By Hannah Berman


This is Week Five of staying alone in my house. Actually, it might be week six. Or perhaps it’s only week four. To put it bluntly, I am confused about the length of my current incarceration.

Most of us have seen the many amusing messages via texts, social media, or emails sent from friends. They provide much-needed comic relief, but for me the quip that rings most true is the following: There are only two days in the week — Shabbos and every other day!

I mentioned the following in a previous article, but it’s worth repeating. Each morning when I wake up, the first thing I do is peek into my kitchen; if I don’t see my candlesticks on the table I know it isn’t Shabbos.

Because of my age and the fact that I have some underlying health issues, I was warned to stay in the house. This is no picnic, but I have no right to complain since I have been inundated with visitors. Three of my children and several grandchildren visit regularly. Sometime they visit one at a time and on other occasions they arrive in groups. My preference is for single visits because when the children of one family happen to visit at the same time that their cousins from another family are visiting, they’re so happy to see one another that they occasionally forget about talking to me. Far from being unhappy about that, however, I take pleasure in seeing them enjoy themselves with one another.

And who can blame them? Everyone is starved for companionship. Sisters and brothers tire of spending time only with one another, so seeing their cousins is a major treat. Each of them sits on a chair on my front lawn and I sit by my front door. Unfortunately, the weather has been anything but cooperative. We’ve had so much rain recently that I have begun to suspect there is a monsoon season in Long Island. Any day now I expect to see Noah’s ark make its way down the street. And even when we get an occasional day without rain, it is usually too cold for me to sit outside. On those days I am forced to remain indoors and sit by the open window to enjoy those family visits.

I have recently learned that I am a picky individual. While I am appreciative that my family members are willing and able to do my shopping, I am not entirely thrilled about it. It never occurred to me that I was lucky to be able to go into a store under my own steam, and select exactly what I want. But, thanks to the communist government of China, that is no longer the case. Like so many others, I am forced to remain in my home, and “picky old me” is forced to accept whatever is bought for me. If what I get is too small, too large, or not the brand I want, there is no choice but to graciously accept it. Accepting something I don’t want is hard, but being gracious about it is harder.

Initially, the supermarket was taking orders by email. I was OK with that. But now orders are taken only if consumers place them through the store’s website. Unfortunately, I don’t do well with websites. As soon as I see the word website, I freeze. I’m okay with emails but not with much else. After struggling to place my first order, I called one of my daughters and asked for help. Realizing that it would be much easier and quicker if she placed the order for me, she offered to do just that. To say that I was elated might just be the understatement of all time. I will be indebted to her forever. Actually, I am indebted to all my daughters. They did all of my Pesach shopping for me and, along with my loving granddaughter, the wife of my grandson, they provided me with meals for the entire eight-day holiday. It doesn’t get any better than that.

However, despite being blessed with such a loving and devoted family, I am unhappy about other things. I no longer watch the news because it is repetitive, altogether confusing, and leads me to conclude that there is much the doctors still don’t know.

Several restaurants advertise that they will deliver meals. They offer large packages that will feed three to four people, and smaller, less expensive packages that will feed two people. As I am here alone, I was about to delete those offers when reality kicked in and caused me to rethink my situation. So I stepped on my bathroom scale, saw the number that appeared, and figured that I’ve likely been eating for two so maybe I would order that smaller package after all.

Via the wonders of FaceTime, my son, who lives in Israel, has been giving me the same set of instructions every day. He is like a long-distance dictator. “Mom, do not let anyone into the house. Do not go out. Keep the front door locked.” Thus far I’ve followed his line of reasoning but I’m not sure how long I can keep it up.

There is another option, though. He insists that I do not go out the door. He never said anything about the window!

Most of my disappointments are personal ones. Gone is my lovely powder gel manicure. As I see it, my nails and my hair are in competition to see which looks worse. It is a close race. My hair is a mess and is growing in several directions at once, similar to the hair of Boris Johnson, prime minister of Great Britain. Gone is my longtime signature hairdo of straight-up spikes. If it gets much longer it might resemble Rapunzel’s hair. That might not be a bad thing, though. In the story of Rapunzel, people climbed up to her tower by using her hair. But it could be a two-way street. Possibly I could toss my tresses out the window and use it to climb down, thereby freeing myself.

My current appearance can only be described as bad news. But where there is bad news, there is also usually some good news. So while my hair and nails look awful, nobody aside from my loving family sees me. That’s just the way it is.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at or 516-295-4435.


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