Illustration: Denis Shifrin
Grandparents will tell you, even if you don’t ask them, how wonderful their grandchildren are. They spoil them more than they ever did their own kids. Never is this trait more evident than during our long summer holidays, the Chofesh Hagadol, and the days between the Chagim known as Chol Hamoed. While grandparents endure pushing crowds, overpriced entertainment shows, impossible traffic congestion and head-splitting noise, many secretly dream of that far distant nirvana period, Acharei Hahagim, when their darlings return to school and they can resume their routine schedule.
So before the onset of the next holiday period, if you have a strong aversion to being exploited, can’t tolerate crowded places and dread losing one of your grandchildren in the crush, I can offer you a viable alternative: Seret Noona! It’s so called because I’m Noona to my grandchildren and they come to me to watch movies. You may well wonder how this simple offering can compete with the appeal of live, star-studded, glittering shows and the jostle and hassle of huge movie complexes with ticket counters, popcorn stands, fast food joints, soda pop and ice-cream counters. Well read on!
Our holiday tradition began five years ago when my three grandsons were young enough to go along with a novelty. At that time our local DVD store had not yet succumbed to the competition offered by VOD, so I’d pick up the boys and drop them off at the store to choose the movie they wanted to watch. Strict rules regulated their choices. Each one had a turn and the others had to accept the decision. Learning to compromise was a first step in the Seret Noona adventure.
When we returned home, preparations began. Each grandchild had some input. The eldest, Matan, listed on a white board the menu of the day with prices of the food, snacks, drinks and dessert. As he grew older, he began writing the menu with an English translation, which is a good way to keep kids up to date with their English while they are on vacation. Nadav designed a poster advertising the movie and the cost of the tickets and also produced the movie tickets with row and seat numbers. Gil minted the currency of 5, 10, 20, and 50 shekels on cut-up squares of paper, and distributed equal amounts to each of his brothers to spend at Seret Noona. Each kept his ‘money’ in a little purse and had to budget on orders of food, drink and snacks, for more subtle learning while out of school.
Grandma of note ... Money created for Seret Noona with Lola Katz’s face on it!
I multi-tasked. I sold the tickets. I ushered them to their seats. I donned an apron and took orders for soft drinks and popcorn which I served during the movie. Then while they were watching, I went off to cook the meals they’d ordered. You may wonder how I could predict what would be on the menu. Well, that wasn’t hard! Most self-respecting Sabra grandchildren, mine included, eat only schnitzel and chips or hamburgers and chips, and very occasionally, pizza and chips. All of this junk food is topped off by ice-cream and washed down with coke. I was happy to prepare their orders myself, knowing that by upping the nutrition value of their meals I could keep the junk level down. When ready, I organized an intermission of the screening and served my ‘customers’. I refused credit and offered no discounts. If they required change they had to say how much they were owed.
Of necessity, certain changes have been introduced over the years. The DVD shop has closed down, so now there is an option of buying tickets for Seret Noona VIP. These tickets are more expensive than regular tickets and their purchase entitles ticket holders to sprawl across our double bed, their exact position determined by whether they bought their ticket for Bed-Seat-Left-Side, Bed-Seat-Right-Side or Bed-Seat-Middle. The choice of movies comes from the wide selection available on VOD, but the rules of compromise still apply.
My granddaughters, Michal and Mayan, are now old enough to join the fun but they have their own Seret Noona day because there’s no way our bed can accommodate five grandchildren, nor can Noona prepare the variety of food their participation requires. When it’s the girls’ day for a treat, the menu changes somewhat. Their dad stays to join in the fun and he tries to set an example of healthier eating. So in addition to the main course choices, veggie sticks and fresh fruit are listed on their white board menus and free cold water replaces carbonated beverages. They call me ‘geveret’ and last time Mayan gave me a tip, thrilled that she could use her new Noona money that the Bank of Israel had “issued” via her dad in my honor!
I know the time will come when they'll all outgrow these wondrous hours I spend with them. In fact I'm sad to say we're nearly there. This past holiday the boys were all so busy with their different activities I almost didn't get to find a mutually convenient screening day. But fortunately I did.
After the menu and ticket and money preparation ritual was completed, Matan said to me somewhat incredulously: “Noona don't you think it's a bit ridiculous for a 17-year old to be playing this game with you?” “Not at all”, I told him. “You can do make-believe even when you’re 80”.
I treasure the memory of them sprawled across my bed. I treasure the fact that on this last occasion, three teenage boys chose to watch Disney’s magical remake of Cinderella. I treasure that they are sensitive enough to react indignantly to Cinderella’s servile acceptance and to condemn the treatment she got from her stepmother and ugly sisters. Long live Seret Noona.