, I should give away ninety percent.

One of the candidates for a trip to the goodwill store was a long purple dress I had not worn for years. As I stood there, trying to make up my mind, I remembered its origins.

During the summer of 1979, on a family visit to Israel, my cousin Alex and I decided to do a little shopping in the Shuk, also known as the Carmel Market. What was then a common market has now been uplifted to the status of a tourist attraction.

While on our way there, I asked Alex, “Do you remember the trips we used to make to the Shuk? Our mothers armed with shopping bags and us in tow?”

“Do I remember? Of course I do. They always dragged us along against our will. I think they did not trust us alone at home?”

To be truthful, I have good memories of those trips and will always remember the rather dirty and narrow alleys with merchants on both sides loudly advertising their wares that varied from fruit and vegetable to housewares and clothing. The venders, in order to be heard in the general din, had to really shout and scream at their customers and curse at each other over perceived, unfair trading practices, such luring away customers with lower prices.

At the ShukOur mothers would go from one to the other, touching and testing the products and eliciting remarks such as, “Ladies no hands. You are bruising my tomatoes.” My mother would totally ignore such warnings—resulting in arguments, followed by relentless bargaining and eventual agreement. Money then changed hands and shopping bags were filled.

Mostly good memories, but on our way to the market I reminded Alex of the terrible sight of chickens hanging by their necks and big slabs of meat, covered with flies.

“They are still hanging like that. Nothing much has changed, although they seemed to have gotten rid of most of the flies,” he said.

“Do you remember old Mrs. Spizeisen, the fish monger? Is she still there?”

“Of course, I remember her, although she’s long gone. Your mom used to take a ages to choose just the perfect carp from the bathtub full of fish.”

“Yes,” I said, and I then had a pet for a day in out bathtub at home, until she turned the poor thing into Gefilte Fish. I always hated to have to eat my own pet.”

We now arrived at the Shuk and a vibrant colorful scene welcomed us as we entered the market. We felt like kids in a toys store. So many things to see and to eat and then my eyes met his . . . With his bright blue eyes topped by a head of fiery red hair, he stood in his stand surrounded by racks of colorful long dresses.

“Let’s get some of those beautiful long dresses,” I said to Alex.

Like the typical man he is, he asked, “What do you need those for?”

“They are great for wearing around the house or even for a stroll along Dizengoff during a hot summer evening,” I said. “Your dear Anat would love to have one too.”

Reluctantly he followed me to the stall of the man with the bright blue eyes, who received us with a welcoming smile. While picking up a purple dress, he said, “Come try this one on. You will look beautiful in this one and it is just your size.”

Shopping for a Dress.As I stood there thinking, “How does he know that purple is my favorite color?” I said, with my eyes glued to his, “And where exactly do you expect me to try this on? You are not suggesting I strip right here, or do you?”

Alex, observing my shameless flirt with this stranger and worrying I might next invite him over to tea, said, “You know these dresses only come in three sizes, large, medium and small and you are obviously. . .

“Small,” said the redhead.

Without taking my eyes off him, I asked, “How much?”

“Fifteen shekel,”

“I’ll give you no more than eight and take five of them.” I said.

He didn’t argue, which surprised me, as usually these merchants will go into lengthy bargaining sessions—back and forth until agreement is reached. This one did not argue at all, but grabbed a bag and opening it in front of me, he said, “Five?”

“Yes five.”

As the blue eyes were smiling at me he folded the dresses neatly and counted, “One, two, three, four and five. Here you go. Enjoy your new dresses.” He handed me the bag and I, completely hypnotized, gave him the money.

On coming home I wanted to show Anat the dresses and, while I bragged about the fabulous bargain I pulled out one, two, three dresses. That was all there was in the bag. “Buyer beware of blue, smiling eyes.”

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