“wow” dad mutters to himself as we drive thru fog. the glitter on my nails is not yet dry and i’m making dents in my thumb by writing. i was last to drive this car and enya is still playing low. “this is definately not good,” dad ponders again. black snow lines route 9. the mists billow around us but i feel safe because i’m with my favorite 2 boys… my husband and my father.
my days are spent working at a chocolate factory as a receptionist. i sit in the front facing the traffic on new hampshire avenue surrounded by wood paneling and a constant draft on my feet. i bring packets of apple cinnamon oatmeal and fill my funky black mug up with cheap maxwell house filter coffee in the mornings. i unlock the door, press buttons to turn on lights, the security monitor, and the printer and monitor, then i make coffee and take the phone off of night mode where at any given moment all 5 incoming lines can light up. i fumble to juggle them, patching people thru to over 100 people that work there. most are either orthodox jewish or mexican. the mexicans are in the back, in the actual factory, assembling arrangements of chocolate. machines churn out millions of molded cocoa delights and the smell fills up the place. it used to be a clock factory. everyone in the back wears hairnets. i only wear one when i sneak back there to steal a handful of truffles. it’s a family business owned and operated by the Grunhuts.
mr. grunhut is an old man with child-like eyes always in a long navy scientist coat. he’s the jewish willy wonka, as far as i’m concerned. one time i followed him around the factory. i tapped him on the shoulder and asked him what his favorite chocolate is. “truffles” came the reply. “chocolate, you know…. is addicting” he candidly told me looking left and right suspiciously. he handed me a truffle and walked away.
i enjoy my days there, despite the low pay and the uncomfortableness of being one of the only jews there that is not orthodox. the girls all wear wigs if they’re married. they were skirts and thick tights. i wear glitter on my eyes and black pants. i’ve been there 3 weeks already now and have become friendly with some of the girls there. one of them, shaindy, iinvited us to her house for shabbat dinner this past friday. i explained to tsafi excitedly in the car why i just had to accept. i told him how during all my years of being driven to hebrew school 3 times a week in the center of orthodox lakewood, i would see them walking, 10 kids in tow. it was like a club where i just used their clubhouse. i wanted to see how they live. shaindy had been so funny and informative and open with me at work that i thought it was a very sweet gesture to have us over for shabbat.
once, at work, we somehow got to talking about sex. all the stereotypes i had were shattered… “i thought you’re only supposed to have sex to bring a child into the world?” shattered… “don’t you do it thru a sheet?” again shattered… she explained that you can have sex 40 times a day if you want. no sheet, nothing. “whoever made that up hates the orthodox” she said. there are 2 weeks every month when a woman is ‘unclean, impure’. a man and a woman cannot touch in those 2 weeks . y ou can’t even pass a spoon directly. you must first put it down on the table. the woman sleeps in another bed, changes clothes in a separate room, wears modest nightware. and after her period ends, she goes to a mikveh to purify and it’s a honeymoon all over again. such strict laws “it’s all i ever knew,” shaindy explained. “i left my father’s house at 21 and moved here.” she’s younger than me with 2 kids and a strict lifestyle but she’s happy and knows her place. she sews dresses for her kids but buys for herself. she obviously rules the house but says that her husband owns her. her husband chimed in that once a woman stops fighting it, she will be happy. “pass the gefilte fish…”