pink chrysanthemums: Ruth Esther’s favorite flower

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.