For Israel’s 65th Independence Day, I bought a flag for the first time ever. Is my writing this Letter from Israel sharpening my chauvinistic acuity? Is it shaping my amorphous patriotism? As always, time will tell.
Pass three days; the flag is attached to the balcony railing, looking proud. I’m still wondering why this year.
My grandson, the navy gunnery instructor, rang to say that he has been promoted and could I sew on his new stripes? I’d be more than delighted, when you arrive from your base I’ll even feed you—as if that wouldn’t happen. I call my grandsons the Voracious Brothers.
He needs his white uniform for Independence Day, when of course there will be an Armed Forces ceremony. He will be here for the night and will return to base in the morning.
He arrives with his whites on a hanger, covered with an upside-down punctured trash bag, bright orange. I smile. Before his induction he would have slung the shirt over his arm and dropped it at least once—or stuffed it into a plastic bag meant for six pieces of fruit.
He’s wearing his snappy light beige uniform which boasts a ship pin to signify sea-going service; a shoulder board with cartoonish owl eyes to show that he’s an instructor and a dark blue lanyard which does not end in a whistle, as I thought, but signifies ‘navy’. He says that his students are keen enough to learn—and possibly to be on base instead of on board ships—that there’s no need for a whistle. I don’t say that my entire experience with lanyards comes from summer camps.
I’ve never before sewn stripes onto the sleeves of a uniform and it takes hours. The new stripes have to be sewn at the same level as the previous ones, at the same angle and be sure to do this and that and I can’t stop smiling. Whilst I sew I hear stories of his students, comparisons between life on board (crowded, great comradeship, scary but exhilarating) and his ‘private’ room on base (worse food, time to read, loves teaching). I comment on how different he is from the boy who went into the IDF and he says Oh Gran, you have no idea. Softly I say Yes, I do.
Eventually I call out ‘minished’—his toddler word for ‘finished’—and he grins at me. He thanks me profusely and I hear myself saying It was a pleasure and a privilege. A year and a half after his induction, he is officially a sergeant.
Ah. Now I understand the flag.
cross posted Geoffff's Joint