My Joy of Yiddish
Like most other homosapiens, I try to use all my senses. This causes me to laugh at funny jokes, to heed to the call of a packet of red licorice and to perform a U-turn when I see those with questionable dental work and tattoos.
Then one day love called and I cast all that aside. He didn’t tell one funny joke or hand me any red licorice, though he had all of his key teeth and appeared to be without any unsightly body art. Even so, he was one I never would have considered for myself anyway and vice versa, I think.
It happened when he starting speaking to me in Yiddish. Now this is a language I can neither speak, read or write fluently, though I heard it growing up and know it when I hear it. This has enabled me to say “hurry up” (schnell or machschnell), to request that someone go to hell and fry bagels (gay un dreard und bacht bageles) or to leave me alone (don’t hoch me to chinic, literally stop banging on the tea kettle). All in all, I have a vocabulary of somewhere between 100 to 200 words or enough to hold a meaningful, intelligent conversation with the average two year old.
It takes me back to the days when the relatives would sit around the table covered with a white cloth covered with plastic and my grandmother’s chins and drink tea with mandel bread and sponge cake and talk about how awful Russia was for my family when they lived there, how awful Russia is now and Sputnik. It reminds me of the days we used the curved plastic-covered arms of my grandmother’s couch as a slide and my cousins would squish chocolate into her carpet.
So he had me at “vigetes” or “how are you?” when I was standing in the Attendance Office at school before heading to class for another fun-filled day of teaching. Not knowing how to say“fine,” “miffed” or “is it Friday yet?” I gave him the old “vigets” back.
Somewhere between one “vigets” and another, his flaws floated away like sponge cake in tea, and I thought I heard birds singing, though it may have been one of the kids fiddling with the public address system again.
The gravy stains on his shirt became endearing, the missing button a fashion statement, and his spare tire sexy. This is what love and language can do. It can make a woman swear that she hears birds singing in the mating call of love.