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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
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.
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?
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.
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