Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Shona Tova

I go to Little Gdynia to meet Doc for a meal.

Faye is there with her grandson. Her husband, Leslie is now gone a year at least. That means she'll be able to say kaddish at the services next week for him. All I see is that day he boasted how she was the smartest math teacher in the world as she gently put his arm into his jacket. They both survived the war and the camps but met each other here in New York when they came to start a new life, a new year.

Faye is now drained, her eyes watery. She may be facing 90 but she can't quite see it. Her grandson talks animatedly to her, like he is trying to live six lives for her so she isn't so damn lonely dieing without the man she loves.

I go over to say Good Yontiv. The grandson tells me he now is in Los Angeles. No, not the TV business. His girlfriend got into rabbinical school. Thank G-d, I say. Faye beams.

Five men yell and laugh in the back. The Right this, the Left that, Stalinism and....

Doc skips in. Pierogis and kielbasi and little cups of soup. Sour cream, sauteed onions, I have a chocolate egg cream. Talk pours out faster than delicious rain from another season, mothers and lovers and hopes and grief and hunger and peace and dreams. Desire.

For a new year for a new year for a new year.

The men all laugh and voices rise into chords from a Schoenberg symphony. Suddenly a glass breaks on the tile floor.

"Mazel Tov!" we shout to them.

"What!? Now you're married!?" one shouts back.

"No! You're married." we retort.

Faye's grandson is waving to me from the door. I jump up, a kiss on Faye's cheek. She says, pointing to him, kvelling like crazy, "This is my grandson." I don't say I know you told me. I just grin a billion smiles for her so maybe the joy evaporates her permanent tears. I feel my own eyes soften with age each second.

Doc makes me laugh just when I'm swallowing mushroom barley. We talk about all the meals we ate on Yom Kippur. I win. Two years ago from the 35th Street Chinese bakery a pork bun for breakfast before I realized I was eating tref on the holiest of the holies. She's runner up because she made dinner reservations this year for right after the fasting begins.

Since it's between Rosh Hoshanna and Yom Kippur, we don't count the kielbasi.

The men, windbreakser, comfy shoes, relaxed pants, those faces we know in our fathers our uncles our neighbors our lives.

One says, "you sure we're not married?"

"You are," we say. "But to him..." pointing to his old friend.

"Oy! him!?"

"What? You thought you were going to be happy?"

"Wasn't the first two times...."

"Good night, girls," they call to us, leaving with little bags of dessert or dinner.

"Good night, Good Yontiv, shona tova, a happy new year..."

A new year a new year a new year...