Friday, December 18, 2015

Child's Play

Image result for vera violet vinn

I was eight years old. I wore a red and white polka dot dress, with a matching bow in my hair.

My violin was a three-quarter size. I played a simple version of the Barcarolle from the Tales of Hoffman by Offenbach.

I can still sing it on command, lo these many years later.

My parents gave me a big bouquet of roses afterwards, and gave one to my sister Dina, too, who had just turned five and didn’t play anything yet, but no one wanted her to be jealous.

My teacher, Mr. Ezrachi, had no use of his left pinky—a crazy thing for a violinist. He was facile enough, and in those days I had such a heightened frightened respect for teachers in general, a state-of-being very much encouraged in my family of teachers, that I never thought him compromised in any way. I would sneak lots of peeks at his pinky, though.

This, my first recital, took place in Tel Aviv in a hall that seemed huge to me, but might actually have been my teacher’s living room.

My father, a Math Professor, was on Sabbatical for a semester, the only Sabbatical he ever took. We moved to Israel for four months. He taught at Bar-Ilan University, I went to Netzach Yisroel School for Girls, across the street from Netzach Yisroel School for Boys who threw rocks at us; Dina went to Kindergarden which they just call ‘garden’ in Hebrew, where she was the only kid with long hair-- every Israeli mother chopped her kids’ hair off because of the lice-- and my American mother, who was all of 30 at the time, tried to make it work in a new apartment in a new land where she barely spoke the language. Without a dryer.

I had been playing violin less than a year, scratching and squeaking away, but in my family there are a few prodigies, so I was given the benefit of the doubt.

Procuring a teacher for me in Israel was a priority for my father.
Every week we went together to Mr. Ezrachi’s apartment: my lesson was first and my father’s was second. My father’s violin was a very dark wood—almost black. Apparently it was a pretty good instrument, but I never dared try it.

I don’t remember what else I played besides the Barcarolle, because the violin lesson itself was beside the point.

The point was that the minute my lesson was finished, and his was about to start, my father gave me a shekel to go to the tiny corner market, called a Makolet in Israel--and buy myself a candy bar.

I can still remember the smell of that Makolet, lo these many years later.

The freedom of those few minutes, the burning shekel in my hand, the choices—so so many colorful choices!--something chocolate or something different, oh who am I kidding, of course chocolate—the act of paying for it myself--was the closest thing I had to grown-up-hood.

For those few minutes, no one knew exactly where I was. No one told me what to buy. And no one knew exactly where I actually ate the candy bar, which was in the lobby of an apartment building next to the Makolet.

I thought to myself—this is worth playing the violin for.

A few weeks after the recital was my actual one-year violin anniversary.

My parents took me to the Mann Auditorium, in Tel Aviv, to hear the great Isaac Stern.

He picked up his bow and I sat back in my chair in a state of stone solid shock.

How could anyone do that? How could anyone play like that?

I KNEW how hard it was to play the violin. I mean, I PLAYED the violin.

It was my first taste of the divine. The first time I saw God in a person.

I was little, I was young, but I knew.

After that, I practiced harder.

Over the years, my violin was kind of a frenemy. I had to spend lots of time on it, time my friends had for other things like TV.

I had to shlep it to every summer sleepaway camp I ever went to, and my father would pointedly ask me on Visiting Day, if I had ever taken it out to practice.  Of course I had, so I wouldn’t have to lie. Once. The day before Visiting Day.

It shadowed me everywhere, like a little hoyke, a little hunchback, slung over my shoulder in its little black case. Wither Thou goest, I goest.

And while I was pretty good at it, and I guess I am pretty good at it, God never made me one of His soloists.

I am ok with that and my father is actually ok with that too, and kvells and marvels that I play professionally. “Oy, did you hate to practice! Oy did you fight me over every note!”

He cries with pride at my concerts. It makes me cry too. Once he even offered to lend me that dark wood violin. Of course I said no. No thank you.

“One Day,” he used to say when I was 8,  “One Day,” he used to say when I was 9 and 10 and would groan and make eyes and squirm, “One Day,” he used to say when I was 11 and12 and 13 and 14 and my attitude could make even Mozart sound unpleasant, “One Day you will have children of your own and you are going to have to force them to practice, too!”

It is the only thing he was wrong about.

Zachary and Aaron (ok Aaron maybe he was a little right about) practiced when they wanted to, and they wanted to a lot.

It was never fraught, never a fight, never anything but—happy.
Maybe it was because neither of my boys played the same instrument as I did? Maybe it's because (poopoopoo) they really DO play divinely? 

But in all the years of saxophone and piano lessons, I cannot remember ever having to resort to even one bribe, even one chocolate bar.

Which brings me to the Twins.

This past summer, they started violin. Their violins are cute and tiny, just like them, but they get bigger and more difficult. The violins, too.

Their teacher goes by his first name.

He smiles a lot and tells them funny stories.

Every time we practice at home, and yes, they take their violins out almost every day, we do something fun—we make up silly songs, have wacky contests, or Sruli and I jam with them.

I also taught them how to pluck which they think is the coolest thing.

Last week was their first recital. They each played a rhythm while their teacher played Twinkle Twinkle.

Charlie was resplendent in a peacock blue dress. Johnny had a fancy blue button down shirt.

Sruli and I video-ed the entire minute-and-a-half of it on our phones. We both cried when they took their bows

We had to run to our Temple’s Chanukah party right after their performances, but the next day I took them to Walmart.

“Each of you gets to pick out a candy bar—whatever you want.”

Times are different, and Walmart is no Makolet, and I would never in a zillion years let them go anywhere by themselves, but joy is joy and chocolate is chocolate.

While they stood in front of all those choices, so so many colorful choices!--I thought:

Was it all worth it, just to play the violin?  All these years?  And after all these years, am I finally feeling the joy of being able to play?


I can’t decide. I know that I seem to bring joy to other people when I play the violin, and I guess that is enough for me.

It is different for Zachary and Aaron. And I really want it to be different for the Twins.

Neither of them picks chocolate. She gets sour gummies and he gets pink and purple Nerds.

“How come you always let us get candy after a violin lesson, Mommy?”

I come up with an answer.

“Because playing the violin is-- delicious.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sins of Emission


For the past two weeks I’ve been super-mommying the twins to their swimming lessons at Bates College.

They each get one-on-ones with impossibly adorable, impossibly polite, and impossibly fit members of the Bates Swim Team. 

Major hero worship.

Here’s why I mention it.

Back in the Mesozoic Era, when I was in second grade, something Momentous happened.

I still remember it exactly:

I am sitting at my little desk. It is soon after lunch. We are supposed to take out our arithmetic books. That’s when I hear it. From the back of the room.

“Mrs. Chasen, I have to----BLLLLAAAAAAAAH!!

And this little black-haired girl throws up.

That’s it. That’s the gantse mayse, the whole story.

Ok, so we all had to get up and go to a different classroom while the custodian disinfected. And we got to waste about 20 glorious minutes.

Trouble is, I still remember this girl as The Girl Who Threw Up In Second Grade.

Never mind that she was incredibly smart, interestingly left-handed like my beloved sister, Dina, AND she won the Oratorical Contest in eighth grade with a Sam Levinson monologue—what is WRONG with my memory!

Beating moi, by the way. Whose monologue I cannot remember at all.

Now she is an accomplished professor with a beautiful daughter who is a rising journalist.

So, my fixation on something that happened when we were both seven is—obviously my problem.

I wonder if anyone else from my class back then even remembers it.

Here’s another reason I mention it.

The first week of school, Charlie’s teacher sends one of her newey-agey notes home.

She finds it very important for children to stay hydrated throughout the day. She cites some sinister statistics. She is therefore requiring everyone in her class to bring a water bottle to keep on his or her desk. Fine.

Hey—another excuse for a trip to Walmart.

I buy Charlie the most purply-glittery bottle she can find.

Two days later, noonish, I get a call from the school nurse.

OMG are the twins ok?

There is a hideously long pause—an ENTIRE millisecond.

Yes—but Charlie had a little accident.


You know, in her—panties.


Maybe certain newey-agey teachers should also study the sinister statistics of seven-year-old bladders forced to overhydrate from purply-glittery bottles.

I’ll be right there.

Damned lucky I heard my phone.

I get to the school with a complete change of clothes, which includes one of Charlie’s Celestia Twilight Princessia Sparkalicious My Little Pony dresses.

She is waiting for me in the nurse’s office.

She turns to me, and I will never forget that look.

It is a gut-wrenching gallimaufry of shame & horror & sadness & pathos & help me because I am very very small.

And her eyes are also wet.

She leaps into my arms and buries her beautiful little face in my neck.

I whisper all kinds of truths and lies. This happens to everyone. It happened to a friend of mine. It’s not your fault. It’s no big deal. And the whopper: nobody will even remember it.

Speed. Speed is of the essence.

I change her up and in five minutes flat we are back in the gym where the whole thing went down.

Her new dress gets a roar of approval from the girls. Check.

I put her back in the middle of the relay race line.

You know, I oh-so-casually mention to a little boy behind her, Charlie was in the Auburn Track and Field Club this summer. 

Ooooo--wow, he says. Check.

I stand there watching her run and pass the baton in that cool under-handed way she learned at Track and Field.

The gym teacher comes over. That was fast, she says.

I felt so bad for Charlie, she says. She had just started to run her relay and, well, Mr. Tim had to come and clean it up. Then she confides: At least it wasn’t-- you know. We’ve had THAT happen after lunch.


I see Charlie chatting happily with another girl on the relay line.

She doesn’t notice when I leave.

I notice a big anti-bullying poster on the way out.

The next morning when I drop her off at school I say, oh-so-casually: Hey Charlie, maybe you don’t have to drink so much water all day long.

Yeah, she grins at me. I’m not gonna keep the water bottle on my desk anymore.

Way to pass that incident like a baton, girl!

So, this evening, right before the twins’ 6 o’clock class, there is a sudden commotion in the pool.

The Swim Coach (a fabulous congregant!) is up and moving one of those long pole thingies back and forth in the shallow end.

I have a feeling, but I wait to be told.

Yep. Poop in the water.


They’re going to clean it and shock the water, but lessons are cancelled for tonight.

I think.

Why does that momentous event from over forty years ago still affect me? Why was it so freakin’ momentous?

Why did it prevent me from ever being proper friends with a perfectly nice girl?

Why was I so determined to erase the event for Charlie? To protect her from forever being That Girl?

To protect myself from thinking that everyone else is thinking she is That Girl?

Why are some things so damned hard to forget?

Am I still poop-prurient?

And then I realize:

I never told a grown-up about that day in second grade. Never told my mother—not ‘til years later.

I don’t remember our teacher, Mrs. Chasen, saying anything soothing to us—truth or lies.

I had to process it all by myself.

And for a seven-year-old, it was momentous. A momentous there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I-AND- in-front-of-the-ENTIRE-CLASS-pre-anti-bullying-posters event.

A nightmare I seem to have never gotten over.

So this week between Charlie and the poopy pool kid, I had a flashback. But this time, I guess, I got to be my own mom.

And, you know, moms can make everything ok.


I hustle Charlie and Johnny out of the pool area.

I let them talk me into getting them snacks from the vending machine.

But I still keep my head down as I pass the ongoing pool commotion on our way out.

I don’t dare look up.

In case it was the kid of someone I know.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Not Humerus

We were in CVS the other day—exactly 2 hours out of surgery. I had to persuade Sruli that getting his meds was more important than getting his phone fixed at the AT&T store, which is where he really wanted to go, cast, sling, titanium plate, pins and all.

So we get the meds, which are variations on Percocet, and I plop my favorite Arizona Iced Tea, the one with the honey and ginseng, on the counter. If you’ve never tried it, it’s delicious.

“Kinsey” rings us up, and-- zzzbbbzzz zzzbbbzzz!-- out come coupons.

Oh look, says Sruli. Coupons.

The guy just had his wrist sliced open, is high on narcotics and falsely enjoying the pain-supression qualities of something called an arm block. I should know what that is, since I was also there while the anesthesiologist told us, but I couldn’t stop staring at the doctor’s diagonally moving teeth, and thus did not hear anything he said.

Seven coupons in all, zzzbbbzzz.

You want anything?

Let’s see. Two dollars off Pepcid, three off any purchase of fifteen dollars or more of Brilliant Brunette Hair Enhancers. Meaning shampoo. Four dollars off body lotion—please try Eucerin, Neutrogena or Aveeno.

At least it’s not Fixodent, Poise and New Chapter Estrogen Supplements.

I didn’t really need shampoo, but it was easy to rack up the brunette enhancers and hey, three dollars off puts it in Walmart league pricing.

Charlie Re complained her knee was itching the other day, so I please tried the Aveeno natural lotion with oatmeal.

I do some Einsteinian calculations. I have saved seven dollars and am spending twenty-three.

I bring the stuff, plop, in front of Kinsey.

She is very proud of us.

Oh that’s good lotion, she says. Aren’t coupons great?

She has many piercings and is younger than most of our kids.

Zzzbbbzzz, she rings us up. More coupons!

Sruli looks at me with disapproval as I try to snatch the elongated and probably Bisphenol A-infected receipt and shove it, unexamined, into the enhanced bag.

We really have to go and pick up the twins, I say.

Aw c’mon, he says. You know that if you don’t use those coupons now you’re not even going to remember where you put ‘em.

Last week we went hiking up near Rangeley Lake. The twins get out of school early on Wednesdays, and we’ve decided to take some tiyulim—day trips-- around our new and magnificent state.

We drove for hours, oohing and ahhing at the mountains, cooing at the cute towns and their shoppes, getting all excited at the flashing “watch for moose in roadway” signs.  By the way, there are no moose whatsoever in Maine and I will not believe there are until I crash into one myself.

We stopped at a supermarket near the lake for sandwiches, and set off on the trail, twins and doggies and lunch in tow.

20 minutes in, Sruli went down. Slippery mud? We were walking on planks over a bog. Ice? They still have ice up there. New boots? Maybe. Maybe everything.

You know that moment when someone is suddenly on the ground and there is a disconnect. Like, why are you not standing up?

And then it’s—ok, you’re just gonna get up, right?

And then it’s—Lisa—OW—I think I really hurt my wrist.

And you stand there as the pendulum swings from nothing to something and you find yourself explaining to 2 six-year-olds that Daddy really has to go to the hospital right now and no we are not going on an adventure after all, and you will have to eat your egg salad in the car.

And then the miserable 45-minute race--passing everyone on those narrow roads, honking in apology-- to the closest hospital in Farmington.

Where we waited, him in the ER and me in the waiting area WITH THE TWINS, FOR FOUR HOURS.

Where I idiotically bought Johnny a ball from the sour-faced gift shop lady.

Whereupon Johnny threw it—right into the crotch of a young man waiting to be admitted.

Whereupon the security guard came running.

Whereupon the security guard thought Johnny was a girl and totally let it go.

Whereupon I resolved, again, never to cut those long blond curls.

Whereupon the admissions lady turned on the waiting area TV to Nickelodeon.

And finally, where they splinted Sruli up without even washing off the mud from the bog.

And then the doctor/congregant who called and got him an appointment with the surgeon the next day. A surgeon who trained in New York, in case you’re worried, and who, apparently has worked on everyone who’s anyone at the shul. And who, I have to say, is darned cute.

Now Sruli sports a titanium plate and pins, screwed into his actual radius, which, on the x-ray, looks a lot like a broom we once got at a Home Show but also looks a bit like a menorah.

He cannot play any of his instruments.  Not the clarinet. Not the accordion. Not the (hallelujah!) banjo, either. It must be a terrible and scary feeling.
he surgeon told him he will get everything back. He will have to have some physical therapy, but by summer he should be refulgent in his new rocker on our front porch, pickin’ out tunes on that dagnabbit banjo.

In the meantime, he has found his noseflute. Don’t ask.

So, at CVS, I pick out a garden ornament, a purple dragonfly that I will use to mark the new rosebush I planted, so no one steps on it or lets Teddy the Pomeranian pee on it.

Still have five dollars left to spend. Or save.

Sruli comes over with an enormous jug of ProHealth Mouthwash. Fine.

I don’t want Kinsey to ring us out.

Sruli sees my hesitation.

And we really do need to pick up the kids.

Don’t worry, he says, I’m sure this is the end of the coupons.

Sruli is rarely wrong, but this time he is.

ZZZBBZZZ—TEN DOLLARS! Kinsey exults for us. Anything in the store!!

Oh for pete’s sake.

I look at Sruli, already giddy from this new assignment.

I watch as he disappears into the seasonal aisle.

I am going to have to find subs for him for our upcoming gigs. It takes at least two musicians to replace him. Three if we also need a DJ, which we always do.

It’s going to be hard not being able to leave the kids with him if I have to go out.

He’s going to be tired and cranky from all the meds.

He is going to be bummed that he can’t ride his bike to shul, which he absolutely loves. He can’t drive his stick shift, either.

And he just bought an inflatable boat to ply Maine’s glorious lakes.

And the weather is sublime, now.
But sometimes life throws you down and you land on your hand instead of on your feet.

And sometimes life goes zzzbbbzzz and you get an embarrassment of riches. From companies that know too much about you.

An embarrassment of riches.

His beautiful and accomplished daughter. My boys who are like sons to him. The twinkies. Our warm and wonderful congregation. Our beautiful red house. Me.

I am so, so sorry about this, Sruli.

But you have to admit, most of your breaks have been-- lucky.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Kol B'Seder

I know it’s so last week, but I can’t pass over the chance to tell you about something that happened 5 minutes before the seder, two years ago.

We were at the Jersey shul, living there, breathing the old ghosty air, trying to inject some life.

We were going to have 90 people for the community seder—a whopping achievement in numbers, enthusiasm and hope.

As Rebbetzin, Cook, and Bottlewasher, I had arranged for all the food, and the morning of the seder, I schlepped to the Bergenfield Kosher Deli to pick it up.

You cannot imagine what my Honda Pilot looked like. 


Huge trays of brisket, chicken, tzimmis, and potatoes, big bottles of soda, enormous packages of matzoh, and enough Charoset, horseradish roots and the rest of the stuff to make 20 seder plates. Cases of wine and bottles of grape juice. Cakes, fruit, candies.

And two 5-gallon buckets. One with Matzoh Balls. 

And one with chicken broth.

Upstairs, the social hall and kitchen were a frenzy of nerves. My two besties, Shulamit and Rachel (Hebrew names only to protect the innocent)—who ALWAYS volunteered for EVERYTHING—were in the kitchen accepting the enormous load-in of food, organizing what goes where and when, heating the ovens, cutting veggies, arranging platters and seder plates—you know, the whole geshikhte.

I was doing the last minute table-set-up—the flowers, the bottles of wine, the salt water, Elijah’s Cup. Oh, and helping a beleaguered Rabbi Sruli set up the sound system for our family band.

The twinkies, Johnny (boy) and Charlie (girl) were running around, ecstatic with anticipation, in their cute new outfits. 

I remember Johnny’s new oxford blue button down shirt.

And you remember that in the kitchen there were two 5-gallon buckets. 

One with chicken broth.

I don’t know who screamed. Probably everybody.

I made it into the kitchen, just in time to see the last yellow, greasy wave sweeping over the floor.

The Great Sea, split and standing firm, had crashed down again.

It was horrible.

It was Johnny.


Apparently, the 5-gallon bucket of broth had been placed on the industrial metal counter at exactly blue-eye-level of this three year old.

Who should not, it is true, have been allowed in the kitchen.

He had been poking at it, at first tentatively, and then, when it actually  moved a few millimeters, with determined interest.  A few millimeters. A few millimeters more. Towards the edge of the counter.

Poke, poke, poke, WHAM.

There was no time to absorb the shock. The kitchen goddesses mopped and degreased, mopped and degreased.  I, sheepish as a paschal lamb, called the dour shul president and begged him to stop at Shoprite and buy out every can of Manischewitz chicken broth, with as much haste as our ancestors in ancient Egypt.

And then I went to pick up my trembling little boy, who was hiding, wound up in the velvet curtain on the stage.

Within minutes, the congregants and some of our friends started arriving, When it was time for the Ma Nishtana, the kids all stood in the middle and sang, and many of the grownups (including me) were crying. Despite the shaky start, the seder was magical, and Sruli spoke beautifully and made the Hagaddah come alive.

Zachary and Aaron played fabulously, and Ilana was beautiful and charming.

Most importantly, the chicken soup with matzoh balls was delicious.

Everyone said it was the best seder, ever. Even the president cracked a smile.

And, at the very end, Shulamit and Rachel and I had a fifth cup of wine—just for us. L’shana haba b’spa.

We said that someday we would look back at the chicken soup debacle and laugh.

That day, like the redemption, has not yet come.

Instead, Sruli and I have moved to a better place, a wonderful synagogue where the president herself is in the kitchen before every event, cooking and preparing with many more kitchen goddesses.

There was a Passover committee, and many congregants pitched in. I was not the one who had to schlep to Boston to pick up the food. The seder here merited a real caterer, so no one was allowed in the kitchen. And there were many other kids running around with Johnny and Charlie.

Zachary and Aaron played fabulously, and Ilana, and Aaron’s girlfriend Basia, were beautiful and charming. Sruli brought everyone together with singing, scholarship and laughter.

Most importantly, there was an atmosphere of joy, of warmth and of family. If anything had crashed, I think it would have been ok.

When all the kids all stood up on chairs in front of a packed room of over 150 people to sing the Ma Nishtana, I cried. Some nights are different from all other nights, and sometimes, those different nights are all the same.

And I wished I could have had Shulamit and Rachel here, to sit like free women, with me.

Back last summer, when we had lived here for about two weeks, Johnny, who was five then, took me by the hand.

“We have a good life, in Maine,” he said.

I startled, WHAM.  

I guess the old atmosphere had also spilled over into his little consciousness.

He was appreciative of the contrast.

But was hard to hear, and I picked up my happy little boy, silently crying into his beautiful blond curls.

Had He not brought us out of New Jersey and set us into this happy shul, and provided for us this beautiful house, and given us a wonderful kindergarten, and blessed us with a good life, here, in Maine, Dayenu. 

Dayenu, Dayenu.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Image result for delivery man old fashioned

Back when I moved into my second house in Scarsdale, I had a neighbor, Iris, who, with her husband John, came to our Sukkah one year and regaled me with stories of the feuds she had with deli men all over New York City.

Deli men?

Yeah. This one once put the wrong tuna with the cranberries on her bagel, this one deliberately failed to put the free chips in the bag. Another gave her a funny look when she asked for four sugars in the coffee.  What funny look? I don’t know. A funny look. I would never go into that deli anymore.

By the time she had finished, we were up to dessert.  I realized that even though she worked mid-town, she needed an extra hour for lunch because she had ixnayed every single deli in walking distance.

I said: Isn’t feuding with everybody—exhausting?

As she shrugged, John said, in that complete yes-this-is-my-life-but-that’s-just-fine tone: Iris is picky.

Picky, I’ll raise you a picky.

Fast forward. I am now living in Maine where snow is freely dispensed and generously adorns everything.

It’s also mighty cold.

The heating oil delivery company says their driver will come and deliver the oil.
When he doesn’t come, I call.

Oh yes, he was there, the receptionist says.

Nu, why didn’t he deliver the oil?

He said he couldn’t get to it, to the hose connection outside the house.


There was snow.

Of course there was snow. It’s December. It’s Maine.
I hang up only after she promises me he will be there tomorrow.

10 degrees. 5 degrees. Minus 5 degrees.
I’m waiting. I have little twins, dammit.

Finally, the delivery guy, whose name is, yes, Guy, shows up.

I point to the connection on the outside wall of the house. There are stone steps leading down to it.  There are a few inches of snow on the steps.

He just stands there.

I shovel them, while he waits.

Nope. Not going. I’m not killin’ myself. I got kids.

Howzabout going around the house the other way, I ask. Because I got kids, too. And they’re going to freeze.

You remind me of my ex-wife, he says. She was Jewish, too.

Whoa? This is Maine. We are not in the Tri-State Area anymore, Toto. It’s a little creepier here. Is he even allowed to… What would his supervisor say if I…

I can’t imagine why you divorced her, I say, breezily.

He stares at me, but then nods, goes back to the truck, undoes the hose and shleps it around the house, the other way, the long way, where there are no steps.

I watch him from my perch as he fills the tank and tells me about his kids.
And how he’s strict with them. I believe that. I believe that very much.

In January it snows, too. More snow than I have ever seen, in fact.

Time for the oil delivery.

He doesn’t show.

In Maine it’s kind of hard to get workmen to come to the house more than once.
The first time, they're all T-squares and measuring tape and dirty fingernails and can do; all lumberjack in plaid and flannel from L. L. Bean though here you just say Beans.

They look competent. It’s a fraud.

They might be on their way to your house to say, install the dishwasher that’s been poking out of it’s place under the counter like an outie bellybutton for three weeks, and a friend of theirs suggests fishin’.

Boom. No show.

I call the company.

Oh yes, he was there, the receptionist says.


He said there was too much snow.

It’s taken me four months, four full months to calm down from my natural New York City state of calm.

The tension returns, right between my shoulder blades.

I get them to send him.

Forty-five minutes later he shows up with a smirk.

I go inside my house with my cell phone. I whisper furiously: Can’t you send another driver?

Nope. He’s our only guy on that route.

He is still standing in my driveway and has made no move to deliver the oil. He has not lifted that orange thingie on the back of the truck and revealed the giant bobbin that holds the 100-foot black hose.

Nope. Still the only Guy in town.

I try to reason with him. You like music?

Yeah, I like music.

I walk him down the path towards the hose connector. Not the long way around path, not the steps path, but yet another path that involves walking down my neighbor’s driveway and around my own personal Mt. Katahdin of snow.

I don’t like to go on a neighbor’s driveway, he says.

He goes back to the truck. He hesitates. I hold my breath.

YES! He is releasing the orange thingie and there is the hose!

That will be $500 dollars.

And now, it’s February. Half the synagogue has checked out—to Florida, to California, to the Dominican Republic.

We remain; the Frozen Chosen.

Oil is low, my husband says.

It's vacation week, but the guy will come on Monday.

Sunday evening, 7 o’clock, it starts to flurry.  By 11:30, huge chunks the size of marshmallows are coming down. Of course I can’t sleep.

By 4 in the morning, Maine is another freakin’ winter wonderland, dumped with another two feet. How much snow does He have?

By 7:15 AM the streets are plowed. The kids have school.

I gentle them awake, and dress my little princess as she lies inert in her little princess bed while the little prince sits in front of the heater. It’s so cute when he shakes his little socks at the heater to warm them up.

I get them to school, come home, and panic. I am taking an on-line course which is turning out to be a lot more work than I thought, the car is due at the shop, the dogs are barking and Guess Who is coming?

I call the company.

Oh, we can never tell you when he is going to show. The drivers start out at 6 in the morning and they have a full day.

I look towards the steps. No way. The house is completely surrounded by 4-foot-deep icy crusty snow. No way.

I look down at my neighbor’s driveway. The driveway is shoveled, but then there is the 4-foot-deep issue—all the way and I mean all the way across the yard to the connector.

I sigh and get the shovel.

I don’t know why this is, but when you are angry, you cannot lift weights. I know this because I was at the gym once and I was in a stupid fight with Sruli and I couldn’t lift at all. It’s like your muscles are so tense already, they can’t handle the extra pressure.

But I didn’t know when Guy was going to come. And I knew damn well he wasn’t going to walk through that snow. And he might come any minute. And the dogs were still barking.

I am still sore from this, but I set to work like a madwoman. I heaved and ho-ed. My eyes were tearing. And the dogs were still barking,

5 shovelfuls for each advance. It was…overwhelming, infuriating, frustrating and really heavy lifting.

I kept hearing what sounded like a big truck coming up the hill. It was probably my blood pressure rising.

Halfway. Wow! Halfway!

I mused, as I shoveled, that I should run to Joanne’s Fabrics and buy some red carpet to roll out on the newly shoveled path before he comes.

Or maybe line the path with the candy canes the twinkies made us buy on sale at Walmart after Christmas.

But I didn’t want him to get mad. It is exhausting, Iris. EX-HAUS-TING.

I make it to the connector, inch by inch, pound by pound. I smooth out the area right where he will stand.

Still no show.

I go into the house, get my phone, come back outside to take a picture of the path for Sruli. He has been shlepping up to Augusta all week for a police chaplaincy seminar. See what I also do for this family, I am saying.

The house is getting colder and I can’t concentrate so well.

I call the company.

Oh, he’ll be there, the receptionist says. Before the end of day.

At 3, I go to pick up the twinkies. They are cranky and demanding and I have to take them to Pizza Hut RIGHT THIS MINUTE to redeem the free pizzas that they earned for reading 10 books this month.

And NOT the Pizza Hut that we went to with Amelia. The one we went to with Katelyn. That’s the good one.

I drive to the good one. Which is closed due to maintenance problems. Yeah. I bet I know who delivers their oil.

I take the twinkies  to Applebees. I hate Applebees.

But they are in heaven. Apparently the grilled cheese is just the way we like it, Mommy; the fries are not too crispy (?) and there is a nice dipping sauce for the apples.
My salmon is terrible.

At least Applebees has heat.

Sruli calls as we are leaving. He’s on his way home. Did the guy come?

I don’t know. I hope so.

Did you notice the temperature in the house when you left?

Amazingly, I did. 48.

Oy, he says. Did you leave some water running? Yes. Good, he says.

I say: Did you get the picture of the path I shoveled?

Yes. I can’t believe you did that.

When I get home, the yellow receipt is stuck in the door.  I exult.

O Lord, deliver me from harsh thoughts, from petty grievances. Make me not like Iris who seethes, rather allow me to see that it’s dangerous for a man with kids, a man whose been at it since 6 in the morning, to walk through the ice and snow at every house. Grant me understanding, Lord. 

Deliver me. Deliver this day my oil.