Monday, October 20, 2008

Old Jewish Ladies

I spent the entire weekend celebrating Sukkot. Friday night we had a pizza party with a group of friends in our host's sukkah, and stayed out much too late, considering Em and Baroy had an early soccer game the next morning. Saturday night we were invited to have dinner with our synagogue's cantor and his wife in their sukkah. Again, we stayed out much too late, considering Em and N had religious school in the morning.

Sunday afternoon, after religious school, I went back to Cantor Bob's sukkah, where I had lunch along with the rest of the synagogue's book club, and discussed our latest read. From there, I went back to the synagogue to help set up for our big Sukkot dinner; Baroy and the kids joined me soon thereafter. Luckily, that dinner was over by 8, though I stayed to help clean up and didn't get home until 9:30.

If it's possible to overdose on Judaism, this weekend would have done it.

As I was setting out dishes of hummus and olives on the tables, Rachael grabbed me by the arm and essentially spun me around. It's sometimes hard to tell the ages of old Jewish ladies, I've found, either because their sheer indomitable will (and weekly visits to the beauty salon) keeps them looking the same year after year, or because, conversely, they are simply so old looking already, it's impossible to see any further aging. Rachael is very much in the former category, but I've got to figure she's closing in on 80, if she's not already there. So the force with which she grabbed me shocked me.

"You need to stop losing weight," she said, getting right in my face. "You need to EAT."

"Oh, trust me, Rachael," I laughed. "I eat."

"I don't like it," she muttered. "You're getting too thin. Promise me you'll EAT."

"I promise, I promise," I said, holding up my hands. (For the record, after losing close to 20 pounds over about a year's time--due entirely to having stopped taking psychiatric meds and due not at ALL to anything I've done about my diet--I haven't lost a pound in months. And, seriously? I'm not that thin. I'm not overweight any more, but I'm definitely not skinny. Still, you know how old Jewish ladies are. And if you don't...they're like Rachael. Almost every single one of them is like Rachael.)

"Good girl," she said, and reached up and pinched my cheek, then laid a kiss on it. "But I'll be watching you, just in case."

When N. returned from the desert table with cookies and a bunch of grapes, he stopped by our table.

"Mommy, who was that old lady who kissed me on the head?"

I laughed. "N, you're going to have to be more specific than that. You just described about half the people in this room."

"The lady. The one with red in her shirt." I was shaking my head. "She kissed me on the head and said I should give you one of my cookies. She said I should make sure you eat. You eat, don't you?"

"Rachael," I said, laughing. "That would have been Rachael."

As we were putting away the last of the salt shakers and bundling up the linen tablecloths for the laundry service to pick up, Sue grabbed me and pulled me into the kitchen, where she had a Vons bag tied up on the counter.

"This is for you. Leftovers," she said. "For all your help."

"Don't we want to give these to [name of homeless shelter we support]?"

"We have plenty of food boxed up for them," she said, waving me off. "I want you to have this. You need to eat."

I laughed. Hard. "Did Rachael put you up to this?" I asked.

Sue looked genuinely puzzled. "No. I just think you're looking too thin lately. Why would Rachael ask me to talk to you?"

"Never mind," I said, giving her a hug and a kiss on the cheek and taking my bag without further argument.

There is no escaping the old Jewish ladies. Not that I really want to.


po said...

That's how I'm going to greet you from now on: "Eat! Eat! You want to waste away to nothing??"

po said...

Oh, and I just had to laugh when I saw that the google ad on the sidebar of your blog, no doubt because of this post, was for "Rabbi Jay Weinstein." :D

Anonymous said...

Sweet, really. I'm a big believer in that kind of community. And so wonderful that you can take their advice (and even their food) without getting upset about it. A reminder that taking (as well as giving) can be an act of kindness.