Monday, October 3, 2011

From The Western Mediterranean To My Mother-In-Law's

                                                                                                Julie Kemp Pick

Before our younger son was born, my in-laws moved to Israel to be close to my mother-in-law's family. My delightful father-in-law who always had a smile on his face despite having his whole world torn out from under him during the Holocaust, died less than a year later.  This was more than twenty years ago, and though my husband has taken my boys, I had never gone with them.

My first visit was a year after I graduated from college, as part of a tour group. I was the youngest person in the group, and my mother was the second youngest. One of the highlights was climbing Masada arm in arm with a rambunctious 80 year old fellow traveler.

After we drove our son to college, my husband asked me if I would go with him to see his mother. I told him that I would like to stop off somewhere along the way to break up the 14 hour flight from Chicago. He said to do some research, and added that he wanted to leave as soon as possible. When I told a friend that I was having trouble choosing between Italy, France, and Spain, she suggested that I book a cruise. Because the trip was only a few weeks away, I was able to find an exceptional deal on a cruise to Rome, Genoa, Cannes, Corsica and Barcelona. The ship returned to Rome and from there we were scheduled to fly to Tel Aviv. I was thrilled, my husband was thrilled, and my mother-in-law didn't complain, so all was well.

The ship departed from Rome, so we went off on a tour straight from the airport. We saw the Colosseum, The Spanish Steps, and St. Peter's in Vatican City. We dined on world famous gelato and threw coins into the Trevi Fountain where Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck once stood. We covered a lot of the Eternal City in a few hours, and then we were off to the ship.

The next day, we accidentally walked up to the house where  Columbus was born in Genoa on our own leisurely tour. The rooms were very tiny, and a model of the Santa Maria was encased on one of the shelves. Another highlight was seeing Napoleon's home in Corsica. The Corsicans that we encountered were not very receptive to our restroom requests, so I found myself sneaking into a restaurant. The hostess followed me in and shouted in a thick French accent, "You didn't ask permission!" Then I retorted with, "Emergency, emergency!" She got the message, and walked out. I always had a gift with languages.

We loved being able to relax in the comfort of the ship where the food was tasty and plentiful, everyone spoke English, and the entertainment even included an ice show. The last stop was in Barcelona. We went on a whirlwind tour of several churches, and The Picasso Museum. We even saw  Gaudi's unfinished church, La Sagrada Familia that has been overseen by several architects beginning in 1882 and nears completion in 2026. We concluded with our own walking tour that lasted until nightfall. Like Italy, I wish we had had more time in Spain, but I was grateful for the time spent, and now we had to get ready for Israel.

My husband's cousins were kind enough to meet us at the Tel Aviv Airport, and loan us their car complete with a navigation system so we wouldn't get lost driving to Jerusalem. The only problem was that it was set up in Hebrew. After we eventually found our hotel, we climbed up the 100 steps leading to his mother's apartment.

She lives in a religious neighborhood where we looked as out of place had we been in Amish Country. The men wore black hats and long black coats, and the women wore head coverings or wigs, and long skirts. Occasionally, we would catch a glimpse of a wrist or an ankle. On Shabbat, children played in the street, and adults walked freely with no cars in sight. I thought about all the kids in our neighborhood who would stay inside playing video games on beautiful days, while these children were finding creative ways to pass the hours until sundown.

At 87,  Mrs. Pick speaks Hebrew, Russian, Yiddish, and English. She has a wonderful caregiver who was also born in Russia, and doesn't speak English; yet after a few days we were able to communicate. His aunt lives down the hall, and has two children, and fifteen great grandchildren. We spent a lot of time eating between the two apartments, and went on short walks around the neighborhood, where his mother led the way.

Aside from a visit to the Western Wall, where I struggled to get us through the crowd, while her 70 year old caregiver plowed right in, we didn't spend much time sightseeing, as his mother got car sick. Instead, we had a few excursions to the walker store before taking it for a test drive.

On our last day, his cousins invited us to dinner in Tel Aviv. There we were reunited with family we hadn't seen in years, and introduced to some of their children for the first time. Everyone was warm and inviting. All of his aunt's 15 great grandchildren were there, and I couldn't believe how well behaved they were. Though many of the children don't speak English, our boys managed to communicate with them years ago, through sports and other games. I thought about the four of us  returning before they think they're too old to travel with us. Then I commented on how nice it is to have so many close relatives, and our cousin replied, "They're your family too."

There is so much history along with so many wondrous sights to see in Israel, but this trip was about family. We were both happy that his mother is doing so well thanks to her devoted caregiver and loving family. She was very appreciative that we came to visit, and any ill feelings that we had toward each other were wiped away. I don't know if my mother-in-law will ever think that I'm truly good enough for her son, or good enough for now.

1) Colosseum in Rome
2) Columbus Home in Genoa
3) Picasso Museum in Barcelona
4) Western Wall in Jerusalem (Mrs. Pick is in the middle)
5) With our cousins in Tel Aviv                                 


  1. What a wonderful whirlwind trip! It sounds like an absolute dream. Were you at all concerned about your safety anywhere along the way? It seems Americans aren't as well-loved around the world as they once were. I'm happy you got to go, and that you made it back home all safe and sound. (So, where's our amazing pics of your travels, Mrs. Pick???)

  2. What an absolutely amazing trip and fantastic write up! That last line brought a tear to my eye. What a kind thing to say! Will we be seeing pictures soon?

  3. Thanks Susan! The argument in the ladies room got a little heated, but other than that we were on safe ground! We were told to be on the lookout for pickpockets particularly in Spain, but never had a problem. As for Israel, we couldn't believe how people of all different ages were out walking around after midnight in my mother-in-law's neighborhood! Hopefully, I'll be able to get some photos up later. You know I need a village for anything tehnical! Julie

  4. How wonderful to be reunited with family and to see a whole new section of the world.

  5. @EmptyNester - Somehow my last paragraph got lost, so I went back and added it. Maybe I should have quit while I was ahead! I'm still working on how to get the photos over here. Thanks for the kind words!

    @mbj/Delores - I'm glad that we finally did it! Thanks Delores!

  6. Well, she probably does think you're good enough, but she's just likely trying to keep you in "your place", as older generations tend to do, so you'll always respect her authority. Sounds like you had a wonder trip. I'm very jealous of all the places you got to see. Perhaps you can share a few pictures sometime soon???

  7. That sounds like quite a trip! Can't believe your mother-in-law speaks so many languages.

  8. What a trip, I enjoyed reading this , it sounded so exciting.


  9. What a journey! Sounds fabulous. I've always wanted to do a European tour. Some day. :) Great that you got to spend time with family and glad your mother-in-law is doing well.

  10. WOW, so many sights!! I'm so envious! I've never been to Europe.
    So nice to see your mother-in-law I'm sure too!

  11. I enjoyed your story. That's awesome that you got to visit so many places.

  12. Ah, it's somewhat comforting to me to know that mother-in-laws are the same throughout the world. This sounds like a seriously fabulous trip, good for you to expose your kids to their roots and extended family.

  13. @Nancy - We're both in a good "place" now! I highly recommend looking for last minute deals on cruises that are not during peak travel times. I'm grateful to my friend for suggesting it! Thanks Nancy!

    @Alex - Sometimes she gets confused and starts speaking to us in Russian, but then she quickly goes back to English. My husband usually converses with her in Yiddish on the phone.

    @Yvonne - We really had a wonderful time! Thanks Yvonne!

    @Mary - I am very excited about your book! Thanks for taking the time to stop by during your celebration! Maybe you could set your next book in Europe, and you'll fly off to do research!

    @Jennifer - A few months ago I would have never imagined we would visit 4 countries in 2 weeks!
    The timing was right and we really lucked out! This is a very busy and exciting time for you, but you could always put Europe on the back burner! Thanks Jennifer!

    @Tonja - I hope everyone is feeling better at home. I'm very impressed with how hard you've been working through it all! Thanks Tonja!

    @Julie - We just have to be careful not to fall into the stereotypical mother-in-law category in years to come! Actually, I was pleasantly surprised by how well we got along! Though our kids visited Israel years ago, they were both away at school when we left on Sep 1, so this was a trip for two. Hopefully, we will all go again as a family. Thanks Julie

  14. What a fantastic trip! I've always wanted to go to Israel. Loved the photos.

  15. What an awesome trip. I want to go to Israel someday, preferably when it's safer.

  16. Wow, what an amazing trip! I just loved reading it and feeling like I was along for the ride with you. The photos are fantastic, you guys look great. And I'm glad you got to spend some special time with family.

    Thanks for sharing with us, Julie!

  17. @Talli - Hopefully, you will get there one day in between your bestsellers! Thanks Talli!

    @Angela - We felt very safe when we were there. You just have to avoid certain sections, not unlike many areas in the states. I really liked your book trailer!

    @Julie - Thanks for everything! You always say the sweetest things!


    Hi Julie...what a truly wonderful trip and tour you've taken us sounds as though you had a lovely time...and all that catching up in Israel must have been a tremendous are so important...glad all went well...Cheers for now Hilary


  19. Thanks Hilary for sending me this delightful email! I'm sorry that you've been having trouble with blogger, and appreciate your perseverance! Hopefully, the problem will be corrected soon.

    Aside from a weekend about 17 years ago, this is the first vacation we've taken just the two of us, and it was really special. Thanks again, Hilary!

  20. Fantastic holiday. Thanks for sharing all of this. And last minute cruise deals sounds like a perfect stop over!
    Oh, and I think you are more than good enough, and he is lucky to have you :)

  21. Rhonda, We've only been married for over 24 years, if she still wants to look around a little bit, I can't really blame her! I'm just laying it on extra thick, so that my boys will know what to expect when they get married! Thanks Rhonda!