ACT I

Scene One—a temple in Stamford, Connecticut, Labor Day Weekend, 2011. A montage of congenial middle-aged people, each speaking louder than the next, has collected to celebrate Aunt Lee and Uncle Ernie’s 60th anniversary.

“How’s Aunt Helen?” she greeted me. (Odd question, thought I).

(I’d forgotten their lives’ intersection. It was 1990—Michael’s Bar Mitzvah. Cousin Hindy had stayed at Chez Fossil, walking distance from shul).

“You know…she still has my coat!”

(I didn’t know. In fact, I was blown away learning that for two decades Hindy’s rainwear hung quietly in our aunt’s closet).

“I’ll get if for you,” I pledged. “Not a problem. “I shall return!”


Scene Two—A few weeks later: The upstairs of a duplex in University Heights, Ohio.

“Aunt Helen, “I exclaimed, “Remember Hindy, who stayed here when Michael was Bar Mitzvahed?”
“Ah, Hindy.’ (The thought of this observant Jewess had clearly warmed the cockles of my tante’s soul. Turning east, she looked wistfully to the sky).
“I saw her in Connecticut. She says her coat’s in your closet. I’m going to send it to her.”
“You may NOT go in my closet!”
“Are you kidding?” I asked, wreaking incredulity.
“Don’t make me cry!”

Scene Three — a banquet hall in Westchester County, New York–summer, 2012. The Stamford clan, one voice softer, have gathered for the wedding of Ernie’s granddaughter.

“Where’s my coat?” Hindy urged, somewhat playfully.

Lamenting my failure, recounting the episode of months ago, I found new resolve. I could not—I would not—let Hindy down.

“I shall return!” I re-vowed.

Fadeout (to the theme song from ‘Rocky’)

                ACT TWO

Scene One — in a car…at dusk…somewhere on 422 East in Ohio. A man is driving, lady by his side, and the talk is animated.

“I need your help”, he explains. “You need to keep her busy while I go through the closet. She looks at him, somewhat amused. “And you’ll have to meet her,” he adds tentatively, (tepidly fearful of placing her in harm’s way). From the tone of their talk, it is clear neither has sensed the enormity of the task.

“I’m in!” she proclaims, whereupon, in a flourish— ebulliently— like Jason seeking the Golden Fleece, he honks the horn.

Scene Two — Weeks later…same car…in darkness…on Washington Boulevard approaching Cedar. The duo has been joined by another.

“Aunt Helen, can Carrie and I come up for a few minutes.”

Scene Three — Even more weeks later. It is morning and the same car heads west on 480. The old lady is gone, replaced by an enthusiastic young adult.

“My aunt called this week. Says she needs a light bulb changed, and with Harold not feeling well, she’d like me to do it.”
“So?” said the lady.
“Well, she’s says I have to stand on her bed and that I should have someone to hold me up—that I can’t do it by myself…I suggested you.”
“Perfect,” she responds. “Let’s do it today. We’ll take Leesa. The two of us can keep her busy while you’re in the closet.”

The lights flicker a bit, and we see this same trio upstairs at the creaky old duplex. They are wearing the morning’s garb, and it is clear that this it is the same day. Carrie stands on a bed, feigning to screw in the fixture. Feet away is Leesa, gently hugging…occupying Aunt Helen. It is a strict man-to-man defense.

No one is talking.

Me? I was in the other room, going closet to closet. Front closet? Empty. Side closet? Stark empty! Where was Hindy’s coat? I slid into Grandma’s room. Two decades after her death it remains a museum. Alas, her cupboard too was bare.  Where was Hindy’s coat?

Re-entering the fray, dejected, I signaled Carrie’s descent from the bed. Leesa was still hugging my aunt and a new bulb shined but our venture’d failed.

I knew that.

The curtain closed as we trudged down steps, three of the world’s greatest minds having been beaten by one 98-year old. Two questions remained—just two.  Where WAS that coat? (I wondered), and WHAT, oh WHAT, would I tell Hindy?

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