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First Date

Yonina Levine

Oh, yes! Little Naomi, our tiny jellybean, so recently a helpless blob in a car seat, is about to go on her first date and have a family of her own. I will be the perfect mother-in-law…

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

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Photo: Shutterstock

T he phone call you’re waiting for is never the one that comes.

Sunday, 7 p.m. It’s been three days since I called Breindy Krieger to tell her that yes, Naomi is interested in going out with Avi, and while waiting for confirmation, I’ve cleaned out our walk-in pantry so that you can actually walk in, consolidated the seven or so half-filled bottles of detergent in the basement, and tagged a few recipes to try for their l’chayim. Just in case. “Don’t go so crazy,” Yitz gripes as he watches me polishing the menorah. “This is her first date ever! It’s bound to go badly.”

“You can’t think like that,” I retort, scrubbing at the curved branches that look more purple than silver. Each branch springs from a small, ornamental design that probably looks really nice until you have to clean it. Which I have never actually done. In 21 years.

“You have to think like this could be the one,” I continue, frowning at the menorah. It’s not reflecting my face or much of anything. Perhaps I should reconsider Pesach cleaning to distract me. Or will that just inspire me to go back to the menorah? “If we think like that every time, we’ll lose our minds. But at least our house will be clean.”

Yitz ducks his head into the fridge and then pokes it back out. “Why doesn’t your anxiety ever translate into buying groceries?”

“Honey, we can’t be eating anyway. We need to lose weight for the wedding. Which we can’t even afford unless we stop buying food.”

Yitz rolls his eyes and is about to speak when the phone rings. I yelp, drop the menorah, and toss the smeared rag at Yitz as if the shadchan can see it and make assumptions. No cleaning lady? she’ll think, tsking at our limited means. Letting that menorah rot, she’ll continue in her suddenly nasal voice. I’m ready to snap at her as I pick up the phone, when I realize simultaneously that she hasn’t actually said any of that, and that the caller ID says Fruma Levenson.

“Hi, Fruma,” I say, cupping the phone to my shoulder as I begin to sharpen the kitchen knives. Yitz sees and tosses a box of Band-Aids toward me.

“Hey, Ettie, what’s new?”

Oh, not much, I think, as I discover that I do not, in fact, know how to sharpen knives. Is there some stone involved? I’m just waiting around for my daughter’s future husband to confirm that they will, in fact, be meeting so we can move on with our lives. The words are on the tip of my tongue — how great would it be to tell someone, anyone, that little Naomi, our tiny jellybean, so recently a helpless blob in a car seat, is about to go on her first date and have a family of her own? But Naomi has sworn me to silence, giving me that look that only she knows how to give, making me long for the days of her infancy, sleepless nights notwithstanding.

“Nothing, nothing at all,” I say. “There is zero going on. Nada.”

“Okay, great,” Fruma rushes on, “here’s the thing. You guys don’t have life insurance, right?” “We don’t?” I ask. “I mean, we do, of course we do. Why would you think we wouldn’t?” “You don’t seem the types.”

“Well, to be honest, I think we only got it because there was a Groupon. You know how Yitz gets. He almost wanted false teeth when he saw on a billboard that they were going for $399.”

“That is a good price,” Fruma concedes. “Anyway, my nephew is trying to break into the life insurance business, and he badly needs to practice his sales pitch. I figured you guys would be a good place for him to try out.”

“Sure,” I say, “sounds like fun. Is it okay that we already have?”

“That’s fine, he’ll like the challenge. Maybe if his price is good enough, Yitz will just buy it anyway.”

“Probably,” I say. “All right, Fruma, send him over whenever. I should keep the phone line clear, you know, in case, uh... in case someone calls who... uh... needs to set up important things.” “Don’t you have call waiting?”

“Right. Well. Exactly. Gotta go!”

I hang up and within moments the phone rings. Blocked ID.

“Hello?” I say in my practiced, “I would make an excellent mother-in-law” voice. It’s a voice rich with fresh-out-of-the-oven babka and a consistently clean menorah. “Ettie?”

“Oh. Hi, Chaya.” Back in the oven goes the babka.

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