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Friday, September 27, 2013

A Word From the Weiss
        Happy Simchat Torah from Nice Jewish Ma! Here’s to the Jewish holiday that offers both the triumph of endings (however bittersweet) and the fresh hope of new beginnings as we finish our yearly recitation of the Torah and proceed to start reading the scroll all over again.
After all, so rarely in life – if ever – do we get to take the good with... the good.
Too often, instead, we’re obliged to pick the lesser of two evils. No one ever seems to be asking you whether you would like to have both noodles and matzah balls in your chicken soup, or if you’d like to be too rich and too thin. So it was tantamount to torture when my husband and I had to choose between two important weddings last weekend.IgorandAnna.jpg
Igor, one of my son’s closest childhood chums, was tying the knot on Sunday with his longtime girlfriend Anna. Watching the boys grow up together through middle school, high school, and beyond – undergoing their bar mitzvahs, first dates, two proms, and many a far less lasting romance – I’d come to feel like he was truly a second son to me.
Yet Karla, the daughter of two of our dearest longtime friends, was getting hitched to her longtime boyfriend Zach at the very same time. Her parents, Rafi and Lois, had been like family to us for nearly 30 years, and we had known Karla since she was born. How could we consider for one single second missing that?KarlaandZachsavethedate.jpg
Compounding our eagerness to attend Igor’s nuptials was that our kids would both be there. Our son Aidan not only would serve as an usher, but also make a public toast – completely in Russian, Igor’s native language, no less, which Aidan somehow had learned to speak purely by osmosis while spending so much time in his friend’s house.
Yet we couldn’t disappoint our own old friends, so we soon made the tough choice: We would attend Karla’s wedding, while our kids represented our family at Igor’s.
As excited as I grew as these events drew near, it became a heartbreaking source of frustration that Aidan, his girlfriend Kaitlin, and our daughter Allegra would be home all weekend for their wedding, which was local, while we attended the other event out of town. Now that they’re grown and live on their own, they rarely visit. We go visit them instead.Aidanatferry.jpg
Our son, in particular, comes home approximately never… twice a year, to be fair. He comes for Purim. Then for Passover. And Passover is actually a pretty good term for it, because he comes and goes so quickly that his feet barely touch the living room floor.
Given our respective schedules, it seemed unlikely that we would overlap at all. How could our offspring finally be around, and we not manage to lay eyes on them?Pumpkinbeer.jpg
Even so, in anticipation of their arrival, I did everything I could think of to make the house accommodating. After cleaning and de-cluttering obsessively for days (a major concession, since it’s well known that a neatnik I’m not), I made up their rooms, put out fresh towels and toiletries, and filled the fridge with things that they like, from vegetarian food for Kaitlin to fresh berries, cookies, yogurt, ice cream, and pumpkin-flavored beer.
I also left a collection of accessories on Allegra’s bed – from evening bags and fancy shawls to a pricey necklace left to me by my mother – remembering how much fun we’d had exchanging accoutrements before the last wedding we attended together.JakeandDoreenatHarvestInn.jpg
Our plan required us to leave late Saturday morning, having promised to meet up at our hotel with close out-of-town friends, fellow wedding guests whom we rarely get to see either. So it was a slight relief to hear from them that morning that they had to pay an unexpected condolence call to some local relatives and would not arrive until 4 or 5.
We quickly phoned our kids to announce that we’d be able to see them, after all. Unfortunately, Aidan, who was driving everyone home, was exhausted from a hectic week at work and overslept. We delayed departing as long as possible, but by the time we had to leave to rendezvous with our friends, our kids were still over an hour away.KarlasweddingRafiandLois.JPG
Make no mistake. I was not only thrilled to be part of our dear friends’ simcha, but so overcome with emotion that on multiple occasions throughout the weekend – when I first encountered them in the lobby, when they walked their gorgeous daughter down the aisle, and when I got to hug them after the ceremony – I instantly burst into tears.Karlaatrehearsaldinnercropped.jpg
But it also would be honest to admit that I remained torn between two love fests and spent much of the ensuing days doing my very best to exist in two places at once.
On Saturday night at the elegant rehearsal dinner, I rudely fielded many a text message from the home front asking everything from “Where's the homemade hot fudge, so we can make sundaes?” to “Where’s the TV remote?”
When it was time to dress for the main event Sunday, I found myself exchanging more texts and photos with Allegra and Kaitlin, who were doing the same on their end.Kaitlininshortdress.JPG
“Change of plans,” Allegra wrote to me, noting that Kaitlin had decided to wear a short black and cream lace dress instead of the long sparkly teal gown I had bought her. It was an afternoon wedding, after all, and the gown was a bit too long for her shoes.PattieinStopStaringdress.JPG
“Change of plans,” I echoed back, revealing that I had decided to wear a calf-length, 1940s-style pin-up girl dress from a company called Stop Staring in place of the maxi dress I had planned to wear, until my husband informed me that it made me look like a blob.
        (OK, in his defense, and possibly mine as well, he later insisted that he had never said the word “blob.” But believe me, that’s what I heard!)AllegraandKaitlinatIgorswedding.JPG
Allegra shot over a photo of them fully dressed when they arrived at their destination.
I fired back a shot of my husband and me riding to our ceremony on the group bus from our hotel.PattieandHarlanonbustowedding.JPG
The second their ceremony drew to a close, they sent a picture of Igor and Anna kissing passionately under the chuppah as they were pronounced husband and wife.IgorandAnnakiss.JPG
I volleyed back a portrait of Zach and Karla (or as the inscription in their wedding kippot dubbed them, “Zarla”) gazing rapturously into each others’ eyes under their own chuppah, moments after they defied tradition by each stomping ceremonially on a glass.
Best of all, though, was when Allegra texted me that she had captured my son’s entire Russian toast on her phone. She followed up by promptly texting the video to me, although I was much too busy watching the father of our bride give his own special and heartfelt toast, and decided to wait until I had a quiet moment back at the hotel to watch.KaitlinandAidanatIgorswedding2.jpg
Worst of all, on the other hand, was when Allegra sent a news flash announcing that something awful had just happened to her. I thought of the short strapless dress that she was wearing, and all I could imagine were the words “wardrobe malfunction.”
Or had World War III just broken out?
“I caught the bouquet, and then the most mortifying thing ensued,” she explained. “They blindfolded me and called all the ‘single guys’ to the dance floor, and then they made me pick someone to dance with BY FEELING THEIR FACES!”
        Oy! Oy! And Oy!
Could this be a Russian wedding custom? It’s not, to my knowledge, a Jewish one.
Yet just as I received this missive, I heard the opening strains of a hora and rushed off to join the crowd of revelers in circling to the left, then the right, followed by the quintessential Jewish wedding custom of hoisting the bride, groom, and their respective parents high up in chairs.KarlasweddingPattieandHarlan.JPG
We ended up dancing from there on in until the wedding cake was served. And after watching the groom, the bride, and the father of the bride rock it out on the dance floor, we returned to our hotel and continued celebrating at the “after party.”AidanandKaitlinatIgorswedding.jpg
It was only after the after party that I got to listen at last to my son’s Russian toast. I could hear that everyone in the room seemed to laugh uproariously at every sentence. This was a feat that Aidan had been performing regularly in honor of his good friend for years… at his bar mitzvah, birthday parties, and other family occasions. Yet I had never seen him do it before. And as usual it was all in Russian, so I had no clue what it meant.AidanandAllegraatIgorswedding.jpg
I soon got a call from Allegra, who said that they were leaving our house at 10:30 the next morning and that they had offered to give a ride back to the city to Andrew and Lana, mutual friends of the bride and groom who’d gotten married only last month. It was just as well, I said. The bride’s family had invited us to a brunch the next morning – the after after party – and according to my husband, it didn’t start until 10:30 a.m.
Afterwards, though, I checked the schedule and discovered that he was wrong. The brunch actually ended at 10:30 a.m. No matter. By the time we got to bed, it was 2 a.m. We’d never make it home in time to see our kinder off.PoolinMysticMarriott.jpg
The next thing I knew, I opened my eyes to find our hotel room flooded with sunlight. It was shortly after 8 a.m. Monday. It was gorgeous out, and my husband had the whole day off. We were staying at a luxurious hotel, and if we wanted to, we could linger over brunch and then take a leisurely swim in the indoor pool before checking out at noon. Then we could spend the afternoon in the scenic fishing village of Stonington nearby.Stonington.jpg
Or not. For suddenly I knew exactly what I wanted to do instead.
“Let’s throw on some clothes, gulp down brunch, and go home,” I told my husband. “If we head out by 9, or fairly close to that, we can easily make it before the kids leave.”
He readily agreed.
That, at least, was the plan. When we got downstairs, he seemed to be in no hurry. I practically inhaled my made-to-order spinach and cheese omelet. He dawdled over his, chatted at leisure with our breakfast companions, then spent a long time writing an email on his iPhone to our Minneapolis friends, who had left just before we got down.
I urged him repeatedly to hurry up, but he said he was eating as fast as he could. And just when he was about to become a candidate for the clean plate club, a waitress asked if anyone wanted a bloody Mary, and he accepted, sending her to retrieve one.BloodyMary2.jpg
“Are you crazy?” I asked. “It’s Monday morning. The last thing you need is a drink. You’re driving home!” Not to mention that we were already running behind schedule.
He’d already ordered the drink, though, and insisted on waiting for it, promising to only have a taste.
In view of my exasperation, he agreed to take the drink upstairs to “taste” while he packed. Then both this tasting and the packing seemed to take forever. I watched as he put things into his bag slowly and methodically, one by one, folding each item carefully.
There is something to be said for being fastidious, and that something is “Argh#%$*%&!!!” Why couldn’t he simply toss all of his dirty laundry into his suitcase? I just wanted to go.Harlanpacking.JPG
Maybe it’s just a guy thing, but when we arrive at a hotel, my husband tends to scatter his belongings throughout the entire room, as if marking his territory like a dog. I keep everything but my toothbrush inside my bag so I’ll be ready to leave in a heartbeat.
        In part, I worry that if I unpack, I’ll risk leaving something behind. There’s also that other subconscious element that, as a Jew, you always half-expect the Cossacks to suddenly arrive at the door, so you have to be ready to flee at only a moment’s notice.
Well, I have now come to the conclusion that if the Cossacks ever come, I will have to abandon my spouse of nearly 30 years, rather than risk making our children orphans. Because by the time he had loaded every single item into his bag and finished “tasting” his bloody Mary, it was already 9:30 a.m., and we were half an hour behind schedule.Countryroad1.JPG
Perhaps I should have realized at that point that it was time to throw in the towel. Was it really worth racing home like maniacs, knowing that at best we might see our kids for a total of two minutes? Maybe not. But I wasn’t ready to go back to plan A.
Besides, Aidan and Kaitlin are not renowned for their punctuality any more than I’m known for neatness. “We’re leaving momentarily,” I texted Allegra. “Will aim for 10:30. Are you able to wait a few minutes?”
She responded by calling to say that Aidan and Kaitlin were still asleep, but they might awaken at any moment, and they had vowed to pick up their friends by 10:30.
So we stepped on it.
The shortest route home amounted to 53 miles, mostly on winding back roads, though, and there was only so fast we could go.Countryroad2.JPG
“We’re 10 miles away,” I texted home at 10:28 a.m. “What’s happening?”
“We’re on our way out,” Allegra wrote back.
“Shoot!” I replied. By the time I’d read her message, we were only 5 miles away. We could see the city skyline looming ahead. Couldn’t they wait just a few minutes?
Nope. They were leaving to pick up their friends, a few blocks away from our house.GreenCamrybackview.JPG
I offered to meet them there. Maybe their friends wouldn’t be ready to go anyway.
“Maybe,” she allowed. “Don’t get your hopes up. We’re already 8 minutes late.”
Indeed, we had no such luck. Their friends were all ready and already waiting.
        “We’re off,” she wrote.Countryroad3.JPG
“OK,” I responded, noting that we were now two minutes away from their house.
I realized full well that I sounded totally deranged by now. I also was well aware that they might actually be deliberately trying to leave before we got there, realizing that the “quick hello” I had in mind might turn out to not be so quick at all.
Whatever was happening, they weren’t going to wait, even for one more minute.
        “Sorry, Mom!” Allegra stated. “We have to leave.”
And they did.
        I couldn’t believe it. How could we have driven all this way at breakneck speed, only to miss them by seconds?
“It’s ok,” I wrote back. “We may pass you on the road. We’ll wave.”
She wrote reporting the route they were taking to the highway, but I knew it was futile. My husband suggested that we give up and go pick up the dog at daycare instead.Latkeinbackyard.JPG
The dog!?!
I love our dog, but right now she was no replacement for my children. All I wanted was to see them. Even for just one minute. I wanted to hug them. I wanted to touch them. I wanted to share in the fun they’d had all weekend, if only for a moment.
Then, just as my heart sank into the depths of a bottomless ocean... a reprieve!LanaatIgorswedding2.jpg
Lana, Andrew’s new wife, had discovered that she’d accidently put her water bottle into the trunk of Aidan’s car, and she wanted to retrieve it for the long trip home. Allegra wrote that they were pulling over briefly at a ballpark near the entrance to the highway.
“Be right there!” I replied, my spirits leaping as we resumed our manic car chase.redlight.JPG
One block, two blocks, three blocks, four… Then, of course, we hit a red light.
“Where are you now?” Allegra wrote.
I wrote back with our location. “You guys are too far,” she responded. Followed by “We’re off again.”
By that point, we were at a traffic light only half a block from the highway entrance. My husband insisted that he actually saw their Camry swing onto the entrance ramp.84entrance.JPG
Then promptly disappear.
Which somehow felt far worse to me than our never having gotten there at all.
My kids had come home for the first full weekend in years and I never got to see them.
Why couldn’t my husband have eaten, packed, and “tasted” just a little faster?
Why couldn’t my kids have waited just another minute or two?
But most of all, why was this insane desire to see them so important to me?
The truth was that we’d seen them both only a week or so earlier, on Yom Kippur.
Also, I know that there are people whose children live so far away that they rarely if ever get to see them. We’re truly blessed to still get more than our share of family time.LevysphotoatTreva.jpg
But my daughter was leaving a few days later for a long weekend in Los Angeles. My son was going away for yet another wedding, too. I might not see them again for over a month.
“You can drive into the city later this week, if you really want to,” my husband offered by way of consolation, after admitting that our missing them had been his fault.
How could I explain to him that this would barely mitigate my deep sense of loss? The truth is that I realized my behavior was borderline crazy, and I could barely explain it to myself.
Instead of enjoying the rest of a gorgeous early fall day off, I spent the remainder of the afternoon wallowing in misery… until I got a call from my daughter announcing (as Jews are wont to do) that she had arrived home safely, then explaining why they hadn’t waited.
Lana, apparently, had needed to get to work by 2, and when they had picked her up, they already had been running late. “Didn’t we tell you that?” my daughter asked.
Uh… no.AllegrainLASeptember2013.jpg
Clearly, if only someone had explained this to me in the first place, I never would've asked them to wait for us, nor have taken their leaving anyway as a big slap in the face.
“If it weren’t for that, of course we would have waited,” Allegra assured me. At the same time, she couldn’t begin to fathom why I’d been so desperate to see them.
And neither could my son, who called the next morning to apologize and explain the same thing.
“Just wait until you’re a parent,” was all that I could say.
But if you’re a mother, or maybe a father, perhaps you can understand.
Is it just we nice Jewish moms, or would most parents of any ilk and denomination gladly trade a whole day of pleasant activities to share a moment or two with their kids?
Meanwhile, I soon began to comprehend what our insane rush had been all about.AidanandAllegrareallyyoung.JPG
Despite all of the chaos, family conflicts, and yes, the occasional financial pressures, the years in which we were raising our children will always rank in my mind as the single happiest time of our lives. And as a relatively new empty nester, I am still slowly and rather painfully coming to terms with the realization that those wonderful years are definitively over.
The birthday parties… the school concerts and plays… sitting around the dinner table together every night… and early Sunday mornings, when everyone came down to breakfast late, still in their pajamas… No matter how often I see my children in their new lives in the big city, it feels now like there will never be anything quite as good as that.
Then again, there are now plenty of other good moments, like when my kids call to announce good news or to share bad problems about which they need a bit of parental advice.
Or when they each call to tell me all about the incredible wedding that I unfortunately missed and my son finally translates his hilarious Russian toast into (mostly) plain English for me.
This, apparently, is what he said to the gathered crowd as he lifted his glass:
        “Igor, I love you! You’re amazing!
“Anna, I love you. You’re amazing!
“Igor, when we were growing up, I always knew that your wife would be this beautiful. But I never knew she would be as smart as you are… maybe even smarter!
“To health! To happiness! To love!
“To Igor and Anna!
Na zda-ró-vye!"
        I still don't understand how he learned how to say all of that. But to this, I would like to add a few of my own words of celebration, mostly in English:
To Igor and Anna!Karlasweddingdress.JPG
        To Zach and Karla!
        To health, happiness, and brides and grooms everywhere, whoever they may be!
To my children, whom I love beyond measure and beyond any words that ever might suffice!Pattieinstripeddress.JPG
And to all Jewish mothers and others everywhere, nice or otherwise, deranged or otherwise (although truly, let’s be honest, is there any other kind?)!
To noodles and matzah balls!
        To endings (however bittersweet) and new beginnings of more good things hopefully to come!
        To you! To me!
Na zda-ró-vye! L’chaim! 

12:55 am 

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Word From the Weiss
        On one recent weekend, one of my wildest, most far-fetched fantasies came true. But before you get all hot and bothered and begin to anticipate hearing about something kinky or perverse, let me remind you that I have yet to read so much as a single paragraph of Fifty Shades of Grey. Although I probably have as many secret fantasies as the next nice Jewish mom, my wildest dreams run much more toward, say, 50 kinds of kugel, 50 shades of Greek yogurt, or “50 ways to make your fast go a little faster on Yom Kippur.”
No, let’s be perfectly honest. To the dismay of my husband of nearly 30 years – the relatively normal, hot-blooded guy to whom I refer regularly here as Nice Jewish Dad (although if you really knew him, you might not consider “nice” to be the most apt description) -- most of my daydreams revolve around good things that might happen to my children. And this one fell into that basic category, in that it involved our third child… our “water daughter”… otherwise known as Latke, our Portuguese Water Dog.Latkeinbackyard.JPG
Ever since we adopted her as a puppy, nearly 18 months ago, I have found myself virtually quarantined at home with her on a daily basis. This is not what I expected to be doing at this otherwise liberated stage of my life, but I truly hate to leave her alone. My husband, who trots glibly off to work most weekdays, keeps telling me that she’s just a dog, and that I should go about my business, not giving it a second thought. But it seems to me that my main business in life is making my kids happy whenever possible, and she’s the only child that I have left at home now. So I hesitate to even go to the supermarket.Latkeshavocinthehouse.JPG
I know that, to some people anyway, this may seem to be a little too solicitous toward a mere canine companion. Yet it seems cruel to keep her confined for hours inside her crate unless absolutely necessary… and too often, when we’ve left her behind to roam about freely, we’ve come back to discover with abject horror that she has wreaked doggie havoc throughout the house.
But I feel the most guilt by far during the summer, when we abandon her for hours on a gorgeous day in order to spend the afternoon at the swim club to which we belong. Instead of luxuriating on a lounge chair beside the pool, I find myself checking my wristwatch relentlessly, calculating how long she has been stuck indoors all alone.Pattieonloungechair.jpg
        So, that wildest fantasy I was talking about? It’s that we dress her up in little girl's clothing, or invent some other scheme to smuggle her into our club to join us for a swim.
Latke, mind you, may not fully share this aspiration. Her own fantasies tend more toward 50 shapes of bone. And although, as a purebred PWD, she is by nature a water-loving creature, the few times that I have coaxed her into a friend’s pool, she has instantly, frantically, and emphatically paddled back to the edge and clambered out.Latkeinbackyardpool.JPG
Yet just as Woody Allen refuses to join any club that would have him as a member, I regret being affiliated with any club that refuses to admit my dog. The only problem is that I have yet to find one that will. So when I learned about the recent Doggie Dash/Duathlon at the Mandell Jewish Community Center Swim & Tennis Club, well, I nearly plotzed.
This, apparently, was the second such annual event held by the Mandell JCC and its outdoor summer facilities – to which I do belong – but we couldn’t attend last year. So this was going to be not just a dream come true, but a first for me. And our dog.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of a “duathlon” for dogs, allow me to quote directly from the brochure: “Dogs and their human partners will walk or run a 1.5 mile course, then can opt to swim the width of the pool at the Swim & Tennis Club.”
Given Latke’s previous poolside behavior, I wasn’t exactly confident that she would submit to dog-paddling the width of the JCC’s Olympic-size outdoor pool. I also couldn’t quite envision her taking a lap or two, as I am often wont to do, in anything close to a linear fashion.
Fortunately, there were several other contests and events listed on the agenda.PattieinJCCpool4.jpg
Chief and most appealing among them was an “Open Plunge Swim for Dogs Only.” Although this might not allow me to paddle around with my pooch in my favorite tankini, I figured that she’d far prefer splashing around with playmates of her own species, anyway. I also had indulged my desire to cool off in the club pool for enough years now.  It was her turn.Latkebesideball.JPG
lso on the roster was something referred to as a doggie talent show. And as much as it might not be important to Latke to show off her skills, I knew that my husband, being a man, was far more competitive than I am, and he would find it hard not to participate.
I also realized that Latke, even though still technically a puppy, was a natural performer and easily up to the challenge. The question was, what might her talent be?
She fetches balls with near-infinite energy and focus, but so does almost any dog.Latkeholdingball.JPG
She has yet to master calculus or quantum physics, yet that makes two of us.
She does show some promise on the dance floor, provided that I hold her paws real tight. But she’s not quite what I'd call Dancing with the Stars material (not that half of the “stars” on that show are either), and with only a few days left to prepare, I knew that a tango, cha cha, or passable Paso Doble were past the realm of possibility.OlateDogsridingscooters.jpg
Face it. As much potential as my favorite ball of fur might have, she was not going to turn overnight into one of those Olate Dogs. I don’t know if you are familiar with this act, which won last year’s season of America’s Got Talent. But I must confess that this show is one of my guilty pleasures, and on a recent episode these supposed rescue animals gave an astonishing encore performance in which they rode scooters, did somersaults, marched in a conga line like circus elephants, and did just about everything else you can imagine short of solving a Rubik’s Cube.OlateDogscongaline.jpg
The JCC event, however, was not going to be on live national TV. Latke merely had to do something fairly cute in front of a few adults and no doubt kids at our local pool. And with time running out, we really had to get on the stick.
        Speaking of which, I had a sudden inspiration.Coco2.JPG
Earlier this summer, we finally had gotten our back yard fully fenced in so that Latke, who is sociable and friendly to the max, might begin entertaining doggie guests. Her most frequent play dates involve a rather debonair miniature poodle named Coco. He usually graces us not only with his own presence, but also that of his three human siblings, Isabella, Eden, and Troy, as well.Cocossiblings.JPG
And in order to entertain this lively group, along with the dogs themselves, I’ve taken to making the animals jump over a long garden stick in exchange for dog treats.
Latke will do almost anything for a treat, short of solving a Rubik’s Cube. Jumping over a stick might not be rocket science, but it looked pretty damn cute. It would have to do.Latkeapproachingjumpingstick.JPG
Over the ensuing week, Latke practiced this skill daily, as I raised the stick higher. And higher. By Wednesday, we were ready to perform for Nice Jewish Dad (who is not exactly the most discriminating or objective audience when it comes to his hairy little darling).Latkejumpinglow.JPG
Having Coco on hand to compete seemed only to egg Latke on. Pretty soon, she was leaping with both ease and astonishing grace, like a regular Olympic pole vaulter (although as her nice Jewish human mom, I may not be the most objective critic, either).
I didn’t dare tell her about the hoopla to come, however. Not until the night before, anyway.Latkeinmidair.JPG
I’m no professional dog trainer, but I've learned by trial and error that you often can get your point across to your pet if you break the concept up into small words that he or she comprehends. The closest thing to this event that came to mind was the annual Memorial Day parade in our town. Dozens of dogs are always on hand for that, and Latke absolutely loves it.
“We’re going to a parade tomorrow,” I told her excitedly on the eve of the big day. “Latke play doggies. Lots of doggies! Latke go swimmy-swimmy in a pool, too.”
I don’t know what has convinced me that if Latke could speak, she would talk like a toddler. But to the eternal irritation of my husband, baby talk simply seems like the way to go.Latkejumpinghigher.JPG
repeated my announcement many times and, believe it or not, Latke totally got my drift. The next morning, she just wouldn’t leave me alone. She planted her furry little bottom by the door and kept hounding me (literally). “Let’s go already!” she clearly said.
This went on for quite awhile, since the event didn’t start until 1 p.m. Just before we left, I checked the time on the pamphlet one more time. That’s when I remembered about the second event, to which I’d given no consideration: the best-dressed contest.
Reluctant to miss out on any of the fun, I peered into the cabinet in which we keep doggie supplies, and the most promising thing I saw was a court jester collar and hat left over from some Halloween past. Latke hates having anything attached to her head. Sorry, Latke! It would have to do.DogsatJCCDash.JPG
When we had registered for the event the previous week, we’d been told that only 15 dogs had signed up so far. So we were surprised to pull up to a place usually teeming with Jewish parents and tots in bathing suits and find it overrun with laddies and Lassies on leashes.
There were large dogs, small dogs, nice Jewish dogs, and seemingly gentile dogs, and our dog had an endless desire to greet them all… that is, to greet all of their ends. Sorry again, Latke! After signing in and collecting our complimentary Doggie Dash t-shirt, it was already time to line up for the first event, the 1.5 mile walk/run.DoggieDash.JPG
Some dogs walked while their owners ran. Some owners ran while their dogs merely walked. Given my still-broken toe, I just stood there while my husband did the honors. That’s not the only reason I was pleased when this phase of the festivities was finally over. We can walk our dog on a leash anytime. Today we had come to swim!
Although the brochure had indicated that dogs and their human partners would have a chance to paddle across the length of the pool together, no humans seemed to be partaking of this opportunity. Rather, all dogs inclined to participate were lined up with their owners beside the pool, and representatives from Planet Bark, a local doggie daycare facility, were on hand to help them in and out of the water.Dogswaitingtoswim.JPG
The main swimming pool is several feet deep, so perhaps it should have come as no surprise that many of the dogs shied away from this rare chance. Still, given Latke’s innate dog-paddling prowess, I remained hopeful that she would take the plunge.
When it was finally her turn up at bat, we were instructed to have my husband walk to the opposite side of the pool and call to her, as so many of the other owners had. I remained with Latke until he was in place. Then he began to call her name.
Here was her response:Latkeexitingbigpool.JPG
She looked at him. She looked at me.
        She looked at him.
        She looked at me.
Clearly, she wanted to go to Daddy. But she also wanted to stay with Mommy.
Just as clearly, she did not want to go into the water. Under any circumstances.
Gently but firmly, one of the women from Planet Bark guided her down the steps anyway.
She took a few tentative strokes, then turned right around and bounded back out.
She looked at him. She looked at me. She looked at him. She looked at me. Then she shook herself off vigorously, totally dousing everyone within reach.Latkerunningaroundpool.JPG
Then she ran around the perimeter of the pool and jumped on Daddy, dousing him.
The ladies of Planet Bark declared her brilliant, saying that she’d outsmarted us all. Maybe quantum physics and calculus weren’t out of the question, after all.Latkesoakingwet.JPG
My only concern now was that she dry off quickly in order to look her best. The talent show was about to begin!
As with any beauty pageant, like last week’s groundbreaking Miss America competition -- the first ever won by a woman of Indian descent -- this to me is always the most entertaining part, even beyond the all-important and potentially humiliating final Q & A session (although my husband favors the swimsuit competition when it comes to contestants of human descent).
But was subjecting our four-footed offspring to any kind of competition fair? Never mind Toddlers & Tiaras. We were now talking Critters and Crowns.Dogclimbingladder.JPG
I watched in mounting distress as a large black and white dog of unspecified breed bounded to the top of a stepladder in order to retrieve a dog biscuit. The mistress of ceremonies seemed relatively unimpressed, however, wondering aloud if the same sort of incentive might suffice to get her husband to fix a few things around the house.KingCharlesspaniel.JPG
Next, an adorable 4- or 5-year-old girl coaxed an equally adorable, tiny, orange and white Cavalier King Charles spaniel to sit and give one paw and then the other.
Seeing how much the cuteness factor enhanced this performance, I gripped Latke, who was still soaked to the bone, and fastened the court jester’s collar around her neck.
This happened none too soon, because seconds later we were up.
“Next in line is Latke, the circus dog!” cried the emcee, the JCC’s director of Recreation and Wellness, seeing her colorful get-up. “What is she going to do for us?”Latkeincourtjesterscollar.JPG
I was wondering that myself. But I had fairly high expectations – or at least great hope that she would leap fairly high – because I had brought along a secret weapon.chickensoupinbowl.jpg
This event fell only days before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, so I had just made a vat of hearty homemade chicken soup to freeze for the holidays. From this, I had diced up a small bag full of extremely flavorful soup chicken. Latke will do almost anything for a dog treat, but she’ll do absolutely anything for a human treat like chicken.  
Especially the kosher chicken from Nice Jewish Mom’s homemade chicken soup.Latkeraisingthebar.JPG
My husband and I grasped either end of the stick and coaxed her to leap over it, lifting it higher and higher. She jumped from left to right. She jumped from right to left. Each time, seeing a hand holding a cube of chicken, she cleared the bar with ease.
We ended up raising the bar much higher than usual, and in what was to be her final leap, she let it catch her leg. But I insisted on letting her try it once more, and on her second try she sailed over. Everyone there applaud wildly. Everyone human, that is.Latkeleapingup.JPG
Subsequent contenders demonstrated such skills as rolling over to the left and then the right, and coming for a treat while stopping on command at regular intervals. Most remarkable in my eyes, however, was when my longtime JCC Zumba instructor Karin, one of my favorite people ever, demonstrated her best salsa dancing moves… accompanied by the handsomest partner imaginable, her fluffy white poodle, Colby.
        Now, there's your Dancing with the Stars material.KarinandColbysalsadancing.JPG
Finally, there was a short break while the judges conferred amongst themselves. Then I listened as the emcee made the announcement with aplomb. “We have our winners, everyone. Starting with third place… let’s hear it for… Latke, the circus dog!”
I could hardly believe my ears as we marched up to collect her official certificate. The most I had hoped for was to have a little fun, and for my pet to rise to the occasion. I’d never expected her to rank among the winners.Doggietalentaward.JPG
In second place, to little surprise, came Karin and Colby, the salsa-dancing dog.
As for first place, it went to that teeny-weeny, paw-lifting Cavalier King Charles and her itsy bitsy human costar. I guess with dogs, as with just about everything else, you simply cannot overestimate that all-important cuteness factor.Doggiecostumeparade.JPG
But if you really want to talk about cuteness, I soon realized that we hadn’t seen anything yet, because it was time to line up for the costume parade.
I watched as the contenders formed a small circle and began to march around.Pugintutu.JPG
There was a rather regal-looking pug in a multi-colored tulle tutu.
Colby, the amazing salsa-dancing dog, donned a dapper doggie tux.
And a small black dog of indeterminate breed modeled a dainty blue floral sundress, complete with a matching bow affixed to one of her ears.Latkeincourtjestershat.JPG
I hastened to attach Latke’s jester’s cap, fastening the Velcro strap under her chin. But as I mentioned, she has never been a big fan of headgear, to put it mildly.
        Within seconds of our joining the costume cavalcade, the cap was dangling from her neck instead. And no matter how often I reached down to set it upright, she shook it loose again.
It was just as well. We had already gotten our share of recognition for the day, and I hadn’t really invested much if any thought into a costume, or creativity. And creativity was clearly key, for the prize soon went to a poodle decked out as a marathon runner, complete with sunglasses, running shorts and top, a numbered tag pinned to his back.MosestheBassetHound.JPG
There was only one competitive event remaining, and it turned out to only attract one contender. After all, the object was to be declared the dog that “looks most like owner.” For this, there was no contest. You didn’t need to be a prophet to predict that the prize would go to Moses, a somewhat down-at-the-mouth Basset Hound… even if his owner posed for me with the doggie face she’d sketched onto a paper plate upside down.Latkeleapingintokiddiepool.JPG
The festivities were far from over, though. Rather, it was time for the real fun to begin. For, with the competition complete at last, the dogs were now free to run wild and to do what we had come for in the first place: cavort in the club’s kiddie pool.Latkeandpalsinpool.JPG
There were only a few inches of water in this ample round receptacle, and it took no prodding whatsoever to get Latke to take a flying leap in. Within seconds, she was gamboling around with exuberant abandon in the azure blue water with countless other canine companions.Latkebobbingforballsinpool.jpg
The staff also had seen fit to toss in a huge collection of colorful tennis balls. As I said, Latke fetches balls with near-infinite energy and focus. And when those balls happen to be wet, I discovered, it becomes a matter of well, infinity times infinity.Latkeandfriendsinkiddiepool.JPG
She passed well over an hour this way, and seemed deliriously happy about it, well beyond the normal boundless delight of your typical four-footed tail-wagger. This brought me to the conclusion that my long-held fantasy was not one of those cases of “Be careful what you wish for.”
Or was it?Latkesquattinginpool.JPG
The pools had been closed after Labor Day and they were about to be drained for the year, so there were no worries about the animals sullying the water (not that kiddie pools are all generally all that pristine anyway). Yet I had a moment of panic when I saw Latke dash over to the fence and gaze at the grass outside it with unmistakable longing, then proceed to leap back into the pool and squat into an unmistakable position.
Moments later, forgive me for getting graphic, but I saw a streak of vivid yellow surround her, then almost as instantly dissipate into the surrounding blue ripples.
“Latke, come!” I shrieked. And just as quickly as she had dived in, she leapt out and let me attach her leash to her collar and lead her quickly out beyond the fence.Latkeleapingoutofpool.JPG
“Do not go in there!” declared my husband, in the inimitable words of Ace Venture Pet Detective, when we had returned to the pool. And I realized that my fantasy about getting to swim with my dog (not to mention other people’s dogs) might be best off remaining just that – a fantasy – after all.
My only other objective for the day had been to find some new potential friends for my pooch. I became hopeful when she showed some interest in a new arrival, a small butterscotch-colored dog who, with or without costume or talent, had “cute” down pat.CaramelcoloreddogatJCC.JPG
   When I wandered over to introduce Latke to this puppy’s owner by name, however, I heard her begin to joke to the woman beside her that her mother had urged her to give her own dog a nice Jewish name like Kasha or Farfel.
        “Can you imagine?” she groaned.
These were both names we had carefully considered, along with Kugel and Knish. Maybe, on second thought, this was not the new friend for us.
It was a fun day overall and a worthwhile one too, with many of the proceeds raised benefiting the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation and the Connecticut Humane Society.
        And since my main business in life is making my kids happy whenever possible, I am already looking forward to next year’s dash, which is regrettably a whole year away.LatkeandMommy.JPG
At least that gives me a whole 12 months to devise and prepare a better costume, or start resembling my dog… although I’m convinced that talent remains the way to go.
Cartwheels or calculus?
        Becoming the world’s first hora-dancing dog, perhaps?
        Solving a Rubik’s Cube with one paw tied behind her back?RubiksCube.jpg
I’m sure we, or she, will come up with something by then. Fortunately, Latke and I will have plenty of time at home together to prepare. And I have a whole lot of soup chicken left.

12:40 pm 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Word From the Weiss
        Happy New Year, everyone, and happy to be back, I suppose. But please don’t ask me to fully account for myself during the past three weeks or so, since last I wrote. Neither can I begin to explain where the summer went, let alone the entire past year. Seems like only yesterday that it was 5772. How time flies when you’re being a Jew!
It also seems like only yesterday that it was Passover (which helps account for the three boxes of leftover matzah still sitting on my kitchen floor). Perhaps it’s time to put those away, along with all the white pants that fashion dictates I ditch post-Labor Day.nowhitepants2.jpg
The only upside that I see to the arrival of September is that I spent the whole summer mildly obsessing about what I was going to wear to a wedding in late August. And I no longer need to think about it anymore. That wedding, and those worries, are over.HyonSongwol.jpg
Yes, I know that I should be preoccupied with more pressing issues, like global warming and the political unrest in Egypt… not to mention what to do about Kim Jong-un and his executed ex-lover Hyon, a singer best known for her 2005 run-away hit, “Excellent Horse-Like Lady.”
But there you have it. Our good friends Suzy and Stan’s elder son Andrew was getting married on August 29th, KimJongUn.jpgand from the moment that the “Save the Date” email arrived in April, I was determined to look nice there, as if peace in the Middle East depended upon it.LanaandAndrewSavetheDate.JPG
With that in mind, I began perusing emails from department stores night and day, thumbing eagerly through the virtual racks of evening dresses on sale. I found myself peeking surreptitiously at my iPhone so often that my husband began to suspect that I had a secret boyfriend. I realized this full well, but resolutely elected not to 'fess up. Better to let him think I was cheating than for him to learn the truly sordid truth: I was shopping.
I let my fingers do the walking through Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, and Nordstrom, along with hipper sites like Bluefly and Modcloth. Then, when Fourth of July sales hit the Web, I decided to put my money where my mind was and actually order some items.
And that’s when the real drama began.AidanandKaitlininTobago.jpg
The styles that I selected were from Saks Fifth Avenue, and while scrutinizing this merchandise I noticed a magnificent gown that looked perfect for my son’s girlfriend, Kaitlin.
It was not only in her size (which I happened to know) and her favorite color (ditto), but was made by designer Aidan Mattox, whose first name was the same as my son’s.AidanMattoxbluebeadedgown.JPG 
My daughter confirmed that Kaitlin had yet to buy a dress for the wedding, and that, presumably never having been to a Jewish wedding before, she wasn’t sure what to wear. So as meddlesome as it might be, I decided to take a chance and surprise her.
Unfortunately, that surprise didn’t work out quite as planned. The good news was that Kaitlin absolutely loved the dress the second she saw it. The bad news was that it didn’t quite fit… and the store didn’t have a different size.
None of the dresses I had ordered for myself looked remotely good on me, either. So now I felt like I needed to find not one, but two dresses. One for me. One for Kaitlin.Purpledress2.jpg
There are very limited shopping opportunities where I live, in stodgy, stultifying and far from fashionable central Connecticut. So I kept unnerving my husband by browsing online, and in early August ordered another dress for myself, on a site called 6PM.com.
One major disadvantage of mail-order shopping is that items sometimes arrive in less-than-pristine condition. But when this one came out of the box, the skirt was as crumpled up as a used Kleenex, giving me second thoughts about even trying it on.
Instead, I hung it in my closet for several days to let it breath, like a not-so-fine wine, and hopefully unfurl. When that proved useless, I bit the bullet and dared to put it on anyway.
What can I say? It was from Nicole Miller, one of my favorite designers, and had been fashioned in iridescent amethyst, one of my favorite shades. It also had looked beyond glamorous on the model in the photo featured online. On me? Not so much.Tarzan.jpg
I don’t know who actually looks good in those one-shoulder numbers, anyway, other than Tarzan and Jane... and yes, that svelte, perky model in the photo. But I looked like I was wearing a crumpled-up purple paper bag that had recently held someone’s lunch.
This brought me to the conclusion that shopping online is not all that it’s cracked up to be, especially when you’re trying to look fabulous at your friends’ son’s wedding.
At that point, I peered long and hard into my own closet, and I unearthed a fancy little black dress that I had bought years ago in a very stylish boutique in Miami Beach.
It was a nice dress, but a rather funky dress, and when I had gotten it back home to stodgy, stultifying, far-from-fashionable Connecticut, I had realized that it was too funky to wear to most dressy events, and too dressy to wear to most funky events.anythinggoesposter.jpg
So I had only worn it once in my life, while performing in one of the many Purim spiels I’ve written for my temple. Because let’s face it, when it comes to Purim, anything goes (although the show that we performed that year was not Anything Goes).Pattieinfunkyolddress.JPG
I put it on, and miracle of miracles, it still basically fit. And the more that I thought about it, the more I realized that, as fashionable as I might aim to be, I am just a nice Jewish mom, and no longer a particularly young Jewish mom, and nobody on this planet or any other really cared that much what I wore to this wedding, or any other.
Besides, my dear friend Suzy, the mother of the groom, was bound to wear something way beyond dazzling and gorgeous, and she’s so supremely svelte that she wears what I would conservatively estimate is a size 0 -- or whatever you normally see on 22-year-old runway models during Fashion Week -- only because they don’t make anything smaller, as far as I know.waterbuffalo2.jpg
        So let’s face it, no matter what I might wear, next to her I would still end up looking and feeling a little like a water buffalo.
Even if I wore two pairs of Spanx.
So I might as well spare myself a major expense and give my old dress another spin.
That didn’t mean that my work was done, or my online shopping days were over. To jazz up the funky old dress, I decided to order a pair of strappy new silver sandals.SilversandalfromZappos.jpg
Actually, since the shopping site Zappos.com offers free shipping and free returns, I decided to order three pairs of said silver sandals, in hopes that at least one would fit.
And then there was the issue of Kaitlin. I felt guilty that the first dress hadn’t fit, so that I’d sent her a gift and then returned it. Shouldn’t I replace that dress with another? Wouldn’t it be kind of tacky, not to mention unethical or even downright rude, if I didn’t?fairygodmotherwithredhair.jpg
I mean, seriously. What kind of a fairy godmother – nice, Jewish or otherwise – offers a gown that doesn’t fit, then doesn’t either make it fit or conjure up a new one that does?
I also was growing concerned because time was swiftly running out. Kaitlin and my daughter Allegra had vowed to go shopping together, but then Kaitlin had gone on vacation, Allegra had gotten busy, and soon the whole summer had whizzed by. So suddenly it was one week before the wedding, and Kaitlin still had nothing to wear.
Perhaps I should’ve minded my own business at that point and trusted that she would find something at the very last minute. But this is how it seemed to me.LeonardsofGreatNeck.jpg
This wedding was black-tie optional, and it would be held at Leonard’s Palazzo, an opulent, gargantuan Long Island wedding palace once known as Leonard’s of Great Neck. My son was going to be a groomsman there, and he had purchased a dapper new tux for the occasion because he was also slated to be an usher at another good friend’s wedding this month.Allegrainbridesmaiddress.JPG
My daughter, meanwhile, was going to wear the rather glam strapless gown she had purchased recently when she’d been a bridesmaid at her friend Veronica’s wedding. That one, like mine, had only been worn once. Why not give it another spin?
        As I said, Kaitlin had never been to a Jewish wedding. Why not take the guesswork out of it for her, and help pick out another dress that looked right?
After all, no matter what we told her, she might not grasp just how farpitzed we Jews are often inclined to get, let alone have any clue what the word farpitzed actually meant. (Essentially, it's Yiddish for "dressed to the nines... or maybe even tens.")
As the proud owner of countless credit cards, I was now getting bombarded with daily emails touting end-of-summer sales at every department store known to man… and even a few on Mars. In due time (and with a whole lot of searching, website-surfing, and other such activity that continued to arouse my husband’s worst suspicions), I soon came across two long dresses that I believed would look stunning on Kaitlin. And given the vagaries of manufacturers’ sizes and online shopping, I decided to order them both.RaspberrygownforKaitlin.JPG
First, though, I emailed photos of them to my daughter, who texted them to Kaitlin, who showed them to my son, who astonishingly approved my choices, as did everyone else.
I ordered them late on a Wednesday night, barely a week before the wedding, and requested overnight shipping. I assumed this would guarantee delivery by Friday, so that if neither one ended up fitting, she’d have the weekend to shop for alternatives.
But on Friday, the dresses failed to arrive. What Lord & Taylor’s web site had neglected to make clear was that it would take up to 24 hours to process the order. So it didn’t go out until Friday, and there was no weekend delivery.
The package was delivered early on Monday instead. But Kaitlin, who’s getting her Ph.D., had a meeting that morning and wasn’t home, so the UPS guy took it back.
The wedding was that Thursday night, only three days away. So by now I was biting my nails – and everything else I could get my teeth on.
What if she weren’t home on Tuesday? What if they failed to deliver the box again?
What if the dresses arrived looking like crumpled-up tissues, or neither one was quite right?
Finally, the word came in at around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. The box had just arrived!
This was followed by another news flash: She’d tried them both on. They both fit!TealgownforKaitlin.JPG
They both fit so well, and she liked them both so much, that there was only problem now: She couldn’t decide between them. To this, I quickly offered a solution.
She should keep them both and wear one to this wedding and the other to the next. (No, there were too many people going to both simchas for her to consider repeating.) That way, we wouldn’t have to go through the same ordeal again two weeks from now.
And so we all lived happily ever after… or would have, except for one stupid thing.
I’d like to say it was just one of those things… you know, an unfortunate accident. But some things we do are so careless as to be just plain stupid. And if the shoe fits...
Late that night, I fell asleep in the living room. And when I woke up after midnight, I began walking across the room when I stubbed my toe on a stainless steel table leg.
I stubbed it so badly that I began howling with pain, then soon discovered that my toe was turning blue and my foot was swelling to twice its normal size. If the shoe fits!?! Suddenly, there were no shoes that fit. Including those strappy silver sandals I’d bought.Footwithirritabletoe.JPG 
The only things that had made me feel sufficiently dressed up for the wedding were those shiny new heels. Now it appeared that I would have to wear bedroom slippers.
Or flipflops.
Or simply go barefoot.
So much for getting farpitzed. All I was going to look was farblunget.
But that wedding, like the show, as they say, had to go on, broken toe or not. (Although I didn’t actually consult a doctor, I figured that my toe was broken, because by the next morning it was the size of New Jersey and hurt like hell, and half my foot was black.)
It was so bad that my husband had to carry my suitcase downstairs for me, leading him to huff and puff, and sweat and swear, and ask that traditional husband’s rhetorical question: “What do you have in here, rocks?”Suitcasefullofrocks.jpg
Of course there were no actual rocks in my bag (other than a vast selection of jewelry, mostly of the rhinestone persuasion). But I had just about everything else.
When we arrived at the hotel, my son went off for the wedding rehearsal, and my husband went off in search of the gym, while Allegra, Kaitlin, and I barricaded ourselves into one of our rooms and proceeded to get farpitzed… for the next four hours or so.
Never mind the actual dresses, or their size. Now it was time to accessorize!
I had packed a wide variety of shawls and pashminas, in part because the venue might be air-conditioned, but also because this was an Orthodox Jewish wedding, and I’d been forewarned that we might be required to cover up, especially for the ceremony.
I also had brought along seven or eight old evening bags – OK, so maybe it was nine – and told the girls to each choose the one that best matched her outfit.chandelierearrings.jpg
I’d also brought along enough jewelry to glitz up a herd of buffalos or small nation, including chokers, bracelets, hanging pendants, and a few pairs of chandelier earrings.
I had brought along three medieval instruments of torture, better known as Spanx, in case either of the girls turned out to want to borrow one of those, which they didn't. (No, I wasn’t really going to wear two of them at once, let alone three.)
And I had brought along a vast arsenal of ice packs for my foot, as well as three extra pairs of shoes (and yes, even a pair of brocade slippers), in case those strappy sandals simply refused to go on.
My husband had begun to refer to my foot issue as “Irritable Toe Syndrome” (ITS for short). While the girls primped and prepared, though, I kept my foot raised and on ice, and lo and behold, between that and a steady dose of the painkiller Naproxen, I found that I was able to slip my foot into those new silver sandals, after all.Silversandalon.JPG
Which made me feel a whole lot like Cinderella, however old and funky my dress might be.BridesmaiddressesLanaswedding.jpg
This was a good thing, because we arrived at Leonard’s Palazzo to find it ablaze with chandeliers large enough to illuminate a major city, and to see that there were 419 guests, few of whom had given any heed to the term “optional” following the words “black tie.”
The bridesmaids were all decked out in champagne-colored beaded gowns.
The groom and his men, including my son, looked impeccable in their sleek, dark tuxes.Lanainweddinggown1.jpg
And Lana, the beautiful, beaming bride herself, was not so much dressed as dreamed into being, enveloped in a cloud of frothy white satin that had been whisked right out of a fairy tale… if not literally heaven sent.Suzyincoralatwedding.jpg
As for my friend Suzy, she looked movie-star dazzling beside her handsome son in a column of bedazzled coral that made me realize I’d been wrong.
        Those sub-zero sizes clearly do exist!
This being not just a Jewish wedding, but a Georgian one, it boasted a smorgasbord of food more abundant than at any event I’d ever attended in my life. The cocktail hour, which preceded the ceremony, featured a long table laden with sushi, and another with vegetables sculpted to look like a lavish garden – a garden of eating, I guess.IcesculptureatAndrewswedding.JPG
But mostly, it offered meat.
There were chafing dishes of meat, platters of meat, and small mountain ranges of sliced deli meat.
There were carved meats, roasted meats, stewed meats, and stuffed meats.
In fact, the only things among the hot hors d’oeuvres that didn’t look like meat were plump round dumplings with dimpled edges that looked like doughy little volcanoes.
“What are those?” I asked an older woman with a heavy Russian accent whom I took to be a relative of the bride’s.
“Holly-golly!” she said. Or something like that.
“Excuse me?” I asked.
And she repeated it, although this time I think I made it out.Khinkali.jpg
        O…K. “What’s inside them?” I asked.
        She looked at me as though I were from another planet.
“Meat!” she replied.
Dinner, of course, would bring even more. Meat, that is. Clearly, I had chosen the wrong week to become a quasi-vegetarian (someone who tries not to eat meat).ChickenKievcourse.JPG
        Following the smoked fish course and the baked fish course, we were presented with countless trays groaning under steaks, chops, and roasts. Then came a glistening pinwheel of breaded cutlets.
        The chicken Kiev course, I presumed.Lotsamatzah.JPG
There were also discs of matzah on every table with the girth of flying saucers.
But first came the ceremony itself, held in a cavernous hall under a chuppah, a white wedding canopy open on all four sides, just as Abraham and Sarah, the very first Jews of the Bible, had kept their tent open on all sides to welcome people with unconditional hospitality.
In keeping with Orthodox Jewish tradition, the men were seated on one side of the room and the women separately on the other, and at the start of the service the bride circled the groom seven times, symbolizing that he was now the center of her universe.ChuppahatAndrewswedding.JPG
        Unlike in a Reform Jewish ceremony – the kind with which I’m most familiar – all of the spectators applauded wildly as members of the wedding party strode down the aisle carrying tall lit tapers, culminating in the bride and groom, each flanked by both of their parents.brideandgroomgrandentrance.JPG
But as with every Jewish ceremony of any ilk or denomination, the proceedings came to a resounding end when the groom stepped emphatically on a napkin-cloaked glass.
        They were now husband and wife.
        Mazel tov! L'Chaim!Harlanandmeatwedding.JPG
Then we all paraded into a mammoth banquet hall filled with flowers and more than 50 tables, and the klezmer-style band launched into a rousing hora, followed by hours of feasting and exuberant dancing.
We’d been told that the party might last till 2 a.m., so we were a little surprised when my husband asked a waitress at around 2:15 when dessert might be served.
“The dessert room? It open in about an hour,” she replied in a hearty Russian accent. “First, we serve more meat!”DessertsatAndrewswedding2.JPG
The desserts, which included a chocolate fountain more like a geyser and mouthwatering exquisite pastries more numerous than the stars in the sky, indeed filled an entire room. And, with luck, they were served before 3 a.m., giving us a sugar-and-caffeine rush and enough renewed energy – Irritable Toe Syndrome be damned – to resume dancing until nearly 4 a.m.
I would be a little sorry – and more than a little sore – when I woke up the next day.
It was a spectacularly fun and unforgettable night, and so moving to glimpse the incalculable joy in my dear friends’ eyes and those of the ecstatic, newly married couple, who are without any question a perfect match. They are all wonderful people and wonderful friends, and I wish them every happiness.KaitlinandAllegraatwedding.JPG
But I must confess that for me, one of the true high points of the entire event came when Kaitlin turned to me during the ceremony, after surveying the well-coiffed and unequivocally farpitzed legions of female guests seated on our side of the room.PattieatAndrewswedding2.jpg
There were women of all ages wearing low-key cocktail dresses, bejeweled evening gowns, and almost anything and everything in between. But our goal had been to look understated and elegant – neither over-the-top nor flashy... nor water buffalo.
“I think we wore just the right thing!” she said with her infectiously radiant smile.
Maybe this one will be a happy new year, after all, Irritable Toe Syndrome or not. So far, at least, I’d say, soooooo good! Nu?
Or should I simply say, "Bibbity bobbity boo?"

2:29 pm 

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That's me. The redhead on the right. But that is NOT my baby.

     No, sir, that's not my baby. How could any mother smile beatifically while her own child wailed? Never mind that neither of my offspring ever cried so plaintively, as far as I recall (not while I was there to nurture them through their every perceptible need... although my son still complains that I often dressed him in garish and girlish color schemes, scarring him FOR LIFE).
     Besides, I'm distinctly beyond prime delivery age ("Kitchen's closed!" as my mother might say), and my kids had departed the diaper stage by the dawn of the Clinton Administration. Now in their 20s, both are currently living on their own, in not-too-distant cities, although each manages to phone me daily. In fact, to be exact, several times a day, then sometimes text me, too. (That may sound excessive, and emotionally regressive, but I subscribe to the Jewish mother's creed when it comes to conversing with kinder: Too much is never enough.)
     Two demanding decades spent raising two kids who are kind, highly productive and multi-talented, who generally wear clean underwear (as far as I can tell), and who by all visible signs don't detest me are my main credentials for daring to dole out advice in the motherhood department.
     Presenting myself as an authority on all matters Jewish may be trickier to justify.
     Yes, I was raised Jewish and am biologically an unadulterated, undisputable, purebred Yiddisheh mama. I'm known for making a melt-in-your-mouth brisket, not to mention the world's airiest matzah balls this side of Brooklyn. My longtime avocation is writing lyrics for Purim shpiels based on popular Broadway productions, from "South Pers-cific" to "The Zion Queen." Then again, I'm no rabbi or Talmudic scholar. I can't even sing "Hatikvah" or recite the Birkat Hamazon. Raised resoundingly Reform, I don't keep kosher, can barely curse in Yiddish, and haven't set foot in Israel since I was a zaftig teen.
     Even so, as a longtime writer and ever-active mother, I think I have something to say about being Jewish and a mom in these manic and maternally challenging times. I hope something I say means something to you. Welcome to my nice Jewish world!   
In coming weeks, I will continue posting more personal observations, rants, and even recipes (Jewish and otherwise). So keep reading, come back often, and please tell all of your friends, Facebook buddies, and everyone else you know that NiceJewishMom.com is THE BOMB!
The family that eats together (and maybe even Tweets together): That's my son Aidan, me, my daughter Allegra, and Harlan, my husband for more than 26 years, all out for Sunday brunch on a nice summer weekend in New York.

Comments? Questions? Just want to kvetch? Please go to GUESTBOOK/COMMENTS.