It is an unbelievably beautiful day here on the Lower East Side. We’ve had a cold winter and a rainy spring so a day like this is really something. Everyone’s talking about it.
I went to my across the street Bodega and one of the Yemeni guys who works there and I were talking about it. We said the same things we usually do: “How are you?” answered with, “Same old, same old.”
But then we started talking about how the same is really good because lots of times when things aren’t the same they’re less good than they were.
We talked about what a beautiful day it is and about how his family lives in the Yemen mountains so they’re not in war danger unless someone gets airplanes and bombs and he showed me a photo of his new baby girl and told me that he prays five times every day to thank god.
He said something next that startled me because it was in such colloquial English. I couldn’t believe it and told him how great his English was and did he know how much more fluent he was than last year? He said he did and then he got all shy and we talked a little before I asked him if he had a holiday and he said that he didn’t and then I remembered what Passover and Easter commemorate.
My forgetting this is not as stupid as it seems, as here, many depend on alternate side of the street parking (which means that every other day or so you have to move your car or risk a hefty fine and also a sticker that’s really hard to get off that says that the street wasn’t cleaned because the driver of the car is a douche, or something very like that). Anyway, because they suspend alternate side parking for everyone’s holidays and because everyone has their special days in weeks of each other, the bother of moving a car is greatly diminished and you get to know the names of lots of people’s holidays. Also, since it’s pretty easy to find a parking space during alternate side suspension you think very kindly about your neighbors and say things like: “thank you Jews”, “thank you Muslims”, “thank you Diwali celebrants,” when you do get a space. So, that’s a true benefit.
Across the street from my building there are a number of little synagogues. Some people call them Shuls and I think it’s the same thing. Families were all dressed up and it seemed like everyone except the little kids were all in black and everyone had on really pretty shoes. Lots of the girls had on silver ballet style flats and that looked so pretty that I think I’m going to have to get myself a pair unless they only make them for little feet. Since I’m not exactly up on trends it is possibly a little kid thing but I don’t think anyone I know would know that and I hope I don’t face the same dilemma I did when I was determined to get a flashing light in my sneakers, but that’s a different story.
The same story, for everyone, is how pretty the girls looked and how disheveled the boys do. Some Observant Jewish boys wear a prayer shawl and the strings are prominent below their middles and I thought they were called Tzitzis (which is only used in a synagogue) but a friend corrected me as what I’m writing about is called a tallit. They’re both used for praying; the tallit is worn every day. Older boys and men wear these with dignity; young boys don’t and when they run the strings of the talit fly around them. That looks happy and when this happens everyone smiles except for the parent who is telling the kid not to run and telling him that he’s going to knock some old lady down or get killed by a car ….the kind of stuff that you heard yourself when you were a little kid.
After that I stopped to chat with a neighbor who was sitting in front of our building. We wished each other a good holiday and talked about the Seder her daughter put on and also how much work Passover is for religious people.
She told me that the last day of Passover is for remembering the dead and about how she said her prayers in her home and didn’t go to Schul. I asked her if that was why almost all of the men and boys were wearing black yarmulkes because usually you see really clever ones that someone crocheted that might even have a Yankee logo on it and she said she didn’t know but she thought that that wouldn’t matter.
Then we talked about what a nice day it is. Everyone is talking about that.
I know, this is really long…but I want you to know about holidays here and I haven’t finished with everyone yet. Corrections are very welcome.