Monday, November 13, 2006

Shopping in Hadar

Last Friday I crossed a turning point. Nafal li haasimon, it suddenly hit me, as we say in Hebrew, that this baby is really going to come (God willing) in a month or so. I shifted into energy overdrive, making lists, organizing, shopping. That so-called nesting instinct all the books talked about had kicked in.

Still, I go back and forth between healthy Jewish traditional superstition which recommends against bringing any baby stuff into the home until the baby arrives least the evil eye get any ideas (tfu, tfu) and a natural desire to be ready and organized.
I decided that preparing my hospital bag is a good compromise. Women do go into labor early, so it makes sense to be ready. It's something I can do now. And it's mostly about stuff for me, less stuff for Cholent.
Another compromise that seems to make sense is setting the goal of completing all wedding-related tasks before she arrives. These include writing thank you notes, ordering copies of photos, and putting photos in albums. Yes, I know, the thank you notes should be done already. Slowly, slowly. I made a tactical error, doing the Israeli notes first. It was an error because Israelis don't even expect thank you notes! But once my in-laws friends started getting them, they were an instant hit and, being Israeli, those who hadn't yet got 'em were asking my mother-in-law where theirs was. Sigh. I think Miss Manners gives you a year, probably she didn't even have war in mind as a time-consuming post-wedding distraction. Anyway, I'm chipping away at them. Sometimes even sending duplicates, I fear. Oh well, as Charles says, thank you notes are like Candy Corn. One is good, more are better.

Back to the hospital bag. So one item I really needed was a long, warm, soft, BIG nightgown. I'm typically a pyjama girl, I like the way the pants stay put. But with my big belly, not to mention FREQUENT night trips to the toilet, only a nighty will do. I kept having these visions of one I used to have: cotton, stretch jersey. Originally white, I'd died it a pretty pink. But I hadn't worn it much except for after my myectomy operation back ~1999 so during one semi-annual clothing purge, I let it go. Rarely do you let things go in a clothing purge that you want back. Alas, that pink nighty was gone.

Where to get something like it? The maternity stores here seemed unlikely candidates. I did buy a cute "nursing gown" and matching robe online in the States ( I think) but sleeveless and slinky, it was clearly designed for cozy California climates, not chill Haifa nights.

I didn't want to pay a lot for this gown. I had to go where big women shop. I had to go where fashion comes after function. I had to go to Hadar.


Hadar is a mere 10 minute ride from my door via shared taxi. Yet it is another world. If where I live, the Carmel, is like the Upper West Side of Manhattan, then Hadar is like Flatbush in Brooklyn. OK, not a perfect analogy. Hadar used to be populated by the old ladies who now live in my neighborhood and hail from Germany. Today, Hadar is densely populated by recent Russian immigrants. They have revitalized the neighborhood and infused it with new flavors and sounds.
Most people who live in my world would not dream of shopping in Hadar. They'd sooner hop in a car and go to a dreaded mawl.

Shopping in Hadar rocks. Especially on a day like today: not too hot, not too cold. Sunny skies, cleanish air to refresh you between shops instead of canned mall stuffiness. Action, color. Crazy people.

No more than 20 paces from where I hopped off the shared taxi I hit pay dirt: a "lovely" nightgown hung from an awning, collecting exhaust fumes. I approached it for a feel. A frizzy-haired shop girl spoke to me in Russian. I answered in Hebrew, asking her if she had one in extra large. That one was extra large, the last, but first she kindly poured through related models in a variety of colors and sizes. How much? I asked. A balding middle-aged man she called "Johnny" said it was 50 NIS (about $10) and asked where I was from. Meanwhile, a Russian teen and her father came in and purchased one of those blankets that are ubiquitous in lower-income homes from Tashkent to Tunis to Topeka (or so I imagine). I bet that not a single one of my readers owns one, but I bet you've all seen them. Made out of a fleece-like material before the word "fleece" was used outside of the Jason story in mythology, they are typically adorned with tiger or other jungle scenes and come in monochrome shades of brown, red, blue, or green. They have a matching trim and are sold and transported in zippered plastic bags. You know what I'm talking about.
"Krassiva," Johnny assured the pair.
"Da, krassiva," the girl agreed.

Before ringing up my order, I spied a fly pair of terry slippers with animal trim.
"How much for these?" I asked "Johnny".
"Those," he said, "are not for sale."
I was intreagued. "But..."
"They are part of a set," Johnny explained. "They come free with these," he added, inicating a stack of matching robes.
"How much?" I asked. They were a mere 130 NIS. I couldn't resist and snapped one up. Somehow in calculating the total, the price of the nightgown fell because the total was just 160 NIS. I didn't make an issue out of it.
Johnny wished me good luck with the birth and encouraged me to come back again. "Anything you need, we have it!" he boasted.
"Where's a good place to shop for bras?" I asked him. He suggested two stores, one "expensive" was conveniently located just around the corner.


I waddled up around the corner into a bright, new Triumph outlet store. A pleasantly plump saleswoman told me she'd be right with me and offered me a seat in the meanwhile. I parked myself and watched as women came and went, entering and exiting dressing rooms, pulling at elastic straps.
A silver-haired man in his mid-50s was having a discussion with another man involving comparing skimpy but elegant red and black thongs that hung on a wall rack. Their tones were quiet, respectful. Their conversation ended with a "spasibo" and "dos vidanya". Silver man turned to me.
"Can I help you?" he offered. I really didn't want help from a man right now.
"Oh, I'm OK, she said she'd help me," I said, indicating the busy plump woman.
"I can help you in the meanwhile," he offered.
"Um, OK. I need nursing bras...". He gestured for me to stand so he could measure me. He was unsmiling, but also totally un-leering so it wasn't really bad. He wore a small silver pinky ring that matched his hair and steely blue eyes. He seemed utterly indifferent or perhaps just very restrained.
He offered me three or four models: Triumphs and Playtexes. He indicated the prices of each one: this one is 60, this is 90... since I would have expected them to cost 160 or 190, I happily let my mind glaze over the differences in price. When a changing booth finally freed up, I went to try them on.
A skinny saleswoman came to inspect. She pulled and adjusted straps.
"Good, yes".
There were two clear winners, different Playtex models, one with snaps, the other with hooks. I took them both, thrilled that the total price was less than I'd expected to pay for just one.

I went out in search of lunch.
On the way I came across a healthfood store and ducked in to buy Rescue Remedy and Almond oil. The former recommended by Laurie as a hospital bag essential, the later recommended by the "milk drops" nurse for nipple massages.

I parked myself at a burekas stand with stools for a tasty spinach pie acompanied by a hard-boiled egg and pickles.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love Hadar! It's funny because I will totally shop there in Haifa, yet when I see comparable places in SF, like in the Mission, I wouldn't dream of shopping there, and then I realize how much of a middle class snob I am, and really how poor I was living in Haifa. Can't say that realization has changed me at all, but I try to at least consciously acknowledge my reactions.