Every morning from December 1989 to September 1991, my late husband, David, and I drove past the corner of Tchernichovsky and HaRav Chen on our way to work. On a daily basis we saw a trio – a young mother with long premature grey hair wearing a flowing skirt walking along with a black Labrador and her son. We never spoke to her, but I remember her well because each time we saw her David would make a comment about her beautiful grey hair.
This young mother, her son and her dog were strangers who marked our time. We all have them, people along our early morning driving route to work who because they are regular walkers depending upon their location silently signal to us whether we are on time or running late. If on some morning they aren’t there, well then we actually have a split second of worrying about them, and are sure to carefully look out for them the next day.
In September 1991, David, my children and I left for Buenos Aires were David had been posted as Deputy Chief of Mission to the Israeli Embassy. As a result of the terrorist bombing against our Embassy, I returned to Israel in March of 1992. Within months of my return my dark black hair started going grey. At first, I dyed it. Then sometime just around the turn of the century, I happened to follow the old early morning route to work and suddenly coming down HaRav Chen I saw her…she was wearing slacks and she was walking a small white dog. She was alone, calculating the years that had gone by against the boy’s age I figured, “her son must be in the army”. Her hair was still that long beautiful mane of grey but now it had more white in it. I remembered how David loved her hair. Right then I decided: “Enough with the hair dye; if David were alive because of his comments about this woman I know he’d love, love, love to see me sporting curly grey hair.” And just like that I decided to let my hair go grey.
Yesterday morning I was coming back from an errand in town and because of an exceedingly long new traffic light at the next corner I decided to turn off Tchernichovsky onto HaRav Chen. There she was climbing up the stairs that lead onto HaRav Chen…the lady with the beautiful grey hair! Well actually her hair is now completely white, but to me she’s still the lady with the beautiful grey hair. I pulled over and got out of my car. Gently, Gently, quietly almost afraid that I was about to break an important rule related to the temporal alignment of the world, I said in Hebrew: “Good Morning! Please do excuse me but I must speak with you for a moment. I need to thank you for something.”
The grey haired lady stopped, smiled an open smile and said: “Yes, Good Morning, I am listening to you.”
I said: “You don’t know me. But more than 20 years ago, my husband and I used to drive past this corner. Every morning on our way to work, we’d see you with your son and your dog and every single time my late husband would comment about your beautiful hair. It is thanks to you that I know my husband would have loved my grey hair and so I have let it go grey!” Then quickly, in typical intrusive Israeli fashion I added: “How is your son? He must be in his 30s. Did he have a good army service?”
The grey haired lady’s eyes twinkled and she smiled the broadest of smiles answering: “He’s fine, I am going to be a grandmother soon! My name is Debby. What’s yours?”
Debby, was no longer a stranger, she hugged me and gave me a grandmotherly kiss on the forehead adding: “I am glad that I am a link back to your husband for you. Your hair looks beautiful. I am very sure that he would have liked it very much. Thank you for sharing this with me.”
Then waving goodbye she added: “Go on then keep enjoying your grey hair and having fun in your life! Remember its all just an adventure.”
Indeed, life is an adventure, but more importantly, yesterday I learned that it is right and good to thank a total stranger for a gift they have given us.