Sunday, March 31, 2013

She's Not Looking for Happily-Ever-After

I imagine it is August and the open window provides a gust of stinky stale air.

Whatever is happening on the street below is nothing to her — my grandmother, framed in the second story window of a New York City tenement.

She is reading a book, a story she already knows in three languages, but there is always the possibility of something unexpected happening. Perhaps this time the heroine will not fall beneath the train.

Not that she minds a little drama. She's not looking for happily-ever-after, like her younger sister, the one everybody is so worried about, the one who is too friendly with strangers and stays out late at night.

My grandmother doesn’t want to fill her head with the troubles of real people. Isn't it enough she has Anna Karenina to worry about?

She licks her right pointer finger and turns a page.

At that exact moment someone in the street below calls her name —Yettela.

At first she can’t see who it is, the sun is in her eyes, and anyway her eyesight is not so good. They say it’s from reading so much but she knows men who wear spectacles and they never read anything, not even the newspapers.

She squints through the open window and recognizes a tall young man standing on the sidewalk beneath her window.

Joseph, what are you doing here?

I came to America, he calls up. Let me in.

And that is how my grandmother and my grandfather found each other again — though neither of them had been looking.

They were not sweethearts before, only neighbors from the same village in the old country. Yetta's father had been Joseph's Hebrew teacher, nothing more than that.

But on that day, in that place, in that light, something caught Joseph’s eye in an upstairs window and he looked up. And that was that.

He always said he liked a woman with a good mind. 

Which Yetta had.

He said he liked a woman who was content with simple things.

Which Yetta was.

Her favorite simple things: a good book and good light. 

Such blessings.

(And maybe a small dish of vanilla ice cream, for no special occasion, just because it's late in the afternoon and the story is coming to an end.)