Jewish Affairs to Remember: Oyvetions


Jewish Affairs to Remember Oyvetions


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Standing Oyvetions: Affairs to Remember

By Linda M. Katz

In every Jewish home there is a drawer, a basket, a handbag, or the inside pocket of a suit jacket, that contains memories of long past affairs. No, not the kind that evokes embers of smoldering passions and secret trysts, where one is left with love letters, pressed flowers, or better yet, a very nice piece of jewelry. These memories are more of sit down vs. buffet, band vs. DJ,. and would anyone remember you wore the green chiffon if you wore it again, should you actually be able to fit into it, four years later? These are the memories of the Yalmulka. For those unfamiliar with the term, it is the small skullcap traditionally worn by men for all religious occasions, and by women who still haven’t gotten over the whole women’s lib thing.

Long after we’ve thrown away the invitations, chipped yet another tooth on the Jordan almonds (when will we ever learn?), and outgrown the green chiffon, we still hold on to these little caps. Maybe as a reminder of a lovely wedding or Bar/Bat Mitzvah, but mostly out of guilt. There is something in us, that same something that won’t let us throw away that mostly empty container of ice cream, even though its contents have thawed and refrozen several times over, so that it is now more ice than cream, that says we just can’t throw away a perfectly good yalmulka.

So every few years we open the “yalmulka” drawer, and go through them. Like old photos which have no identifying information on the back, we try to remember the person whose affair it was, and, of course, what was served.

The yalmulkas will tell you “who” and to some degree, even “what.” The “who” is easy. Each is inscribed with the names of the happy couple (Linda and Mike, Oct 17, 1971) or the Bar/Bat Mitzvah /Christopher Anthony Martinez-Greenblatt May 2, 1992, (don’t ask.)

The “what” is a bit trickier, but there are clues. A plain white, unlined polyester/satin blend, black lettering, pretty much means wine only, buffet, DJ, single dessert. On the other hand, silk-lined burgundy crushed velvet, raised gold script means open bar, sushi on the hors d’voures buffet, white glove service, sit down dinner with choice of prime rib or wild salmon, and the Viennese dessert bar.

The first one I lifted was not so much a yalmulka, but a piece of muslin and a bobby pin. The muslin was stamped, “Connection Ceremony, HoneyBlossom and OakBear, July 3rd, 1972.” That was the year my cousin Barbara Sylvia and her boyfriend, Bruce Irving, moved to the Ashram in Oregon, and changed their names. Prior to the ceremony, members of the Ashram handed out the muslin, requesting a small donation. The officiant, the Exalted High Rama Lamma chanted about free love, controlled substances, and tax free shelters. While we questioned his credentials for being called exalted and conducting a legal marriage, no one doubted for a minute that he was high.

Maidens dressed in various tied-dyed combinations handed out flower petals, for a small donation, for us to throw at the happy couple. The dinner consisted of brown rice, something resembling dandelions, and berries. Another small donation was requested for the paper plates and plastic forks. The parents of HoneyBlossom and OakBear seemed somewhat embarrassed by this wedding, but things got a lot better for everyone once dessert, some kind of brownies with a “secret ingredient” was served. No one remembers anything after that.

I picked up another yalmulka lined in blue satin, inscribed “Jay Stuart, Bar Mitzvah, April 16, 1975.” Two things I remembered most about this affair. The first was my hair. It was big. If it had fruit in it, I would have resembled Carmen Miranda. It was the decade of the Afro, and platform shoes. Normally the tables in the reception hall would sit 8-10, but in 1975 they could only seat 6 because the hair took up so much space.

The second thing I remembered, was the fight. Two male guests in polyester leisure suits and gold chains, got into a heated argument regarding either politics, religion or the value of Blue Chip Stamps. Before anyone could stand up to stop them, without toppling over due to their big hair, blows were exchanged. While Jay Stuart’s parents were mortified, Jay Stuart himself thought the whole thing was pretty cool, the fight distinguishing his Bar Mitzvah from the 30 others he attended that year.

I’m not sure when the hand crocheted yalmulka entered the drawer, since there was no imprinting inside. These were made by Grandma Gertie and her friends at the Home for her granddaughter Barbara Sylvia’s second wedding. Having long since left the Ashram, and OakBear, HoneyBlossom was again Barbara Sylvia. Feeling cheated at not having what she thought was a real wedding the first time around, (real meaning expensive) she convinced her parents that their retirement could wait a few more years, and they should pay for this wedding, too.

The groom, Sean Patrick Dougherty O’Connnor, while being a very nice guy, posed problems as a son-in-law. Aside from the obvious, that he wasn’t either a lawyer or a real doctor, just one of those PhD’s, the real issue was that his parents drove a German car. The other issue plaguing the bride’s mother, Bev, was that Grandma Gertie expected all her friends from the Home to be invited to the wedding. After all, they crocheted all those yalmulkas, so how could they not be invited?

These extra guests meant that the reception would go over budget, and instead of the chicken with the three mushroom sauce, there would have to be a downgrade to chicken with one mushroom sauce. Who knew that mushrooms were so expensive! While I don’t particularly remember the chicken, I do remember that in general, it was a lovely wedding. An open bar will do that.

Before closing the drawer, I picked up a plain white yalmulka, with Malinow Silverman Mortuary printed inside. It made the memories bittersweet. For all the joyous life cycle occasions of the weddings, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, there were these, too. Grandparents, parents, cousins and friends, who shared those celebrations with us, are only in my memory and heart today.

I smile remembering how many yalmulkas my father had in the pockets of his sports coat, and hope I remembered to take them out when we gave that coat to the skid row shelter. It would be a shame if some homeless man reached into the pocket, felt the soft crushed velvet, and didn’t have an inkling about the Viennese dessert buffet at the Steinberg affair.


from the May 2006 Edition of the Jewish Magazine




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