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Where the Heart Is

I hope they won’t ask, How old are you now? Because I’m not planning to say that I’m twenty-nine

I’m a noticing type of guy. Tonight I notice that although I’m not a zeide, Mendy invited me to sit next to him at the table where the mechutanim and zeides sit.

It’s great being served first. I love the way the eggplant is crispy on the outside and has red little spices all over. The rice is oily and I ask the waiter for the biggest portion. Plus, I get to sit next to the chassan.

I turn toward him. His shtreimel is tall and the points stand straight. How do they make that happen? I love the feel of it, hairy and soft together. The points on top are the best. I lick my finger so it’s clean, and I reach out to touch the shtreimel. Ahh! The fuzz… the hair… But before I touch too much, Mendy turns around quickly. When he sees it’s me, he pats my back.

“Abe, I know you love it, but please don’t touch it.” He looks at my fingers to check if they’re clean. They are. “I told you it’s very expensive, Abe. Almost three thousand dollars.” He looks into my eyes to make sure I understand.

Who does he think he is, anyway? Younger than me and he’s got a shtreimel. The first one in the family with one, mind you. Even Tatty hasn’t got one, and Mendy does. I hope my wife will want me to wear a shtreimel, too.

My collar on my new shirt feels really hot. Mommy just bought me these shirts and the collar feels tight already. My ears become hot, and I know that I’m getting really, really angry. Know the type of guy I am? I let Mendy get married before me, and then he doesn’t even let me touch his shtreimel.

“Abe, you’re at a sheva brachos,” I tell myself. My mentor, Shia, taught me how to do this. If I’m planning to have The Talk with Tatty and Mommy tonight, I better behave. I try to breathe in through my mouth and out through my nose. But I think I’m off. My nose hurts from puffing breaths out. I should tell Shia that his ideas are not working for me.

I can’t do this breathing thing and I’m huffing mad.

Happy Birthday to you…

Happy Birthday to you…

Happy Birthday dear Abe, happy birthday to you!

I jerk up. Is that me they’re talking about? My breathing returns to normal. Hey, it’s in through the nose and out through the mouth, not the other way round.

I hope they won’t ask, How old are you now? Because I’m not planning to say that I’m twenty-nine. Everyone will know that I’m older than Mendy.

(Excerpted from Calligraphy, Issue 781)

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