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The Uninvited Bar Mitzvah Guest photo

Stanley K owns a small radio shop on Forest Avenue in Lakewood. 

I walk in, having not seen him in 30 years. 

“Stanley!” I exclaim, “how are you?!” 

“For virtue of your smile, here!” he replies and hands me a CB radio because “you are the most jovial customer to enter in two decades.”

Stanley didn’t always like me. In Hebrew school, I invited him to my bat mitzvah and put beautiful stamps on his onionskin paper invitation.

Stanley didn’t come or ask me to his. 

In the kosher section of Shop Rite, I see Stanley’s mother pushing her cart. 

“Hi!” I wave. 

Mrs. K, who is balding, thrusts her hand in my direction.

A year earlier Mrs. K introduces a distant cousin of hers, Dr. Harold K, Sr., who gives an anti-immigrant speech at our public library. 

After the lecture, I ask Dr. K why his isolationist views are reminiscent of members of Congress in 1942.  

Stanley’s mother grins insipiently in my direction.

Stanley’s friend, Herbie G, purses his lips like he’s drinking lemon juice. He is Stanley K’s shadow before, during and after our discussion on the ten plagues.

Herbie laughs when I recite the Hebrew alphabet. He also calls me “Salami,” though my Hebrew name is “Shlomit.”

Herbie commutes on a bus from Manhattan to Lakewood and cold-shoulders me, like we are still in Hebrew school.

Herbie suspects I have a crush on Stanley, or perhaps I’m climbing the social ladder, as Stanley’s father owns a chocolate factory.

The class is astounded when Amy Q (whom everyone, including me, has a crush on) brings a gold necklace gift to my bat mitzvah.

“Why didn’t you invite me?” she asks.

“I didn’t think you’d come.”

“Didn’t you?”

“I don’t know.”

I give Amy a mezuza for her bat mitzvah but don’t stay for the reception.

image: Andromeda Veach