A Plausible Excuse

While Papa was always definite in his replies Mama hedged hers in terms that permitted changing without us boys being able to say, ”You changed your mind,” or rudely “You speak out of both sides of your mouth.”

Papa’s favorite saying was, “I may be wrong, but I’m never in doubt.” This created many problems that made him eat a treyfe (not kosher) bird—crow!

Mama believed the adage that there is an exception to every rule.  There was only one exception.  For us boys it dealt with dating shikses (Gentile girls).  Papa said, “shikses may be sweet, but they ain’t kosher meat.”

Living on the farm eight miles from Flemington, New Jersey meant that there were very few Jewish families and thus very few Jewish girls our age.  Our argument was that we were just going out on a hayride, there just happened to be a full moon and that’s all there was to it.

Even today, the entire population of Hunterdon County is only 120,000 and Flemington (county seat) has only 4,000, but there is now a Reform temple and of course the ubiquitous Chabad.

Mama was very forgiving when one of her sons did something wrong.  While she never used the saying, “Boys will be boys,” the excuses she made for us meant the same.  No, she did not say we were right, but she let us get away with the transgression with an excuse far better than any we could conjure up.

I remember being caught cheating on an exam.  I looked over at the test paper of a girl in the next seat.  When the teacher sent a note home, there was a request for Mama to come to school for a conference. 
After Mr. L. had gone through a lengthy discourse on how important honesty was1 and that it was just as essential as teaching the subject matter, Mama came up with a better excuse than any I had ever heard in my 30 years of teaching.

Mama said, “Mr. L., you are absolutely right.  What would America be like if we could not trust President Roosevelt to be honest? I know my son.  If he did something wrong, he must have had a good reason.”

Mr. L. said, “What reason could he have to cheat on a major test.”

Mama looked at me and before I could say a word she blurted out, “Maybe he wanted to see if she had the right answer.”

When she got home, Papa asked her what she told Mr.  L.  Her answer was, “Fundestvegn efsher Fishl hot gevolt visn oyb di meydl hot geshribn dem rikhtn entfer” (However, maybe Fishl wanted to know if the girl wrote the right answer.)