Mindy Greenstein | Longreads | March 2019 | 17 minutes (4,228 words)
Poker Night was sacred in my family, even though the game couldn’t start until Motzei Shabbos — the departing of the sacred Sabbath. Arguments were as likely to break out in Yiddish — my first language — as English. Most players were Holocaust refugees residing in Brooklyn like my parents. The rest were American-born Jews, that is, the ones who “didn’t know from true suffering.” A group to which I belonged, as Ma often reminded me during my surly adolescent years. Most of the refugees were observant Orthodox Jews, like Dad. The rest were more likely to be irreligious, like Ma.
I was 6 years old in 1969, the year of my earliest poker memory. Shabbos had just ended and I had a plan. Ma had recently bought me a quilted light pink robe dotted with small dark pink and fuchsia flowers that I loved more than anything in the world. She’d taught me to loop the dark pink quilted belt asymmetrically on the left side of my waist, like the movie stars did, she said. I felt like Cinderella in that robe, or, more specifically, Leslie Anne Warren’s Cinderella from the movie. Maybe prettier, even. So entrancing that my parents and their poker buddies would forget to deal the first card.