Marty Pinkus was Phyllis's serious boyfriend before Papa Herbie. He was slick, a smooth talker, and had a name that evokes my suspicion of some degree of sadism running in his genes. But his name is besides the point. (But sidebar, let's take a moment to thank God that my name isn't Jenna Dorfman-Pinkus. That sounds like some horribly sunburnt midget.) Anyway, you shouldn't marry a Marty Pinkus (for reasons beyond his name). Why? Because he's pretty much the exact opposite of Papa.
The story of Grandma Phyllis and Papa Herbie is positively adorable in that "The Notebook"-y kind of way. The setting: The Bronx, somewhere off the Grand Concourse, circa 1945. Phyllis, a vibrant young college student, returns home one day after gallivanting in the city with friends. She sees a soldier, recently returned from war, standing outside of her building and instantly recognizes him by his big floppy ears. She remembers him. He had grown up on the other side of the building (on the same floor as her aunt Anna) and the only notable thing she remembered about him was that his pants were always falling down during stickball. She's less than attracted to him, but given the patriotic sentiments of the time, feels obligated to say hello and share her respect for his having served in the military.
They get to talking. She is again less than swept off of her feet, but because he is still wearing a uniform and so skinny from returning from war so recently, she politely engages. The conversation wraps up and he asks her, "Listen, my brother, Lenny, is pretty short and has a hard time finding girls shorter than him to date. Can I get your number to give to him?" Again, patriotic duty, maybe a dash of Jewish guilt, she gives her number. (Sidebar: Sweet move Papa!)
A few weeks later, she gets a call. It's not from Lenny, it's Herb. He asks her if she wants to go out for a drink and she is about to say no when he says "I know a great place to get an ice cream soda." To Phyl, this was the earliest sign that he was not a Marty Pinkus. He wasn't interested in the trendy bar scene like Marty; Papa wanted his calories sans hangover, just like Phyllis did. (Clearly, this is a trait I did not inherit.)
The story goes on and Papa becomes more and more adorable. They went to drive-ins, he kissed her in the backseat while going around "opportunity curves", and most importantly, her intrusive and large Jewish family approved of him.
The proposal story is also adorable. He of course asked her father, who approved because of Papa's non-Marty Pinkus-ness. Phyllis and Herb had talked about it, and Phyl insisted that she didn't want a large ring. This is where Herb first exhibited his ability to translate Phyllis's words to Phyllis's desires. Even that early on, he knew that insisting that she didn't want a big ring meant "I want the biggest rock you can get your hand on." He used $5000 that he had won playing poker in the service and bought a flawless pear-cut diamond from a jeweler for whom he had apprenticed (Papa was planning on becoming a jeweler at that point.).
One night, she came home from work and they had plans to go out. She neared the front of the building and he stuck his head out the window "Phyl, come up!" "No, I'm tired and it's a fifth story walk up," she responded. "Just come up!" he insisted. She walked up, and when she walked in, the whole apartment was dark. Suddenly, the lights came on, french doors opened, and there was Herbie, with his whole family and her whole family standing behind him. There was no getting down on one knee, but he did take out the little black box and ask her "Phyllis, will you marry me?" Marty Pinkus might have made a dramatic production. Papa Herbie didn't, but he did include both of their families. Score for Tandlich.
The wedding plans were immediately underway, but tension-filled with two strong-willed Jewish mothers arguing over synagogues, catering halls, and the over-salted matzoh ball soup (which Phyllis will be happy to tell you about). Phyllis and Herb actually eloped mid-wedding planning. They feared that their new extended families were already coming to hate one another before the wedding even happened. They returned from City Hall with their marriage license, told Phyllis's parents, and Phyllis "needed a shovel to lift Nana's jaw off of the floor after hearing the news." The formal wedding still happened (and I'm not sure that Sigfried and Celia Tandlich ever found out about the elopement). It was old Hollywood stunning; the pictures are all in 8L and you should definitely stop and see them next time you're in the 'Dale.
Phyllis and Herb had a wonderful marriage. The travel stories alone warrant many of their own blogs. But out of our entire five hour ride there is one line that sticks out to me: "Marry the guy who might pick his nose every now and then when he thinks you aren't looking. Sure, he might not be smooth talking or perfect or even sanitary, but you know what Bubbelah, he's the one who will love you unconditionally, with all your imperfections. He's the one you want to grow old with." And as we've seen, that wasn't Marty Pinkus. and I think things worked out quite nicely.