September 8, 2007
This is a copy of a posting on my other blog. Sometimes my life gets in the way, and I can’t make the clear division: crafting OR translation. It’s just me.
My grandmother was born in Corfu. My grandfather in Turkey. They met in Alexandria, Egypt, and got married. They spoke French, Italian and Ladino. My grandmother also spoke Greek, and they knew a little Arabic, and later on Hebrew, too.
My grandfather would call my grandmother, Rachelle (Rake-leh), the Italian way, and her friends called her Rachelle (Ra-shel), in French. My grandmother called my grandfather Maurice or Maurizio. We called them nonno and nonna, Italian for grandpa and grandma.
At nonna’s house we would drink “Café au lait”, and hear her say “Basta” and “Toma”, or “Mon cher”. When she would get angry, she would say “Allah!”, and she also used “Ah! Dio santo!” When we would cross the road together, she would squeeze my hand in hers, and say “Shema Yisrael”.
Nonna always laughed, “Il moso tiene otro moso” (my servant has a servant of his own), and said about people she didn’t like, “faccia di pocos amigos”. At her house we ate dukka and pisti, bamia, fideus, aliches, lubia, and avikas, and she would make us jump over her pan of “Behor”, to keep the evil eye away. I owe my nonna my knowledge of French. Until the age of four she took care of me, and it is in her house that I learned all these languages. Even today, there are words I only recognize in their Egyptian accent. It was only a few years ago that I learned the funny expression “Doo Paroo” is actually French, d’où par où.Two days before my ever optimistic nonna died in the hospital, she told me, “mostufa”, a new word I had never heard, and didn’t understand. I asked, and she explained that it’s from the Italian “stufa”, but in Corfioto. She had had enough. Nonno died exactly three years ago, at the age of 86, on the eve of the Jewish New Year. Nonna died this week, aged 87, three days after her birthday. May they rest in peace.
Sento la mano tua stanca
Cerca I miei riccioli d’or
Sento e la voce ti manca
La ninna nanna o’allor
Oggi la testa tua bianca
Io voglio stringere al cuor
–From Mamma Son Tanto Felice, here by Pavarotti, who also died this week.
My grandparents, Maurice and Rachelle Rozanes, on their wedding day: