He and his son, no older than five, sat down next to me. This was really quite unexpected. I always assume black hats will stay away from women. Shomer negiah, kol isha, yichud, I could make a list that goes on forever of why.
"What’s your name?" I asked the little boy, attempting to make friendly conversation.
"He only speaks Yiddish," answered his father in a thick Yiddish accent. I nodded, understandingly. I was used to this, oddly enough. And the boy, he stared at me with eyes wide as a full moon, taking in the whole situation. He was not used to this, he had probably never seen anyone secular before.
"How many kids do you have?" I asked the man.
"Fifteen children, fifteen grandchildren, and four more on the way, baruch hashem," he answered. I was comforted by his use of Hebrew. It meant two things: 1) he was attempting to make friendly conversation with me; 2) he was not Satmar.
"My mother is from a family of nine," I told him.
"That’s what I like to hear," he said "I am too." I smiled politely. "How many cousins do you have?" he asked.
"Thirty or so, I lost count," I admited.
"I lost count too, I had nearly two hundred cousins growing up. It’s different with your own family though," he said, adjusting his hat as he watched his son squirm in his chair.
"What’s your son’s name?" I asked, pointing to the little squirmy black hat.
"Mendel-Meyer," answers his father, the big black hat.
"Mendy," I called to the boy. Recognition appeared in his shy eyes before he looked at his father for assurance.
"Do you know any Yiddish?" the man asked me.
"Not really," I confessed. On my mother’s side I’m Moroccan and Tunisian, aside from "schmuk," and "alte mobel" which means old furniture, I’ve got nothing.
"What language are you going to speak when the Massiah comes?" he asked me.
"Judeo-Arabic," I tell him.
"Okay," he says, watching his son squirm in his chair some more. I gave him an answer he didn’t want, and in response, he could do nothing but wait beside me.