Say yes (please?) to the dress
OpinionGuest columnist

Say yes (please?) to the dress

As I quietly cursed bar mitzvah boys everywhere, the woman from the shop came in looking for me.

Illustrative. 'Mazal tov' balloons. (public domain)
Illustrative. 'Mazal tov' balloons. (public domain)

My daughter needed a dress for a special occasion. After extensive market research, we settled on a dress we had seen in a small shop on a nearby kibbutz. The shop was stocked with funky clothes, shoes, and pottery, but unlike the surrounding stores, it had no sign. The shop had no name and no listed hours.

When we arrived at the store at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, a slip of paper saying Open was taped to the front door which was firmly bolted shut. A mannequin wearing the exact dress we had come for taunted us from behind the glass. We headed home in defeat.

Two days later we returned. The store was open, and the mannequin was looking super fine in the dress. We asked the saleswoman if she had an identical dress, but she told us to take the one in the window. After a few sweaty and complicated minutes of disrobing the dummy, the dress was in our hands.

A beautiful yet impractical pair of flowery yellow sandals caught my eye.

“How much are these?” I asked.

“219 shekels,” the woman answered.

That felt like too much for an impulse buy, so I handed her the dress and my credit card.

That’s when she told me that the credit card machine was broken — it was cash only that day at No Name, and I had no cash.

“No problem,” I said, “I’ll come back tomorrow.” But she shook her head, the shop with random hours was not open on Fridays.

“OK, hold it for us, we’ll run home and come back.” I pointed at the mannequin. “Do not give her back that dress!”

We made the 15-minute drive home, grabbed some cash, and returned to the store.

I triumphantly handed the bills to the woman, but she shook her head, “These are big bills. I don’t have any change.”

I was done. But my daughter was staring at the dress with the longing look I reserve for the couch every evening starting at 9 p.m. So she ran next door to get change. We bought the dress and left, with only a short backwards glance at the yellow sandals.

I found myself back in the area the following day. I paused in front of the unnamed store to take a picture of the mannequin, with whom I now felt an odd kinship. She was wearing a new dress and looked even more fabulous than the day before. Surprisingly, the shop was open. I went in to spend a meaningful moment with the impractical sandals, only to find a different woman bustling around inside.

She introduced herself as the owner.

“I didn’t think you’d be open!” I gushed.

“I was here yesterday with my daughter — we love everything you have!”

At this point, my Hebrew could not keep up with my brain, and my last sentences were something like, “I steal dress from window person! Why store no name? Shabbat Shalom.”

I eagerly await the day when science will explain why I can’t speak Hebrew and feel an emotion at the same time. Also why I can’t speak Hebrew while driving. Or while having eyes.

The owner politely ignored the fact that I had ceased to be coherent, and she asked, “You were here yesterday? Do you remember if the credit card machine was working?”

I told her I remembered definitively that it was not working. And I shared with her the remarkable coming-of-age tale of our tenacity and perseverance. She sympathized, and we said our goodbyes.

I proceeded to the paper goods/party supplies/toys/kitchenware/linen store that is ubiquitous to every town in this country. My friend’s son was getting married, and I had the honor of helping to decorate their home for Shabbat.

Once inside, I rifled through the racks of helium balloons looking for ones that said “Mazal Tov.” I found many “Happy Birthday,” “Yay for your Bar Mitzvah,” and “A Princess is Born” balloons, but the “Mazal Tovs” were few and far between. I finally found five, and handed them to the young woman at the helium tank.

Unfortunately, she seemed to be rather inexperienced in the art of balloon inflation, for she accidentally overfilled the first balloon, and it popped dramatically. Everyone in the store stopped. Mothers reached for their children and soldiers reached for their weapons, only to realize that there was no immediate danger. They let out a collective breath, shook their heads in my direction, and muttered, “Hashem Yishmor” — God Help Us, as they placed their hands over their racing hearts. Israel during war is not the best time to pop balloons without warning.

I turned back to the rack to find a replacement “Mazal Tov.” As I quietly cursed bar mitzvah boys everywhere, the woman from the shop came in looking for me.

“Do you live nearby?” she asked. I told her that I did, and she asked if I would be willing to help her advertise her store in local WhatsApp groups. You know, help drum up business for the store with no name and no set hours. The one that doesn’t take credit cards or make change.
“Of course I’ll help you!” I said excitedly.

She asked for my phone number, and the next five minutes transpired like this:

Me: 0-5-8,

Helium balloon: POP!

Patrons: Gasp! Glare! Hashem Yishmor!

Me: 6-9-1, – Hey, do you mind looking through this stack for more “Mazal Tovs”?

Store owner: Do you think your friends will come to my store?

Balloon: POP!!

Patrons: Glare! Hashem Yishmor!
Me: Wait, that was a 9, not a 5, and then another 9… Well, you have great stuff, but maybe it would help if you had regular hours…

Balloon: POP!!!

Patrons: Are you freaking kidding me??

Me: Is it weird to bring a princess balloon to a groom?

Store Owner: I sell clothes for princesses!

Tell your friends!

Balloon: POP!!!!

Miraculously, the “Mazal Tov” balloons got found and inflated, the store owner wrote down some version of my phone number, and I made it safely outside without inciting the jumpy patrons to violence. As I said goodbye to the shop owner, I decided to try my luck one more time — now that we had bonded, perhaps she would understand the urgency of my need for impractical yellow sandals.

“How much are those sandals?”

“219 shekels”.

“Are you sure?” I asked wistfully.

She was quite sure.

“Maybe me come back soon shoes different day please yellow,” I said, wishing I could speak Hebrew while simultaneously feeling wistful.

Luckily, it’s hard to feel anything but joy with a bundle of hard won balloons floating above your head. I may have had practical shoes on my feet, but I already knew I’d be back — to check on the owner, gaze mournfully at the sandals, and get fashion cues from the trendy window person. I am thrilled to be part of this unfolding Israeli story where we hustle to get by, manage our fears, and remain steadfastly determined to buy pretty things. Where we are hopeful and helpful as we navigate locked doors, and where we overcome imperfection to achieve connection and celebrate life.

If you’re in my area, stop by the store that’s just down from the paper goods/party supplies/toys/kitchenware/linen store. Don’t be fooled by the open sign, it’s likely closed. Tell the owner that the incoherent balloon lady sent you — the one with eyes. But don’t expect a discount. PJC

Kally Rubin Kislowicz grew up in Pittsburgh, and made aliyah from Cleveland to Efrat in 2016. This article first appeared on The Times of Israel.

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