Sometimes when I go to the movies and love scenes heat up the screen I think of my grandmother or Bobbe, as we called her in Yiddish. I hear her, complaining, “Mine gelt (money) is in hell, American gonifs (thieves, crooks).” In other words the moviemakers were stealing her purse.
In my grandmother’s philosophy romantic love was hokum, devised to rob a simple-minded public of its hard-earned money.
She’d had a hard life, raised eight children in a household where money was scarce, and everyone worked. My grandfather eked out a living as a mohel, the man who circumcises the male baby in a religious ritual eight days after birth.
When Bobbe went to the movies she wanted excitement, action, above all a good story. The love scenes were cheats, giving audiences nonsense while the movemakers made off with your wallet.
She taught me lessons of life: memorably question what you see. It’s almost never the whole story.
One day when we were in the park she pointed out a couple in passing. They walked far apart. After they went on, she said, “They’re married.”
“How do you know?” I asked
“I know,” she said.
A short while later we passed an adoring couple clinging like ivy.
“Now those people, they’re not married,” she said.
To this day when I pass couples distant or intimate I’m likely to venture a status to the Lady Friend.
“But how do you know?” she challenges.
“I know,” I say. “My grandmother told me.”
When I recently saw the movie, “Amelia,” with Hilary Swank and Richard Gere, I caught myself hearing my grandmother. Although Swank does a great job portraying Amelia Earhart, the moviemakers made away with my money. Too much time was spent on sex and not enough on the story. Earhart, a pioneewring aviator, was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1928, a time, as the Washington Post noted, “when a lot of women didn’t drive.”
A friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, Earhart inspired Mrs. Roosevelt to travel by air. In 1933, early in FDR’s presidency, a party including Eleanor flew over Washington with Amelia. It caused the New York Times to report, “The First Lady of the Land and the first woman to fly the (Atlantic Ocean) went skylarking together tonight in a big Condor plane.”
It’s in the history books, but you won’t find it and a good deal more in “Amelia,” the movie.
As my Bobbe would have said, “Mine gelt is in hell. American gonifs.”
This article originally appeared in the San Leandro Times.