Monday, January 28, 2008

Ida's Donkey

Time: 1990
Place: Chattanooga, TN

I was standing with Dad at the end of Saturday services at my synagogue. We were waiting for Zayde Paul, my grandfather, to join us. Right as Zayde Paul finished folding and putting his tallis away, Mrs. Libowsky called out to him from the front of the sanctuary.

Zayde Paul turned and Mrs. Libowsky proceeded to shake her fist and shout at him in Yiddish. Zayde Paul shook his fist back at her and gave her his retort, also in Yiddish.

I don’t speak Yiddish, so I asked Dad to explain what just happened.

“They’ve been giving each other a hard time for years,” Dad said. “It’s no big deal.”

“Zayde Paul and Mrs. Libowsky are both in their nineties,” I said. “How long have they been busting each other’s chops?”

Dad told me the story. Zayde Paul and Mrs. Ida Libowsky were from the same shtetl in Russia. When they were in their early teens, Ida used to ride into town on a donkey. Ida’s family was better off than Zayde Paul’s, which is why they could afford for Ida to have her own donkey.

When Zayde Paul saw Ida coming, acting so high and mighty on her donkey, he would become enraged. He felt that she was showing off. He would run up beside her and the donkey and punch her legs. Sometimes Ida cried, and sometimes Ida tried to kick Zayde Paul, but Ida never forgot what Zayde Paul did to her.

So here is what Mrs. Ida Libowsky and Zayde Paul were shouting to each other eighty years later:

Ida: “Do you remember how you used to punch my legs when I came to town on my donkey?”

Zayde Paul: “Yes, I do. And if you get close enough, I’ll punch you again.”

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