Bucks County Writers Workshop
Muffie in May By Al Honig
ondoliza Medford was born twenty-six yeas ago in the merry month of May with a silver spoon in her mouth. All of the Medford women for three generations were born in May. Pauline C (for Condoliza II), Condoliza's mother, May twenty first, and Grandma Condoliza, May fourteenth. When Condoliza III assumed her privileged place on this earth, May fifteenth 1928, stock sales had the largest trading volume ever, totaling 4,820,840 shares, more than half changing hands in the final two hours.
Panic selling continued all day. Wall Street analysts were at a loss to explain why the market crashed since nothing had taken place to undermine confidence.
The Medfords didn't worry because they weren't affected. One week before, Condoliza's father, Preston Medford, had spent an entire day withdrawing his money from all the banks. He converted one half into old uncirculated silver coins, packed cash and coins in a suitcase and hastened to the family summer home.
Grandma Condoliza had gone to Tiffany's the morning of the fifteenth, and had a silver spoon engraved For my Sweet Sweet Baby, I love you forever, Grandma C.
Soon after birth, Condoliza was enrolled in Chapin school where father, mother and grandmother had gone.
Where or when the name Muffie came from, nobody could remember. But it stuck like Elmer's Glue.
Condoliza was not very popular at Chapin or at French lessons or ballet. People resented the virtual silver spoon that seemed plastered in her mouth.
At sixteen, and a debutante, Muffie, like all the other girls of the upper class, had her coming out at the Gotham Ball. The economic depression was over, and the country was at war. Muffie's escort was a family friend in a newly pressed dress Marine uniform.
After graduation from Chapin, Muffie matriculated at Barnard, as had her grandmother, mother, and father (Columbia). Ostensibly seeking an education, she secretly was more interested in meeting a guy and getting married.
It was 1947, the war was over and the world was changing. The colleges were bursting with veterans seeking higher education through the GI Bill. In May 1947, India and Pakistan won independence from Great Britain. President Truman forecasted a huge budget surplus, the Marshall Plan was rebuilding Europe, and Manny Mandelbaum took his US Air force fighter pilot uniform out of mothballs, and went to Palestine to fly bombers for the fledging state of Israel in a war provoked by the Arabs. Wounded in battle, he returned home to attend Columbia University.
One day Manny went to the student Union to listen to classical music. A young female moved to a lounge chair near him. The scent of Patchouli so engulfed him, that he suddenly and unexpectedly responded with, "Hello, I'm Manny Mandelbaum." The dark haired, blue bearded, swarthy skinned young man flashed a mouth full of ivory that demanded an immediate response.
Manny Mendelbaum, obviously a Jewish name. That's one-half my quest. This must be taken further, thought Muffie.
"When's your birthday?" she asked.
"That's an odd way of saying hello. You haven't even told me your name."
"I asked you a question ... I don't even want to know you if you don't answer me. Again -- when is your birthday?"
"I'll give you a hint. I was born in the spring. In the month presided over by the spirits of mischief and madness." He glanced away before continuing. "It was the month when nature reminds us we are not gods ... but brothers to clam and donkey...cousins germane to the cooing dove. As you can tell, I was born in May...May twenty-ninth in the marry month of May."
"I love O. Henry. I love Jewish men who are born in May."
He looked at her face, her body, her legs, trying to understand why he was so drawn to her.
Her skin was reddish pink, adorned by dark, small, beauty marks. Her lips were full, her mouth tilted slightly to the left and down. He wasn't sure if it was a smirk of arrogance or a mark of breeding. She obviously oozed confidence, reminding him of many girls he met in the Israeli army. Unafraid and great in bed.
"Where you from?" she asked.
"I can tell you are from New York City, same as me. Streets so close but really worlds apart."
"Maybe we have more in common than you realize. Wasn't that you with some other guys at the anti-McCarthy rally last night?"
"I can't stand that man. He's a fascist-- another Hitler. I was in the Veterans for Democratic Action after the war. Most of my friends were radical. Yeah, there were a few Communists. So what, the Russians were our friends and allies in those days."
"I don't believe my parents would like you."
"That's what I mean. You come from privilege. Upper East Side apartment, fancy clothes, the Colony Club. No Jews or dogs allowed."
"You make it sound awful narrow, and I'm beginning to see it was. I was raised like a horse with blinders. I never knew there was a whole other world out there."
"In some way I'm a little envious," Manny said."By the way, I'm Condoliza Medford. My friends call me Muffie...and who are you?"
"I'm Jewish and from the Bronx. I was a fighter pilot-- P-38s, those weird planes that looked like catamarans. I shot down a few Germans ... went back to help Israel. Bombers this time. All junkers pasted together. I was wounded, shot down. Lucky. Those poor people deserve a homeland. Most of them are mental and physical wrecks after Hitler's death camps."
"You are quite a sensitive man."
Manny stared at her like she was some kind of bug. "I don't think my parents will accept you. They are very religious. To them, there are only two kinds: Jews and non Jews."
Hopelessly in love, and trying to do the right thing, Manny and Muffie went to their parents searching approval for the marriage.
Muffie's mother and grandmother had always planned for Muffie to have her wedding at the Hotel Pierre, where they were married, and where they always staged their most lavish affairs.
"What, he's a Jew ... you sure?" asked Preston. "Over my dead body will you get my permission."
Muffie's mother shook with apprehension when her husband spoke.
Manny's parents had a somewhat different response. "What, a schiksa?" They huddled as if they'd been told they had to leave on the next boxcar transport. "You marry her and you are forever dead in our eyes."
"It's no use ... Forget it. Let's elope." Manny was looking for a solution.
"Elkton's the place," said Muffie. "All runaways go there."
They were wed in a simple civil ceremony by the mayor of Elkton, Maryland.
Manny continued flying for Pan Am. From two engine domestic carriers he elevated to four engine Boeings flying to Frankfort and Paris. Muffie started a one person personnel agency.
Muffie's personnel agency thrived. The economy was good and soon she was importing maids from Central and South America for all of the upper East Side social crowd. Now there was money in the bank.
It is time to get pregnant, she thought. And it was the month of August.
"What do you want from me? First you tell me to take a month off, and I do just that. Hell, you are wearing me out. We've been fucking day and night. I barely get out of bed to eat."
"Honey, our baby has to be born in May," she said. "We can slow down now. I've already missed two periods, my breasts are swelling, and I love you." She bent over, felt his erect penis, and kissed it tenderly. "You are going to make a wonderful father."
Manny had been away for a week flying to Istanbul and beyond. When he returned, Muffie greeted him, saying I've decided on an obstetrician. His name is Lester Isenblatt. He is willing to do natural childbirth with me. I went out and bought the book." She handed him Grantly Dick Read's Childbirth Without Fear.
Every morning before going to her office, and every evening on her return, Manny would find Muffie with legs lifted high over her head, or in scissors position pushing her pelvis out in front.
"My oh my, you look like Gypsy Rose Lee. How sexy!"
"Dr. Isenblatt has confidence I can do it. He coaches me when I go to his office. He says we'll do it together."
It was eleven in the evening of April thirtieth, when Manny helped Muffie on to a gurney and wheeled her into the labor room.
They entered into a scene of unconventional imagery unseen in everyday life. Twenty or thirty women had their abdomens covered by white sheets that rose and receded in irregular rhythms. Screeching,, pushing,, and heavy breathing alternated with cries, "Nurse, I think I'm ready." whereupon a nurse in light blue scrubs placed a gloved finger into a rectum and said, "Keep it up dearie, you're getting there."
Muffie lay in a dark corner dutifully performing her exercises, husband sat in a chair besides her.
Manny rose and shouted, "Nurse, any nurse, find Dr. Isenblatt, he wants to go through labor with my wife."
"Okay, I'll page him," a female voice responded.
It wasn't ten minutes before another nurse appeared sans Dr. Isenblatt.
"Where the hell is he?" Manny was getting inpatient.
"He's in bed on the surgical floor. He had an emergency hemmoroidectomy last night."
"I'm hungry," interrupted Muffie. "Honey, go over to the deli across the street and bring back a Reuben on rye. If nothing else, these contortions are working me up a good appetite."
As the baby's head began stretching the vaginal wall, Muffie frantically went through the natural childbirth routine. Pushing, leg raising, knee chest, pelvis out, pelvis in, pelvis out. And the pain became worse.
"It's no use, I quit," a sweating Muffie told the OB resident who was there to deliver her baby. "Numb me up good."
Anesthetized by the caudal block, Muffie relaxed.
When the clock reached four forty five, and the birds announced the first day of May, out came nine and one half pounds of Ari Medford Mandelbaum. The nurse placed him directly on Muffie's milk engorged breasts. The baby sucked like a derelict lost in the desert, flattening the engorgement into two limp pancakes.
Both sets of grandparents were at the circumcision fighting to hold the newborn.
Ari Medford never stopped eating.
As Jupiter on Juno smiles, when he impregns the clouds that shed May flowers. Milton, Paradise Lost.