Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Homecoming (and a Baby Shower) at the American Colony

There had been a slight baby boom since I left Jerusalem. So I cleaned out baby Gap on my way to Israel and Yonat Friling and Courtney Kealy helped me arrange a surprise baby shower at the American Colony Hotel for Reena Ninan. I had played Santa Claus the night before at Reena's apartment, delivering tiny ballerina outfits and little stuffed toys to all of the children from the office. Ibrahim had had a girl. Yaniv and Osnat's son, Ben, had a slight fever. Ronen...Yael...Karen announced she was just pregnant. I thought wartime was when there were baby booms and yet Jerusalem is as peaceful as it has ever been (maybe boredom also leads to you know ...) Anyway, I had been in Jerusalem (and in fact rode the first wave of the last baby boom with all of the foreign journalists who were covering the start of the intifada.) I had gone to work in a flak jacket and Annalise was born in April of 2001. Our break from covering rock throwing and tear gas (I remember then Philadelphia Inquirer's Barbara Demick worrying about me inhaling the tear gas at the Old City on that first Friday prayers after Ariel Sharon took those fateful steps on the Temple Mount. She was one to talk. She was still nursing Nicholas.) I blew off her maternal concern - maybe that's why I got breast cancer. Who knows? One thing we loved to do at the beginning of the intifada was have baby showers. It was a great break from suicide bombings. Julie Sennott, Jennifer Ludden, myself...And we always invited a fortune teller. We were desperate to know the future. Joanna Chen of Newsweek - her sister in law read our tarot cards 9 years ago. And when I threw a baby shower for my dear friend Kerry Arroyo in 2001, Edith (Joanna's sister-in-law) not only read our tarots, she gave us each a special polished stone that represented some unique quality we or our newborn baby would possess. This year when I was very ill, Kerry, who now lives in Paris, sent me the tiny suede pouch with the "Bronzate" stone that Edith had given to her for my goddaughter Anais, just before she was born. Kerry found out that she was pregnant with Anais and nearly burst through the doors of my delivery room at Hadassah Mt. Scopus to tell me the news. The "Bronzate" stone symbolized strength, courage and a "strong lower back". It arrived and took me back when I was going through chemo and preparing for the mastectomy in April. I told Reena that all I wanted to do was go and sit and gossip and have lunch in the American Colony hotel's garden and to shop in Claire Kosinski's jewelry shop (my favorite shop anywhere in the world - I buy all of my jewelry there and my friends have spoiled me with pieces from there for years. ) Claire, a gorgeous Irish lady with a heart of gold and the gift of the gab - a dear dear friend. Claire's boutique - a jewel box in and of itself sits at the entrance to the Colony. She is an institution. I used to tease her that EVERYONE knew Claire and EVERYONE tells Claire their problems. I told her she should put out a shingle like Lucy did in the Peanuts: "The Doctor is In." I told Reena to pick me up at 10:15 am. I was running late. And nearly blew the surprise as Jill and Rich from the bureau stopped by to pick up the baby Gap gift boxes so Reena wouldn't see them. We crossed paths in the lobby and I made it seem a great coincidence. Reena was none the wiser and in we pulled to the Colony. The garden was just as I remembered like the Garden of Eden...water fountain gurgling, the smell of cardamom laced coffee and plates full of Arabic pastries. A dozen of Reena's friends turned up for the surprise, including Eli, who decided not to wear a skirt but to get in touch with his feminine side. The tarot cards were read. Reena was told she might give birth early (I told her to cross her legs since she was supposed to fly to DC in three weeks to give birth in Washington on Christmas Day.) And Edith showed me two tarot cards - one showed a bear with a strong heart - ok. And the other had what looked like a Franciscan friar with a little bird on his shoulder - the little bird she told me were the nagging thoughts - the worry that this cancer is coming back. She said I have to calm that little bird. I said, "But what about my health?" She said pull another card. I did. This one had a woman surrounded by little children dancing in a circle, laughing, She said I would grow old to see my grandchildren. Edith is always right.