Sunday, April 22, 2007

"Ehfoh Avi?"

My son came to me this evening and said, "I know a story you can write about for your blog... Write about what happened today in the Beaches."

"What happened today in the Beaches?" I tried to recall.

"You know, the man who spoke Hebrew..."

"That won't interest anyone; that sort of stuff happens all the time..."

And yet I still find myself writing this at my son's earlier request...

The Beaches is at the southernmost point of Toronto, bordering Lake Ontario. It is a beautiful community with the most wonderful architecture -- which happens to be rather expensive real estate -- and is in high demand. There is a boardwalk alongside the beach, and nearby is the main street with funky shops, cafes, salons, restaurants, pet shops and bookstores.

People patrol up and down the main street, Queen Street east, many of them with dogs in tow, or carriages and toddlers. There are nearby parks and pools and gardens for visitors and natives to enjoy.

Today was a glorious Toronto day, a summer day, not an April 22nd type of day. Towards the end of the afternoon, we packed up the kids and dog, and headed to the Beaches, first doing our stroll on the avenue before heading to the boardwalk and beach area itself.

I was with my two sons in front of a pet store, where I was trying to get Max to take a drink from a water bowl outside the store. He was more interested in sniffing out the other pooches at the watering hole than the water itself.

Suddenly I heard Hebrew being spoken. I turned around to look and saw two fifty-something couples conversing. I'm the type of person to pipe up when I hear Hebrew in a very public place and I often throw in a word or two to startle the speaker. This time I held back.

My oldest son heard the Hebrew and pointed it out to me. I nodded, implying that I know.

I then called him by name and told him to come.

The next thing I heard was one of the Hebrew-speaking men say, "Ehfoh Avi?" (where's Avi?)

I turned, and with a big smile said, "Hu shum"! (he's there)

I think my son was surprised by this brief exchange. If he'd only know what kind of in-depth conversations I've had with strangers when I hear them speak Hebrew in least-expected places in Toronto and elsewhere.

I smiled at my son as we walked away and told him that in our case, English AND Hebrew are universal languages.