Uncle Slappy and Aunt Sylvie arrived from Boca last week ostensibly to celebrate Hanukkah with us. Tonight is night three of a promised eight nights and while I love Slappy--he is after all my father's brother--I can clearly understand why my wife has lately been rolling her eyes--even more than usual.
The truth of the matter is, Slappy and Sylvie should probably never have left New York for Florida. I think they felt they had to. That it was some obligatory journey they had to make like Muslims to Mecca. In any event, Boca's been no Mecca for them and they seem to be spending more and more time in our guest room and less and less in their two-bedroom condo not far from the beach.
We've been renovating the room over the last six months and unfortunately the painters had to come today to finish their work. Uncle Slappy and Sylvie don't like to complain but the smell of the paint is a little much. Nevertheless, we've thrown open the window, turned on a fan and given the place a good airing out. It's a little dusty, but I'm sure Slappy and Sylvie will sleep like logs.
On Hanukkah, it's traditional each night to exchange small gifts. Nothing lavish, certainly like nothing you'd find in the Neiman-Marcus catalog, but, instead, little tokens to show you care.
I took the train downtown after work today and bought Uncle Slappy a baseball cap from Sammy's Roumanian Steak House--one of the last of the old Jewish Restaurants in New York. I also bought for him a quart of kasha varnishkas with onions and mushrooms with the gravy in a separate container so things don't get soggy.
We lit the menorah this evening and I gave Slappy his gifts, wrapped.
I've known the old man my entire life but tonight I really struck a chord. He unwrapped the hat first and quickly put it on, not even taken off the tags. Then he opened the container of kasha varnishkas. His eyes suddenly became as big as kreplachs.
"For me you got," he said, "kasha varnishkas from Sammy's?"
"For you, Uncle Slappy," my wife answered.
"A fork please, you'll give me." And he dug right into the container.
I think I saw a tear in his eyes.
And it wasn't from the onions.