A Real Bubbemaise

My mother was a real oldfashioned shadchanta, and an exceptionally good one at that! In an era devoid of cell phones, email or many of the communication devices we take for granted today, Mom was the consummate go-between for many a young lady, young man, widow, widower, and divorcee. A kindly and amiable older lady, with young ideas about life and love, Mom told all of her “clients” that the best way to attack loneliness was to go out and meet others with common interests and ideas. Mom’s doctrine was that love and companionship were precious ingredients that make life a joyful experience. That’s probably why she got such extreme pleasure playing the gobetween. It’s also probably why she was such a popular address for those needing a warm disposition, listening ear and loving heart. For 50 years, Mom redt shidduchim. Hundreds of happy marriages, many of them taking place in our own living room, attested to Mom’s skill and siyata dishmaya. Fifty years of matchmaking experiences, most happy, many inspiring, few disheartening, and others hilariously funny qualified Mom as one of the best in the business. I’ll never forget one incident in particular.

Mom almost gave up her beloved and rewarding business because of it. She had been busy on the phone (the kind with the rotary dial that most of our youth have never seen, much less used) all morning trying to convince a middleaged divorced woman to go out with a man who had a similar unhappy marital experience. As was frequently the case, their first date would take place in our sparsely furnished living room (which at the time was called a “parlor”). Mom practically danced around the room, tidying it up from the antics of seven young children, making sure that it was befitting a first date, certain that it would be the first of many. It was obvious that she was very excited about this prospect. She was sure it was going to be another perfect match for someone who already had many to her credit. My five sisters and I were all assigned “chores” (I wonder if this word is as foreign to today’s youth as a rotary phone and parlor). One of us dusted, another washed the linoleum floor, a third adeptly put a coat of wax on it until it shone like glass. We were almost as excited as Mom, for her enthusiasm over her shidduchim was contagious. We could barely wait for the big moment to arrive.

Once the room was shining to perfection, we siblings were no longer permitted in the parlor. So we took turns peering from the kitchen doorway, the perfect vantage point from which to observe the exciting real-life dramas that frequently unfolded before us. The moment arrived. Mom, looking every bit the shadchanta in her best rayon print dress, animatedly greeted her gentleman client as he entered our home. With feigned exaggeration, she told him all of his future “bride’s” fine qualities: “She’s a beauty,” Mom confidently exclaimed. “A Miss America with a great sense of humor. A real lady! Eidel, refined, a loud word you’ll never hear from her mouth.” Mom would have gone on and on were it not for the persistent knock at the door—not too refined sounding, I thought at the time. The “bride” arrived bedecked with every piece of costume jewelry she must have owned. The excitement in the kitchen almost reached a frenzy. Each of us was vying for the best position by the doorway. Mom was about to make her initial introduction, a process we children never tired of hearing, when the sounds from the living room made each of us shudder. The man started shouting a tirade of curses the likes of which we had never heard. The woman responded with a tirade of her own, matching his decibels and unattractive vocabulary word for word.

We children could not imagine what had happened. We froze in our places, unaccustomed to such behavior in our parlor, certainly not from Mom’s satisfied clients. After the outrage died down, we were able to piece together the story. Mom’s “ideal” couple had been married before— to each other, and were not the least bit interested in a repeat performance. The woman had resumed using her maiden name and no longer called herself by her Hebrew name as in their previous marriage. The man had shortened his very Yiddish-sounding last name to a shorter, Americanized version. Neither had an inkling of being redt to the previous spouse until the fateful parlor meeting. Mom, never one to give up on an opportunity, and always one to have the last word, entreated the pair sheepishly, “They tell me it’s much better the second time around. Maybe you’d like to give it a try?”

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