The Boston Girl

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant Read Free Book Online

Book: The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant Read Free Book Online
Authors: Anita Diamant
started coming over a lot and she usually brought presents: tobacco for Papa, a scarf for Celia, stockings for me, chocolate drops for Mameh. But no matter what she brought or how Celia tried to make nice, it always ended with a fight. Mameh would complain about America; how the apples had no taste and children didn’t listen to their parents—even the air was worse here. “People get sick from everyone breathing the same air. In our village we had room at least. The air was clean.”
    Sooner or later, Betty would smack the table and say, “Enough, already! I remember what it was like over there and the air smelled like cow shit. And the floor in the house was made of dirt. Can you imagine such a thing, Addie? Filthy and disgusting! In America, at least it’s the twentieth century.”
    When they started fighting, Celia shriveled up like a plant without enough water. Sometimes I wondered if she was marrying Levine just to get away from the noise and the tension.
    Celia said she wanted to make her own wedding dress, so Levine bought her a beautiful piece of white satin. But a few days before the wedding, when it still wasn’t done, Betty said she would help with the finishing and made Celia try it on.
    The dress was a plain shift that fell from her shoulders to her ankles, with long sleeves and a flat collar. Betty threw a fit. “You can’t wear that. It looks like a nightgown.”
    Celia said it would be better when she attached the sash. “Then maybe you’ll look like a shiny nurse,” Betty said. “I’m going to buy the fanciest veil I can find and some lace for the collar and around the hem. You are going to be a pretty bride or I’m not coming to this wedding.” Celia giggled, and for a moment I saw them as children: the bossy big sister and the little sister who would follow her anywhere.
    —
    Celia’s wedding day was sunny and beautiful, so Mameh had to spit three times to ward off the evil eye. “Rain is what brings luck,” she said. Betty rolled her eyes and fussed with the veil, which had little pearls sewn all over and covered most of the dress and made Celia look like a princess.
    Before we left the house, Betty took me aside and asked if Mameh had explained to Celia what happens on the wedding night.
    I said, “Probably not.”
    Betty groaned. “That isn’t good. I’m telling you, Addie, our Celia is not a strong person. We have to keep an eye on her, you and me.”
    But now that Celia was leaving, I realized how much she had watched over me and had put herself between my mother and me. It was going to be awful without her.
    —
    Celia took Papa’s arm as we walked around the corner to the little storefront synagogue, where Levine and his sons were waiting by the door. The boys looked miserable in new shoes and starched shirts and the groom was blinking as if he had something in his eye.
    “Where’s your family?” Mameh said.
    Levine only had a few second cousins in America, but their children had gotten mumps, so the whole wedding party was just the eight of us, including his boys.
    The shul was in a store where they used to sell fish, and since we were there in August and it was hot, the smell came back. I had only been there for High Holiday services, when it was crowded—especially in the back, where the women sat. But that day you could hear an echo, and it was so dark it took a minute for my eyes to see the old men standing next to the table with the food.
    Papa said hello to each of them and asked about their wives and children. He prayed with these men before work every morning, so it was like his club. Mameh didn’t want them at the wedding—she called them schnorrers—moochers. But I was glad they were there. I thought they made things a little more cheerful.
    The rabbi came running in and apologized for being late. He had a long white beard with yellow tobacco stains around his mouth, but he had young eyes and clapped Papa and Levine on the back and said “Mazel tov” like

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