The Bronx

Whenever I slept at my Grandmother Nellie’s on Friday nights, Saturday mornings meant an elaborate ablution ceremony to make me presentable to her friends, who were poor Turkish immigrants like my grandmother. The husbands of Perla, Fortuna, Sultana, and Rita were early risers who went first to synagogue, then to their drinking clubs and left the women to their own devices. My grandmother was the star of the group because she knew how to read fortunes in the coffee grounds that clung to their miniscule cups. As long as I was well-groomed, I was my grandmother’s proof of a happy future. After a serious scrubbing, Grandma, who had not left a comfortable home in Turkey just so I could go around in rags, dressed me in fancier clothes than the ones I wore to school. And, of course, something had to be done about my hair.

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