Growing up, Mom and Dad made sure every visitor felt welcome in our home with a (proverbial or actual) warm and welcoming embrace.
And our cultural, religious and family traditions had to follow suit. My parents never cared much for tradition that didn’t honor everyone, engender both joy and remembrance and welcome the stranger.
I remember, at one Passover years and years ago, a relatively new friend of Mom (she made friends every day, even in the elevator or on a City bus) came over for her first Passover seder and brought something that she had made and . . .
WAIT FOR IT, WAIT . . .
there were noodles in it. [NOT kosher for Passover.]
It was a shock to all of us that someone would make something homemade (especially to my mother) because, after all, we lived in New York City.
SIDEBAR: No one “cooked” except for Mrs. Travers (of blessed memory) who made the same cherry Jello mold with fruit since the early 1960s. Don’t laugh because it became so “groovy retro” in the 1990s.
So my mother was charmed and mortified all at once. Still, what to do about the noodles?
Without missing a beat, my mother put the noodle dish on the Passover table. As everyone sat down, she thanked her friend for bringing it and advised those observing the Passover dietary restrictions that this was not a dish for them.
Just as it is written that, each of us was liberated from the land of Egypt and we eat the Hillel sandwich of the matzah and maror signifying the bitterness of slavery and other symbolic foods, the Blogger family ate the matzah, maror and some pasta and veggies, in observance of our tradition and our parents’ rules about joy and welcoming the stranger in our house.
Fast forward twenty or more years to Dad’s Shiva.
Ok, “Shiva” was only one night, so it doesn’t even meet the requirements of the name, Shiva. And, a female rabbi who looked about 11 years old led the service.
And THEN . . . .
My brother beckons me to the kitchen.
SIDEBAR: It has taken many years but I think that my brother and I are in a good place. I know we love each other. And, I have a deep admiration and respect for him. And, he is just so adorable and handsome and funny.
“Hey, E . . . . ” he says with his Texas drawl. “SOB’s [Sister of blogger’s] birthday is in two days and we are going back to Dallas. We brought this birthday cake with these crazy striped pastries on top. Like the ones Grandma and Grandpa used to bring from the bakery in Brooklyn.”
The following things ran through my head:
A HOUSE PARTIALLY FILLED WITH MEN WEARING KIPAS,
A 12-YEAR OLD FEMALE RABBI LEADING MINYAN.
TRUMP THANKING MY FATHER FOR HIS SERVICE TO OUR COUNTRY [see earlier post].
MOM. DAD. PASSOVER SO MANY YEARS AGO.
THE LOVE OF A BROTHER WHO DIDN’T WANT HIS SISTER’S BIRTHDAY TO GET LOST IN REMEMBRANCE OF DAD’S LIFE WELL-LIVED.
“BOB [Brother of blogger], great idea!! Let’s wait until the Shiva minyan is over and those who would be totally offended have left, OK?”
So, when we thought “the coast was clear” and some of SOB’s friends were still around, out came the birthday cake, with candles and everything.
Also? It was GREAT cake. (Just sayin’.)
And, courtesy of BOB and his family, there was joy for us three kids amid the sadness. And we bent the traditions so far back that they almost broke in two — but not quite.
And Mom and Dad smiled down. They were proud.
And the three of us? We would not have done a thing differently.