One year ago, my brother was getting married to a wonderful girl and I was over the moon! She often referred to my brother as her “Prince Charming.” She and I got along famously and not only that, my dear friend, whom I always have adventures with, became very close to her as well. My friend and I decided that we would help with planning the wedding and finding her the perfect dress! We chose a day and ventured to the nearest bridal store. It was just lovely, the staff served us champagne and we had quite a good time. My future sister in law tried on several dresses until she found one she liked. It was beautiful and by the time she found it, we were a bit tipsy, and fun was had by all. The dress needed some alterations, so the store manager told us there were business cards with highly recommended local seamstresses placed at the front counter. So, my friend picked a card that had some kind of sparkly dust on it and said, “This one looks interesting, her name is Crisabella Fairweather.” I looked at the card and said, “What an odd name but she’s conveniently located right around the corner.”
So my future sister in law purchased the dress and we called the seamstress and she said she was available right away. We then went to her home. Upon arriving, we noticed immediately that it was a very small cottage. Lining the perimeter was a white picket fence and it was surrounded by an array of colorful roses, daisies and petunias. There was a very large oak tree in the front with squirrels and woodpeckers surrounding it. A cute birdhouse hung from one of the limbs and a red cardinal peeped its head out as though it was welcoming us as we walked to the door.
Things got even stranger……..
We knocked and the door opened slowly as we were greeted by a cocker spaniel, there was no sign of any human being! My future sister in law exclaimed to the dog, (which I found odd, but this whole situation was) “We are here to see the seamstress!” The dog barked and turned around and started walking through the house. He turned back at us, to make sure we were following. So we proceeded to follow the dog. He led us to an open sliding glass door and we walked through it to the back yard. What we saw was so unusual that we must take a moment to describe it! The back yard had several large birdbaths filled with bluebirds who were noisily tweeting. Also, There were hens and chickens running amuck. We saw more squirrels and what we think might have been mice scurrying about. The dog continued to turn around as he was leading us. We then walked down a stone pathway to a small thatch roofed cottage which was her workshop. The cottage was painted white with robin’s egg blue trim. She had more flowers lining the workshop and the top of the doorway was arched as if it was part of a fairy tale. We looked uncomfortably at each other, but then she opened the door to greet us. We couldn’t believe our eyes. She was around 4’11”, very long gray hair with flowers strewn throughout it. She was heavily wrinkled and wore a long lace gown and flat pointed slippers. She wore a ring on every finger and smiled as though she knew us since birth. She had bright piercing blue eyes that seemed to twinkle and when she moved glitter fell off her gown. My heart raced as I looked at my friend who had a complete look of shock on her face. The seamstress said, “Hello my darlings, I have been expecting you. I see you’ve met Prince, my dog, he loves to bring guests to my workshop.” We all found this to be very unusual, but she did come highly recommended so we stepped inside. The floor of the workshop was wood and creaked as we walked on it. it was dimly lit and very tiny, which we thought would make it difficult to work in. She got uncomfortably close to our faces when greeting us which made no sense at the moment. She told the bride to change into the dress, but there was no dressing room. So, she uncomfortably slipped into the dress in front of us and in front of a very large uncovered window that faced the street! We looked out the window and there were about 20 small bluebirds flitting about!
As she was changing, my friend as nonchalantly as she could, pointed at a very rusty antiquated foot pedal powered sewing machine. I thought to myself, How can she get this intricate job done with such an old outdated machine? I then looked up and noticed the walls had small shelves with hundreds of different threads, buttons, ribbons, scissors and sewing needles not in any particular order. The entire workshop was in disarray, things were strewn everywhere. Suddenly, she picked up the hem of the dress and held it extremely close to her face as if she was going to smell it! The Bride to be looked at me with wide eyes as I shrugged my shoulders. Crisabella then stated that she merely had to see the beading on the dress and had to hold it 1/2 an inch from her eyes to get a better look. Our mouths were agape, it made no sense. Most of us use reading glasses to see up close. she saw our reaction and said, “Oh fiddle dee dee, I am as blind as a bat, I have to hold things up very closely to see them!” We thought, how effective could a legally blind person be at altering a wedding dress? And with a rusty sewing machine? Who puts the beading on, the bluebirds? None of this made sense, but, we are just 2 middle aged Jewish women, what do we know from this?
Miraculously, she was able to take measurements while squinting and was confident the job could get done in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, the bride was not the best at preparing in advance and the wedding was only 2 1/2 weeks away. We were worried but Crisabella put our minds at ease. As we left, she handed us each a thimble and an apple for the road!
One week passed and we heard nothing from Crisabella. We tried calling but the line was out of service! We thought about stopping by her home, but in the end we decided to not panic yet and gave Crisabella a few more days to get in touch with us.
Four days before the wedding we were nervous wrecks. The catering, the venue, the decorations and the photographer were all taken care of. But we had no idea if there was going to be a dress or not! My future sister in law was starting to truly panic, so we had to make a plan B. Her sister still had her old wedding dress and being that they were the same size, she decided to borrow it. It was not the dress she wanted, but at this point, it would have to do. We called the bridal store to report Crisabella, and they apologized and said they didn’t know who we were talking about!
The wedding day arrived!
My friend and I showed up early to the venue to help the bride get ready. The wedding was to take place on the beach, and we were able to get ready in a lovely beach house on location. We were all excited and the disappointment of the dress debacle for the most part was forgotten.
Twenty minutes before it was time for the ceremony, we heard a knock at the door.
What happened next was unbelievable!
As we opened the door, standing in front of us was Crisabella. She was dressed exactly as she had appeared 2 1/2 weeks ago! In her hands, was the wedding gown, altered and as beautiful as ever. She calmly said, “Did you even doubt me?” Next to her was her dog Prince who seemed to bark a hello to us. Also, on her shoulder, was a tiny blue bird! I looked past her to the driveway and saw no parked vehicle. We were very curious as to how she got there with the dog and the dress and the bird. However, we were even more curious as to how she knew where to find us! We didn’t ask for it, but she added a lovely blue sash to the waist of the gown. We each gave Crisabella a big hug as we were speechless and thrilled beyond words! We briefly turned around to bring the dress inside, and when we looked back, Crisabella, Prince and the bluebird were gone, and all that remained on the threshold was a pile of glitter!
Hola Amigos, I’m sorry to have kept you in suspense all this time. When we last met The Godfather was kissing The Godmother’s hand in his “office” in the back room of Via Roma’s Pizzeria. He seemed to be so captivated with Don Bubbieberger that he couldn’t control himself!
The Godfather had been struck right in the tuchus by cupid’s arrow. His kisses slowly went up Don Bubbieberger’s arm and when he got past the crook of her elbow she reared back and gave him such a slap on the noggin. The Godfather fell back in his chair and was softly singing what sounded like the Italian love song That’s Amore. “How dare you,” barked the Godmother, “no one kisses my arm without my consent.” She turned to me and asked, “Did I give consent?” I shook my head. As she used the tablecloth to wipe his kisses off of her arm she declared, “No consent, no amore!”
“Then how do I get this consent?” Don Bustamonte inquired desperately. She grabbed his face in her hands, looked into his eyes and stated, “You have to earn it, besides, I only let Jewish men kiss me!” As she started to gather herself to leave, I rushed up front to order a couple slices of Via Roma’s famous pizza. I figured if I am going to have to deal with all of this drama, I deserved it. As I was handed my take out treat, the Godmother came bursting out the door, turned around and yelled back at the Godfather, “You’re gonna stay outta Brooklyn and you’re gonna stay outta my Spanx!” We then got into the Lincoln and planned to never see the Godfather again.
Meanwhile, days later it was business as usual at the deli. The Godmother was busy dealing with Rita Goldfarb’s latest issue. Rita felt she was overcharged by Stu Botchnick’s Plumbing Service. The Godmother sent her enforcer Avi to give Stu an atomic wedgie right up his plumber’s crack. It was so lethal, that he gave Rita a free toilet installation.
So as you can see all was well and good in Brooklyn, but back in The Bronx a storm was brewing. For Don Bustamonte was not a man who would give up so easily. He was going to do whatever was necessary to win the heart of our dear Don Bubbieberger. I knew that they came from 2 different worlds, how could love possibly prevail? He smokes stogies and she smokes whitefish. He fires a pistol and she fires kitchen staff. He plays the horses and she plays Mah Jongg. He eats meatballs and she eats matzah balls.
How could this ever work?
Well my friends, let me tell you. Don Bustamonte hired a skywriter to write “Surrender Sylvia” across the Brooklyn sky. Through means only a Godfather could use, he found out about her favorite flower, and he had the whole back room of the deli filled with ruby begonias. Neither of these things fazed The Godmother it seemed. But, I heard that he hired a Genealogist to scour his family tree in search of any potential Jewish roots. Lo and behold, he found out that his great great grandmother was of the “Hebrew” persuasion. With the knowledge of his Jewish blood, he hired a Mashgiach to make the pizzeria’s kitchen kosher. He had his pizza chef start making a special pizza bagel and added lox as one of the toppings. Sausage and pepperoni were stricken from the menu. Everyone thought he was losing his mind, but he didn’t care. The heart wanted what the heart wanted.
My friends, that is all for now. The next time we meet you will find out if the Godfather “makes a deal” to win the Godmother’s heart. Will the Godmother choose Don Bustamonte, or Door #2?
Yiddush Word Glossary:
*tuchus: butt or rear end
*mashgiach: a jew who supervises the kosher status of an establishment
For unfortunate reasons that we cannot go into, quite a few years ago, my friend’s brother had gotten himself into a lot of trouble and was awaiting trial at a Federal Detention Center in Miami. My friend wanted to plan a visit to see him but the detention center had so many rules that it turned out to be a fairly cumbersome task! For example, one could only visit if they were on an inmate’s preapproved visitation list, visitors were given a predetermined time slot, and once given the time, visitors had to be outside the doors of the center one hour beforehand. There were many items of clothing that were deemed unacceptable such as: hats, shorts, flip flops, sunglasses, hair ties, sweaters or jackets. Shirts could not be beige, black, orange, striped or have any type of suggestive language or graphics on them. No skirts or dresses were permitted either! Also, certain items were banned. No cell phones, no wallets, no purses, no bags, no gifts for the inmates, no personal items of any kind were allowed. The only things permitted were: one small ziploc bag containing quarters for the visitor vending machine, a car key and positive identification.
Our time slot was on a Thursday morning from 8am-9am. Coincidentally, it was on her brother’s birthday, so my friend was determined to take her 2 children as well, and of course her partner in crime: me! My friend’s children were 13 and 16 at the time. We lived 4 hours away, so we had to gather up the kids and get in the car by 2:30am to allow for traffic, parking and any other hazards along the way.
Who could of known the hazards we were about to face?
We arrived in Downtown Miami by 6:00am and we were all exhausted. Not much sleep was had by any of us in anticipation of what was to come. We parked on the street as close to the detention center and of course, we locked all of our personal items in the trunk because the area was riddled with shady characters! We decided we should get some food into us and sauntered into a Macdonald’s on the corner. We had to use the bathroom as well so we attempted to open that bathroom door. As soon as we discovered that the stalls were locked, a gruff voice came from behind us, “You gotta get a wooden chip from the lady behind the counter!” We turned around to find who would ultimately become our new best friend. He introduced himself as Melvin. He was homeless, of small stature, gray hair, smelling a bit like vodka and cigarettes and he by far was the most helpful person to us that day! He went on to say, “The wooden chip is given only to customers and it unlocks the door.” We thanked him, got our wooden chips and used to restroom. He then offered to watch our car for us while we were at the detention center. We agreed figuring we shouldn’t argue with him. After all, we were 2 middle aged Jewish women, what did we know from this? So we got a decent breakfast and went on our way to the detention center to wait outside the doors.
It was an unusually chilly day in Miami, so we stood on line in the cold. We had paperwork to fill out while we were waiting. When the corrections officer came out to collect our paperwork she took one look at my friend’s son and declared, “He’s not going in!” My friend, taken aback, asked why. The corrections officer, quite agitated, explained that hoodies were not allowed and he was wearing a shirt with a hoodie attached. We had our first problem! (yes there were more to come). My friend, who didn’t want to lose her time slot, responded, “Do you have a pair of scissors, I’ll just cut the hood off!” The corrections officer’s faced turned slightly red, “This is a prison, We ain’t got no scissors in here!” With that, she walked away. My friend was not going to give up that easily! It was her brother’s birthday and she decided we were ALL getting in! We started to come up with a plan. We were going to find a shirt that would be acceptable to gain entry into the detention center. We had 15 minutes until our visitation time, so we had to act fast! My friend’s son, being a typical teenager, was too embarrassed to start running around downtown Miami, so he chose to hold our spot in line while the three of us took off!
We were on a mission!
I remembered seeing a church or mission on the same street as we were driving in so I told my friend and her daughter that I would head there, and meet up with them down the street near the Macdonald’s where the homeless people were congregating. Unfortunately, the mission was locked which made sense, it was very early in the morning, but at least I tried. Disheartened, I headed back to the Macdonald’s and that’s where I found my friend and her daughter attempting to communicate in Spanish to various homeless people on the street! Her daughter was using what little eighth grade Spanish she knew, which wasn’t the best. At one point, I think my friend mistakenly asked someone if they wanted to purchase her daughter instead of asking if she could purchase one of their shirts! Time was running out, and obviously my friend was getting more and more desperate. I looked across the street and I spotted Melvin with several of his homeless friends sitting outside the bus station. I noticed he had a suitcase on the ground next to him. I pointed him out to my friend. We quickly ran across the street in a panic and asked Melvin if there was a spare T shirt in his suitcase. He nonchalantly opened the suitcase and surprisingly he responded with, “Sure, what color would you like?” He then opened the suitcase and contained within it were dozens of nicely folded T shirts in varied colors! Before we could ask how a homeless man had so many different colored T shirts, my friend, without thinking about what she was saying, cried out, “Anything that can get my son into prison!” With that he took out a crisp, clean, neatly folded blue pocket T shirt. We offered him the bag of quarters, but he refused to take any money from us! My friend almost started crying tears of joy and we ran back to the detention center. She was waving the T shirt like a found treasure victoriously in the air! My friend’s son, was frantic as we showed up only 2 minutes before our entry time! He quickly changed into the shirt, left his hoodie tucked away behind a garbage can hoping to retrieve it later and we were granted entrance through the doors. Once we got in, we were instructed to sit down in chairs and wait until our names were called. There were at least 20 other people waiting with us. We sat down and felt so relieved to have found the shirt and we began to relax.
We really shouldn’t have gotten so comfortable yet!
A woman seated next to us leaned over to my friend and whispered, “You may not know this, but if you have any underwire in your bras, you will not make it though the metal detectors. And so, the wild rumpus continued as we discovered that my friend’s daughter had underwire in her bra! We immediately went into the women’s restroom. Her daughter was quite distressed because she didn’t want to remove her bra nor did she want to do anything to ruin it. It was at that moment that the stress of the entire situation overwhelmed my friend and caused her to have a bit of a meltdown! She began to scream, “Take the bra off! Take it off now, give me the bra! Listen, I can’t take this anymore, I’m exhausted and I only wanted you to see your uncle on his birthday, we barely slept, we drove 3 1/2 hours, I had to go running through the streets of Miami at 6 am just to get a crappy T shirt for your brother from a homeless man, I’m at my wits end and now I have to take the underwire from your bra! This is going to happen!” Seeing her mother in such distress, my friend’s daughter acquiesced and handed the bra over. My friend, after quite a bit of a struggle, finally was able to remove the underwire and threw it in the garbage can. The bra was back on and we were once again ready to go! As we came out from the restroom, we noticed everyone in the hallway staring at us. My friend’s son with his eyes wide said, ” I don’t think you are aware of this, but the bathroom door is not soundproof. Everyone out here heard every word you said and I can’t believe you got me a shirt from a homeless man!” My friend’s mouth hung wide open as she recalled everything she had said in the restroom. Before she could reply, our names were called. It was our turn to go visit her brother.
And with that, we ended up having a lovely one hour visit with my friend’s brother. When we left, my friend’s son looked for his shirt but it was gone. We walked back to the car and Melvin was there to greet us, guarding our car just like he promised. To this day, my friend has the T shirt displayed in her home as a souvenir!
No one on the streets tonight Trapped in my flat I’ve been A Kingdom of Isolation And it looks like I’m the Queen The Virus is raging, a coughing storm outside I couldn’t stay in, Heaven knows I’ve tried Don’t let them in, don’t let them near me, Be the safe girl, you always have to be Covid, go away, don’t let them know Well, Now they know! Stay Inside, Stay Inside Can’t go outside anymore Stay Away, Stay Away Turn away, and Slam the Door! I don’t Care what they’re going to say Let the Virus rage on… A cold never bothered me anyway! Stay Inside, stay inside Can’t go outside anymore Wash your hands, Stay Away! It’s funny how some distance makes the Virus seem OK And the sneezes that once controlled me, can’t get me at all…. It’s time to see what I can watch To test my Netflix limits and break through No night, no NEWS, for me I’m Trapped! Stay Inside, Stay inside I am one with the Fridge and Pie Go away, go away You’ll never see me Die Here I sit, and here I’ll stay Let the Virus rage on…. A cold never bothered me anyway!