Lexington Avenue has always been my favorite Avenue on the East Side of Manhattan. It’s the only neighborhoody one, and still has small non-chain stores and too many coffee houses for safety. I was killing time before going to the dentist and didn’t want to stain my teeth even more than I thought they were.
I passed a Mitzvah Mobile, or van with ultra Orthodox Jews, out to make sure Jews comply with the laws of Pesach (Passover.) A young man asked if I was Jewish. I smiled and continued up the street. Then thought why not speak to them? I walked back. “Yes. I. Am.”
“Do you know the story of Passover.”
I was a bit insulted as my family had a real Seder every year since I was fifteen. We were heathens before daddy got religion when we went to visit Orthodox relatives in Mobile AL. Not really heathens but we never belonged to a temple and had elaborate family dinners for Jewish holidays–only the major ones. Very major ones. We ate bacon at home but never other pork dishes. That was for Chinese restaurants.
“Of course I know about Passover.” Everybody cheered when it was my turn to read because I speed read the sections as fast as my mouth would work. But I do love the story. Before the meal there is the seder.
“But do you know what it really means?”
“It means overcoming the impossible.”
I thought about that. I knew he was speaking the language of spiritualism and trying to get people like me to really celebrate but still I liked that.
I also liked the matzahs he gave me. Homemade from Brooklyn they easily cost $18-$21 in a store.
I continued my saunter down Lexington Avenue. I passed a Mexican store that seemed to specialize in Oaxacan things, at least that’s how it looked in the window.
“Wow this is nice. I spent high school summers in Oaxaca.”
The owner looked me up and down. I almost stuck out my teeth so she could inspect them. The stuff in the store was cheesy and not up to my former 15-16 year old standards. As much as I love color and I learned about color from living in Oaxaca, I like my Mexican pottery and figurines to be brown or made from Oaxacan black pottery. OK I’m a snob. A total snob.
“Did you live with the Sciaky’s?”
“Yes I did.” The Sciaky husband was an anthropologist who died before my time and Mrs Sciaky was a great woman who accepted “interesting girls,” who had to read many books before coming for the summer. Once there we were immersed in the culture, and truly learned about a culture so different from our own.
It turned out that the owner hadn’t been a Sciaky girl but had a college roommate who was. We knew absolutely nobody in common and I couldn’t find anything I wanted to buy though I felt almost compelled to. I did ask for a card, then realized I was going to be late to the dentist if I didn’t get out of the store.
After the dentist finished I asked him a question that had been burning through my brain since I had been to the Mitzvah Mobile.
“I noticed about five Mitzvah Mobile’s. They give that great homemade matzah. Is it ethical if I go to more than one so I can have matzah’s for every house I go to while I’m in New York?”
My dentist was very excited at the thought of free homemade matzah. (I can’t think of its name.) He said: “Only if it makes you a profit?”
“One year I had an Orthodox patient who had all permanent implants. As you know implants are made from plastic.”
Passover laws are even more strict than regular Jewish laws. Many Orthodox people have two kitchens. One just for Passover. Other people go away for the holidays. Then there are the rest of us….But still this man was all ferklempt because meat and dairy dishes can never be eaten at the same meal. For Passover, well I’m not sure, but he wanted my dentist to take out his implants. My dentist refused. The man went even crazier. Finally he consulted his Rabbi.
The Rabbi’s decision was thus: Implants are Kosher for Passover if he paid the dentist twice. Once for meat; once for dairy. My dentist was paid twice for full mouth implants. Normally people have to raid the family store or borrow money for one set of implants.
I know this is a hard story to believe but years ago I was waiting to pay at the gynecologist’s office. The billing clerk was having a very hard time with the woman in front of me, an ultra Orthodox Jew. Finally the clerk said ” the thirteenth is free–like a baker’s dozen.” It turned out that the woman went into labor during the High Holidays and didn’t want to go to the hospital. Therefore the doctor wasn’t charging her for the labor he didn’t participate in or the follow up visits. And they knew she would be back the next year and for all the rest of her child-bearing years.
After I left the dentist I walked around the city looking for Mitzvah Mobiles. Unfortunately it was after five PM and the next day was Friday when they were preparing for both Shabbos (the sabbath) and pre-Passover. I didn’t realize that the whole day was a sort of holiday and spent it walking the windy freezing weather looking for matzah.
Passover has always been my favorite holiday, aside from Thanksgiving so this story was written with much love.
It wasn’t only windy and freezing that day but the first three days I was in New York. Then it rained. And rained. And rained.
I’m so happy to be home where Eldon, the house husband, is adding to my downstairs deck.
Something happened to me when I was in NY. Maybe it was seeing Rafe not once but three times. Maybe it was…I have no idea what. I realized how stupid it is to worry about what might be in the future. I finally understood the concept of living in the moment.
I’m happy. Truly happy. The kind of happiness you feel when spring has sprung and the beach is calling your name and your close friends are coming down and……
Rafe was in the hospital for three months. Only four days were denied. Four days that came out to $459,000. Credit cards are accepted. He’ll win his appeal because how can you deny four days out of three months? and we will make such a stink if he loses the insurance company will want to die itself.