When we last wrote this story, we were explaining about the oddities of our local cat shelter. If you did not happen to read part 1, scroll to the end of this post, and get caught up! We will explain now how we started to suspect that this place could also be a rehabilitation program or halfway house for people.
Over the year and 1/2 of volunteering after school with our daughters, we got to know just about everyone who worked there. While it was the staff that handled the day to day operations, the full time volunteers were in charge of all the extracurricular activities, events, library books, competitions, productions, etc. (things that were completely unnecessary to run a shelter). The staff of the Cat Cottage seemed to have their wits about them, but the full time volunteers we deemed otherwise. As time went on, we noticed that they were very quirky, socially inept, some twitched, others kept scratching their faces (much like an addict would) and we were convinced furthermore when we heard someone from the staff mentioning that there were a few volunteers from a local 12 step program. These people were so wonderful with the animals, yet acted so oddly. It was obvious they were wrought with issues. We started to formulate a theory on our own that the volunteers were actually there as a form of rehabilitation, versus being there to aid the cats! It almost seemed to us that the cats were being used as a tool to give these wayward people purpose and take their minds off of their issues. It was a hunch, but it seemed so plausible.
For instance, One older gentleman was in charge of the color coordination in the rooms, from time to time he went through the hallways with a clipboard checking to make sure that colors were not mixed. Another woman would go from room to room interviewing cat socializers because she was making assessments for the honorable mentions we spoke of in our earlier post. She would pass out ballots, and we would be asked to vote! There was a large committee in charge of the full scale productions put on the entertain the cat “residents.” Also, the library was monitored very closely by at least 5-6 volunteers. Does one actually believe that colorblind animals would even care about which colored room they are housed in? Were the cats actually competing for honorable mentions? Most of the cats slept through the productions! Often when our girls read to the cats, the cats walked away and started to lick their behinds! And does a cat actually get in trouble for not returning a library book? So much goes into operating an animal shelter to begin with; raising funds, purchasing food and litter, procuring veterinarian services, running a volunteer program, maintenance of the building, etc. Why add all these ‘fakakta’ things that do absolutely nothing to benefit the cats?
We could only conclude one thing: it was for the humans! Honestly, think about it, it gave these people purpose, they loved the cats and it kept them busy. The cats were therapeutic! The real staff were the ones who kept the place running. We have no proof whatsoever if our theory is correct, however, this is the way we like to think of it! To this day, we still remain convinced; wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were right? After all, we were just two up and coming middle aged Jewish women, what did we know from this?
It was a long drive from college, but she finally made it home for the weekend. Immediately upon arriving, she gave her mother a hug, walked upstairs, laid her head on her pillow, held her stuffed tiger and gazed over to the bookshelves against her wall. It held all of her precious momentos, books and medals she had won over the years. All of them were reminders of her early childhood and the years she had spent growing up. The smell of homecooking wafted up the stairs and into her bedroom. She felt an overwhelming sense of comfort and warmth wash over her like a giant embrace. It’s so good to be home, she thought.
Written for: Three Things Challenge from Pensitivity 101:
For those of you unfamiliar with our Godmother series, you can read parts 1-4 of our introduction series on this blog.
Hello my dear friends, It is me again, Jose, here to tell you how The Jewish Godmother and I both realized that the only way to rescue Brooklyn from El Diablo was to turn to a higher power. We needed someone who had more influence in the community than Don Bubbieberger herself, someone who could break the will of evil itself. That was obviously Ruth Esther, The Jewish Godmother’s very own Mother!
Don Bubbieberger knew that her mother was the only person in the world who could get rid of the Devil. After all, she was the original Jewish Godmother. She handed down her Dynasty to her eldest daughter Sylvia when she retired. During her reign as Godmother, all feared and respected her. She got the nickname the ‘Poly-Esther Don’ because like the fabric, nothing could stain or ruin her reputation.
But even in her retirement, she continued to wield her power at the B’nai B’rith Senior Housing Center on Ocean Avenue. She controlled most of the daily ins and outs of the place and resolved the disputes between the residents.
As we walked into the Senior Center, Ruth Esther was seated at her favorite canasta table across from two residents, Goldie Bernstein and Fruma Sternbaum. They were having a dispute. Fruma was fuming as she pointed to Goldie, “She cheats in bingo and she stole my favorite wig yesterday and she’s wearing it.” Goldie was angry as well, “It’s my wig you nudnick, you are meshugana! My beloved Morty, may he rest in peace, bought this for me, he said it made me look like Goldie Hawn.” Fruma began to bang the table, “It’s my wig! You’re a liar,” she turned to Ruth Esther and pleaded, “Help me get my wig back!” She tried to yank it off of Goldie’s head. There was so much commotion, the two cans of Dr. Brown’s cream soda fell off the table.
At that moment, Ruth Esther stood up and the room grew quiet. She said in a deep voice, “I have a solution.” She turned around and addressed an elderly Latino gentleman who was holding a broom in his hand. “Guillermo, bring me my sewing shears.” I, Jose Flores de las Guiterrez Perez de Fernandez de Leon de Jesus, saw my future at that moment. But, I digress.
Fruma asked, “Ruth Esther, what’s with the shears?” Ruth Esther then grabbed the wig off of Goldie’s head and with the shears in one hand and the wig in the other she proclaimed, “I am going to cut the wig in half so you can both have it!” Goldie said, “Great idea, you’re so smart.” Then, with terror in her eyes, Fruma leaned forward reaching out to Ruth Esther pleading, “Not my wig, my darling wig, don’t destroy it, just let Goldie have it, I’d rather you do that then cut it in half.” And that’s when I knew Ruth Esther was using her old “King Solomon” technique and the wig was handed over to its rightful owner and Goldie accepted defeat. The ladies then grabbed their walkers and headed over to the cafe for the pastrami on rye sandwich special.
Don Bubbieberger gave her mother a kiss on the cheek. Ruth Esther then turned to me and asked, “Did you bring the cigarettes?” I handed her the case of Pall Malls. She whispered to me, “I mark up the price 3 times to these shmendricks!”
Don Bubbieberger said, “Ma, I need your help and guidance, I need you to come to the deli.” Ruth replied, “Ok, but only for a few hours because Judge Judy comes on at 4:00. Guillermo! Get my good walker, the one with the wheels, we gotta go back to the deli!”
In the Lincoln, The Godmother filled Ruth Esther in with all the details regarding the Devil issue. Ruth Esther seemed unfazed, for she had seen it all. As a matter of fact, she revealed to us that this was not the first time the Devil had visited the deli. “He was young, handsome and he had a way with words. He even knew what my favorite flower was! Pink Chrysanthemums.” She continued, “We had a fling, he was an amazing lover, very limber, and don’t even get me started on his forked tongue!” Don Bubbieberger was shocked and asked, “Ma, why haven’t you ever told me this before?” Ruth Esther said, “Must you know everything, what are you, the Yenta of Brooklyn? I got a life too!” I could see this perplexed Don Bubbieberger, “This could really gum up the works!” She knew her mother was stronger than anything, but now how can she possibly get rid of the devil if she had a weakness for him? We arrived at the deli with great trepidation.
Upon entering, we found the devil sitting at the counter sprinkling bacon bits on his French toast. As he turned to see Ruth Esther walk in, his face turned whiter than usual, he clutched his chest and he fell to the floor. As she rolled her walker to him he cried out, “How are you still alive? I thought you would be dead by now!” Ruth Esther peered down at him, “You would like that wouldn’t you? It’s been 40 years, you don’t write, you don’t call, nothing! You just disappear, every Shabbos I set a place at the table for you with a bowl of matzah ball soup, your favorite.” Guillermo then handed her a cane and she proceeded to clunk the devil over the head with it. “Is this how you treat a lady, you love them and leave them, you should be ashamed!” I could see a smile form on the corners of Don Bubbieberger’s mouth, she knew her plan to bring her mother in to get rid of the devil was going to work. The devil, still on the floor looking like a crumbled nebbish, cried, “Forgive me Ruthie, please, I was young and impetuous, I did love you, I just couldn’t take the constant nagging and criticism, it never stopped, even me, the devil has a breaking point, it was so awful.”
Ruth Esther said, “Oh so you think that was bad? I haven’t even started yet! Why are you bothering my daughter? When are you going to get a real job? By the way, you look too thin, stand up already, your posture is terrible! You’re too pale, what’s with your haircut, it looks like you have horns coming out of your head, straighten your tie, you look like a shlump. I’ll help you, come live at the Senior Center, I’ll make you a changed man!”
The devil, barely recognizable as the demon he really was, looked more frightened than a lamb in a slaughterhouse. My friends, we were watching a true legend at work, no one could dole out the Jewish criticism and guilt like Ruth Esther. He quickly gathered his things, bolted towards the door and Ruth screamed, “Where do you think you’re going?” He answered, “Just like 40 years ago, I’m going back to hell, It’s better than an eternity of this!” And with that, the devil vanished.
Ruth Esther then asked us, “So do you have an extra slice of that Devil’s food cake? I heard it’s the best in town!”
Yiddush and Hebrew word glossary: *Nudnick: an irritating person, a boring pest *Meshugana: silly, crazy, nonsensical *shmendrick: a foolish or stupid person *Yenta: a busybody, a person who is a gossip *Shabbos: The Sabbath *nebbish: a man who is ineffectual and submissive *shlump: a rumpled or dowdy person
You can click on our team follow through link or the related posts below to read The Jewish Godmother parts 1-4 or The Devil and Miss Bubbieberger parts 1 and 2.