This is the Turn of the Tide

It is never clear-cut.

I posted a picture of grandpa and grandson reading together a book about Pearl Harbor.

 

Dad, at over 91.5 years old, was absolutely present and enthralled in the activity with his grandson.  Still, my dad forgot my birthday.  It is fine (I would like to forget them) except Dad has NEVER forgotten his kid’s birthday. It has never happened.  I joked with him on my 46th birthday that is was the 30th anniversary of the same present — $100.  Then, in 1980, $100 meant something.

Dad was at my office on Friday to talk finances and long-term planning.  I am still holding out for 120 years, like Moses.  Tonight, I floated 125.  I cannot lose my father even if he makes me crazy(ier).  On Friday, I mentioned that I told SOB not to come to Sunday night dinner because she needed to study for her medical re-certification boards.  But she was sending HOSOB with a birthday cake.  “Whose birthday?

“Mine, Dad, well sort of.  A few days early.”

I saw a crestfallen look.  He had not remembered to send a birthday card with the $100.  As gifts go, the $100 is, well, sand on a beach.  It is the card, on which every year he writes: “[Blogger] darling, happy birthday.  May all your wishes come true.  I love you.  Dad” that makes it special.  He says that every year, with some slight variation, so that it is not rote.  I know it is never rote.  Two things I know I can count on in this world are Dad’s love and that the power of Dad’s love can provide.  When I was in my 20s and in trouble, Dad was there.  Wherever “there” was, Dad would go there with me.  His steadfastness made me strong.  It made me know that I would go wherever “there” was with my children.  Because that is what you do.

Dad was sheepish tonight because he was unable to coordinate getting a card and mailing it on time, but he did produce the check, in an envelope that said, “My darling [Blogger],  Happy birthday.  I love you, Dad.” At dinner, I reminded everyone of his heroic rescue of me in the dark days of my 20s.  I wanted to say, “although this is a man who depends on me now, he was a giant and a protector of his children.  Mess with him at your peril.”

The tide has turned.  My siblings and I are in charge.  Dad may be fading but his lessons in parenting and courage live on.  And I am crying uncontrollably as I write this.

GDJOB

So GDJOB has converted to Judaism by osmosis.  In one set of email exchanges, she hit the all the major nerve centers and satisfied all of the prerequisites.

***************************************************************************************************

I get an email, which is an antiquated form of communication for the younger generation, but they humor us old folks.

Somewhat cheek-in-tongue respect for elders: Check minus 1/10th point for the smirk.

She mentions that she will have a sling at the wedding.  Surgery scheduled for Monday.

Worry now, I will tell you later.  Check plus bonus points for the nuance.

We had an opportunity to get all upset, letting emotions roll and imagining the parade of horribles . . . .

Recognition that Jews need these episodes for spiritual balance.  Check.

It’s her shoulder.  But, it won’t stop her from winning a Nobel.

She understands that this does not derail our expectations.  Check.

I ask if we know her doctor and is he/she the best?  “I like him.  And the surgery is happening in a specialty pavilion where the care is more individual and the place is cleaner than a hospital.”

Independence, with a nod to the important things: he’s a specialist and the place is clean.  Two checks minus 1/2 point for independence.

GDJOB did not give us enough information to take over, but just enough to wait on her every missive.

Controlling, yet using her powers for good.  Check minus 1/10th point for being a little TOO  precocious.

Welcome to the Tribe, dear GDJOB.  Just you wait for the hazing rituals.

I love you.

~ Blogger

Aggressive, the defensive way

On Wednesday nights, POB and I have dinner “just us”.

Sidebar:  I guess it would be better if we had Saturday night date night (for which presumably we wouldn’t be as tired as on a work day) but we have sitters for SOS whom we trust and they are often not available on Saturday nights.  Continuity and dependability totally trump date night convention.

We went to a local-ish place.  It was on the early side because I was too tired to go to the gym after work.  I asked for us to be seated in the empty part of the restaurant (away from bar area, service stations and kitchen).

POB and I were looking forward to a quiet evening since I was recovering from a really bad migraine and POB had endured an entire day of workmen hacking out part of our ceiling because our neighbors seem determined to flood our apartment room by room.

Sidebar: First, improperly installed pipes in our upstairs neighbors’ jacuzzi caused the ceiling of our maid’s room to come crashing down.  Then, as we were repairing that, water gushed down from the light fixture in the maid’s bathroom (can you say dangerous?).  The neighbors offered to have their contractor fix her “ooops” but I refused to allow that contractor to touch anything in our apartment. Now, the third time, on the other side of the apartment, there is water damage in the ceiling of SOS’s bathroom and the hallway. What are they doing upstairs?  Building a water park?????

Shortly after we were seated, the hostess brought over three people from the bar — tasty, cosmo-like, drinks in hand — to the table right next to us.  I looked around this massive (for New York City), empty, dining room.  Of all the tables in that whole room, they had to sit down next to ours.

One of the women had a whisper as loud as someone else’s scream.  She, of course, was the one talking the most.

I know all about her son the swimmer at Harvard who breaks all these intercollegiate records.  She also passed around her iPhone to show her friends all of her son’s “hot” teammates. Ok, stop gawking at your CHILD’S friends. That is just gross. EWWWWWWWW.

I know her politics:  “I cared that he was pro-choice but I was not happy that he killed that young girl”.  I bet Mary Jo Kopechne’s mother and father were not so psyched either.

I know she likes to gossip.  A teacher at a well-known prep school is suspected of having an affair with a student.  According to the maven next to us, the student was entrapped the teacher because she was bad news from the start — “over-sexualized” and thrown out of another tony prep school.   Really, you are talking about this young girl like a man-eater, yet you are gawking at your son’s friends in their Speedos and ok with Chappaquiddick?

I know she likes alpha males.  She went on a date with a nerdy, slight guy and she was dubious but he was “very MALE” when it came to “making out”.  (Who talks like this?)

And she was

LOUD,

LOUDER,

LOUDEST.

Despite it all, POB and I tried to have a low-key conversation, focused on the wedding.  It wasn’t working.  POB was horrified at this woman’s bad manners and grotesque discussion topics and I was losing any salubrious effects of migraine medication.

Then POB got an idea.  “Let’s aggressively chat!!”

“Aggressively chat? over thaaat?” I croaked, motioning to the table next to us.

“Yesssssss!”

“Ok, YOU start….”  Frankly, I didn’t know what it meant.  POB started:

“I like your lipstick.  Did I buy that lipstick?  It is a lovely spring shade.  Are you getting your hair colored before the wedding?  oh, do.  It will look good in the pictures.  Speaking of pictures, I spoke to the photographer and asked him whether the heavier make-up style of the lady at Saks would look good in the photos or creepy.  Ok, now your turn.”

“Wait? What?  I was reveling in the sound of your voice.  Was I supposed to match that?  You’re kidding?”  The way she looked at me, she was NOT kidding.  I did the only thing I could do.  I caught the eye of our server and mouthed, “check, please.”

And a new defensive mechanism for leaving cheek by jowl with strangers was born….

The Old Neighborhood

I grew up in the East 50s near Sutton Place.  DOB still lives there.  Most times, he likes to come see us on the Upper West Side — “The travel gives me a way to pass a few extra hours,” DOB says.

Nevertheless, every now and again we take out our passports and travel to the East Side for lunch.  DOB has started to favor a coffee shop closer to the house.  I think because the old coffee shop is three blocks away and down a hill.

When we were seated, an old man next to us asked if we were new to the neighborhood.  “Our family has lived here for over 50 years!” I replied jovially (at least I thought so).  The old man said, “I was just going to tell you what’s good,” and then he sighed in that loud annoying way to show he was exasperated and feeling under-appreciated even though his help was unsolicited.  Or, maybe I yelled at him, “What’s it to you, bud?”  Of course, I didn’t but you would think so based on the tone of his response.

Wow, I thought, the old neighborhood has gotten cranky with age.  Maybe because all of my parents’ contemporaries (who are still alive) have grown old and cranky in the old neighborhood.

Shortly after we shut down that random act of neighborliness gone horribly wrong, I saw an old (old) friend of my parents walk in the door.  He was with his female companion of 30 years or so.  Our families had gone to the same synagogue and we kids went to Hebrew School with his daughter.

I immediately got up and went over to greet them. They thought I was SOB because they said that they see her on the street when she visits Dad, implying that I am never around.  I paused, counted backwards from 10 and determined that they didn’t mean it the way it sounded.  Except, they certainly did mean it the way it sounded.

Sidebar:  As nice as this man is — he really is — he took me aside at a gathering shortly before my mother died and after having met POB, “make your father happy; find a man.”  But back to the situation at hand.

There were so many ways to handle this affront to my being a good and attentive daughter:

  • I could dredge up ancient gossip and unpleasant truths about his long ago divorce.  Nah, that is too aggressive.
  • I could just smile.  Nah, too passive.
  • I could be could let slip that Dad usually comes over on Sunday nights for a home-cooked dinner.  Ahhhh, passive yet aggressive.  Perfect.

Sidebar:  Don’t you love when being passive-aggressive is the reflection of your best impulses?  So, so, rewarding.

I did let that fact slip using a tone that suggested that his daughter never cooked for him.

“You must be a good cook!”

Really, that’s your response?  That’s all you got for me after my exhaustive mental gymnastics to figure out how to preserve my dignity and protect my mother’s pride in her children?  Really?

There were two other people whom Mom knew who walked in during the course of our lunch.  But I was too exhausted to go over and say hi.

 

Confluence of events and blogs

Last night I was at the gym, in my usual (and clean), well-worn yet dorky gym attire, when I came upon the Sniffer at the water fountain.

As you may recall, the Sniffer (http://40andoverblog.com/?p=3247) feigned an allergy to perfumes so that he could come over to where SOB and I were companionably and half-heartedly “working out” (read, “chatting”) on side-by-side elliptical machines.  He sniffed and sniffed around us and then said, “I knew by looking at you that you weren’t the type to wear perfume. . . . ” And then he took the elliptical machine next to mine.  I think that line would turn off straight girls much less an almost-married lesbian.

The Sniffer has since tried to make conversation with me about various, incredibly odd, things.  I now think that he is socially inept and just wants to chat the way others do at the gym.  I started to feel bad for him, until . . . .

Back to the water fountain.  Sniffer half-turns to me and says in that loud voice that suggests he doesn’t know how to modulate volume:

“I almost didn’t recognize you without your “Friendships are Recession-Proof” t-shirt.  Do you have just one or is the recession over?”

This is what the shirt looks like.

For the story behind the t-shirt, click http://40andoverblog.com/?p=127

Really, sniffer?

Of course, I have to tell him in an equally loud voice that I had them made for my friends and they were popular enough that I had to do a second “printing” and ended up with six or so EXTRA of them.

“And they are always clean!” I bellow in a last exhausted gasp.

“So the recession isn’t over in your eyes?  Technically, it ended in . . . .”

Ok, I had to walk away.  His disquisition on economic markers (which I had overheard before) is mundane yet pedantic, jargon-y yet shallow, almost exquisitely so.

I met POB for dinner after the gym.  “How was your day?” she asked.  “I need new gym clothes,” was my response.

 

SNOBFOB

On Monday, I was checking my personal email, which I do every other day or so.  SNOBFOB sent an email blast late Sunday night that her father had died and the funeral was Tuesday 10 am.

SNOBFOB has lost both parents in a two-year span.  Her mother had cancer and her father was in a long decline.  She was the child in charge.  Painful and stressful on a daily basis.  It makes my heart break.  I quickly rescheduled things to make the funeral.

This time, the trip to New Jersey was not schlepic; the Never-Lost Lady came through, although when the Never-Lost Lady announces the route or street in New Jersey, there is a pause after which she switches to this crazy-sounding phone-sex voice.  No, really, I am not making this up, well, because I am not that creepy.

I walked into the room reserved for family members of the deceased and saw SNOBFOB.  We hugged and then she said, “Oh [Blogger], my life has been soooo bloggable these last few days.  I will have to tell you.”

Sidebar:  Ok, I did NOT see that comment coming.  But I do hope that SNOBFOB’s thinking about how her life would appear in print on my blog somehow offered a few moments’ comic relief from the sad realities of life and loss.  (And, stay tuned for those bloggable moments in future posts.)

I sat in the chapel, and an elderly — no ancient — woman stopped by my seat and said, more as a statement than a question, “we know each other, don’t we?” 

Sidebar:  Ok, I did NOT see that comment coming, either.  0 for 2.

After an uncomfortable pause during which I was trying to stand (out of respect), make room for her AND come up with a polite way of saying, “well, no, we have never met,” she continued, “we saw each other at [SNOBFOB’s mother’s] house and, of course, the funeral.  So, we shared good times and bad together.  And now here we are, sad again.  I am glad we know each other.”

All I could do was take her hand and say as meaningfully as I could, “I am, too.”  Because by that point, I really wished I knew her.  She did not sit with me but preceded toward the front, just behind the family.   I was more than a little relieved that I didn’t have to keep up a charade.

SNOBFOB gave a wonderful eulogy of a man who loved his family, did what he thought was right and stood by the people he loved.   I thought of the prophet Micah’s imperative, “Do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with thy G-d”.   I see where SNOBFOB’s gets her sense of fundamental fairness and parameters of acceptable behavior.  Strong genes.

Sidebar:  But it wouldn’t be my life without a Seinfeld moment.  All I can say is that since I am glad I had a rental car, so those people who followed me back to New York, erroneously thinking I was part of the processional to the graveside, can’t identify me.  (And I am REALLY sorry.)  OOOoops, I guess they can now.

I wish I could ease my friend’s pain.  May her father, Benyomin ben Mordechai, rest in peace and his memory be a blessing.

 

I really don’t know life at all. . . .

When I was 10 years-old, I thought my parents knew everything.  And, in point of fact, they were very smart.  And I felt very, very safe.

SOS is approaching that same tender age.  And I am not so smart and, as each day passes, I understand less and less about the world and its workings.  And I am not someone who can watch events unfold with quiet conviction that all will be okay in the end.

Maybe my parents saw their own version of a scary, out of control world and worked hard to shield us from it.  After all, the 1950s and 1960s were all about communist infiltration, threat of nuclear war with the Soviets and the reality of wars in far-off places.

Maybe my parents looked smart to me but were just as concerned about their future as I am now about ours.

Maybe I don’t have to have the answers; maybe it is enough that I can kiss away some of SOS’s problems with absolute promises that it — whatever “it” is — will turn out fine. Because the wonderful thing about having little kids is that sometimes they have little problems.

Maybe all that matters is that he feels very, very safe.  And so far he does.  And, protecting him makes me strong because I have to be.

So, LIFE, bring it on . . . .

 

 

 

A Sunday

FOPOB called in the morning to say that he is coming for dinner.  He was wavering through the weekend.  I guess he didn’t get a better offer than his daughter and grandson.  Pause.  Laugh or be sad if you want.  We negotiated that he would come at 5pm for dinner, even though people come at 6pm.  Recall what I have written about whether the early bird special was just a name for a phenomenon or a proactive marketing technique.

That afternoon, after obligatory cartoons and some wrestling with SOS, POB, SOS and I took a long walk on a wonderful day.  SOS even deigned to throw a football with me.  He throws a good spiral but he needs some attention to his stance and footwork.  He isnot interested.  “Emom, I don’t like competitive sports!!”  “Dude, good form is not competitive.  It is just good form!!”  This went on for a while, as his stance and his consistency got better.  There was one catch that made me so proud that I hugged and lifted him up.  We high-fived rather than a chest-but, since that is both ooky for a boy and his mom as well as painful to the mom.

Back story:  I throw a really good spiral, thanks to BOB.  BOB, needing someone to play with him at our country house and finding no others (we were pioneers in this part of the Berkshires in the early 1970s), determined that if I were his designated play mate, I couldn’t throw any type of ball like a “girl”.

After lunch, SOS and POB went home and I went to the gym to make sure that my arms look ok in my wedding dress.

Sidebar:  I used to believe that only crazy 20-something brides bought ridiculous gowns.  But now I realize that there is a second group — the peri-menopausal bride who buys an unforgiving wedding dress to prove a point about beauty and aging.  But the point gets really obscured when the bride is faced with Super, Double Fudge Chunk Chocolate Ice Cream on a warm day.

When I got home, SOS was having his Hebrew lesson.  It was 3pm and I tried to rest a little but as it was getting close to 4pm, when DOB usually arrives, I couldn’t nap because I am listening for the door bell.  Frustrated, I got up.  I logged on to do some work all the while worrying why DOB was late.  I got an email from SOB, with the subject line, “Don’t Worry” and a message “Dad got to the Upper West Side early, so he is here talking to HOSOB.  Just didn’t want you to start calling the area hospitals.  Love, [SOB].”

Sidebar:  The blessing of SOB is that she knows what I am thinking and when.  She knows that at 4:15pm I would sound the Emergency [Blogger] Family Protocol, because DOB was 15 minutes late for his (too) early arrival.

As soon as I emailed back thanking SOB for the warning, the door bell rang and it was FOPOB.

FOPOB is not what one would call a conversationalist.  It was 5pm.  I thought, “where is DOB?? Where is SOB and HOSOB?”  Not one to hold back, I called SOB.  No introductions, no niceties, just down to the nitty-gritty.

“Hello.”

“When are you coming?”

“We wanted to give you time to relax.  We are ok here.  [DOB] is talking to [HOSOB] and I am safe in another room.”

“FOSOB is over,  so, really, when are you coming?”

“We have to get ready and we have to pick up dessert.”

“We’ll unfreeze something.  So, five minutes?”

“We have to shut things off . . . [SOB is torturing me with her new-found power] . . . ”

“So, you’ll take a cab?”

Pause.

“Look, it’s been 5 minutes and we have run out of things that interest him.  He asked when you all were coming over.   I need you to contribute to global warming and get into a cab!

Now, you may think me selfish about the global warming thing; but, shalom bait [peace in the house] is held even higher than emet [truth].  And we needed a little more of . . .  take a guess.

SOB, HOSOB and DOB arrive within 20 minutes of my distress signal.

I hug and kiss each and then say to SOB:

“what took you so long?”

Aaahh, the quintessential Jewish greeting that conveys happiness, reproach and aspirations belatedly fulfilled, all at once.

Ok, so the difference between Yiddish and English is that, in Yiddish, words alone convey these sentiments; in English, you have to see the body language and hear the inflections.  The traditions abide, albeit in a less succinct form.

Memory

My great aunt Fanny has been dead for almost 40 years but sometimes a minor thing, like the posture of a stranger telling a story on a street corner this morning, can trigger a flood of memories. 

When we were young, Aunt Fanny would often accompany her sister, my grandmother, on visits to our house.  (I think she desperately wanted grandchildren.)  They would eat cottage cheese with cling peaches in heavy syrup in glass bowls for lunch, because that was the only possible kosher meal my mother could muster.  They would sit at the kitchen table, talking and eating (simultaneously) so I could see the cottage cheese move around in their mouths and creep into the corners of their mouths and invade the lipstick on their lips.  They wore stockings knotted below the knees, because who needed to do the whole garter thing if it was just family. 

Aunt Fanny used to buy SOS and me matching little girls’ polyester underwear on sale at some discount place somewhere in the bowels of Brooklyn.  She referred to them as panties (eeewww) and danced them around to show everyone.  I felt soooo violated.  I longed for cotton even before I knew what that was.  She would also play a game of smelling our feet and shrieking, “Pewwwww!!” It wasn’t that much fun.  Kinda gross. 

Still, Aunt Fanny would play checkers with us, dance with us and always make Grandma laugh.  And Grandma wasn’t a very happy person, so that was a real, as we say, mitzvah. 

Sometimes Uncle Lou came along.  He blew up balloons (in the days when it wasn’t scary for little babies to play with them) and taught us the finer points of poker (in addition to some card tricks).  

Not long after Uncle Lou died, Aunt Fanny remarried.  We all visited her new apartment with the twin beds in the bedroom.  Someone must have asked, “why twin beds?” because I saw her roll her eyes and heard her respond something like, “he needs the exercise”.   I had no idea what the adults were talking about.  Only now, in this flood of memories, do I think that she was saying, “my new husband is a good companion but he is not much to look at.”

Aunt Fanny was Grandma’s much younger sister and she died young-ish for those days (in her 60s).  I think it might have been the first time I went to a funeral home.  I remember Grandma’s uncontrollable sobbing.  She had lost her sister and her best friend.

Memories of Aunt Fanny come in snippets unbidden, in no apparent order, without story to tell or even a point to prove.

Seder — a chance to mourn, a chance to laugh, and yes, a chance to sleep, perhaps to dream . . . .

Passover looms large in POB’s and my life.

For Jewish women, Passover is very complicated.  And writing about it is complicated, so this blog is complicated.   So sit back and pretend it is a Fellini script.

In our house, Passover is all about MOPOB.  Why?

Passover was MOPOB’s self-designated proving ground as a Jew by choice.  I remember the Seder I attended at MOPOB’s house.  MOPOB was stressed, as if the bubbes (grandmothers) of 100 generations of Jews were looking down at her wondering if she was using the right amount of chicken fat in the matzo balls.  That kitchen was way too crowded with all those mavens; a lesser person than MOPOB would have made a run for it.

In 2006, POB and I started having Seder for both of our families.  POB was desperate to have those matzo balls float (MOPOB’s receipe; and they did).  We had a rigorous discussion (MOPOB’s form of exercise) about an aspect of the Exodus story.  Then we all ate POB’s delicious meal together with family and friends.  MOPOB pronounced herself satisfied with POB’s and my hard work and how we melded two families’ traditions.  And shortly thereafter, she died.

Sidebar:  So, really, really, MOPOB, with that as a backdrop, how could Seder NOT be about you?

MOB didn’t really like all the prayers and stuff, but she loved having people around her table eating and talking and eating and having meaningful interaction (no idle chit chat at the Seder table).  And anything that tripped off MOB’s children’s tongues were quite possibly the most brilliant ideas theretofore uttered in the history of humanity.  So, it was all good.  For MOB, the most important thing was that, regardless of how everyone came to the table, everyone left that table as family, hugging and kissing (and there were no outrageous failures of tradition that would be shondahs for (i.e., embarrass us in front of) the neighbors).

Over the years, POB and I have gotten comfortable with our mothers’ looming large on this holiday.  The kitchen, though, gets crowded, especially when POB is making the traditional foods.  Her mother’s spirit hovers and my mother’s takes a magazine and sits at the counter and reads, ready to pitch in, but not really ever knowing her way around even her own kitchen (this for another blog).

And, as the years spin by, the elders have gotten, well, even older and a little more forgetful and a little more eccentric in their actions.

Sidebar:  If truth be told, age earns our quirkiness or idiosyncrazies (no misspelling here) the more refined term, “eccentric”.

I had arranged to pick up an extra table from DOB’s house. on Friday  He also bought some wine for us.

Sidebar:  Dad buys wine that is, well, barely usable for cooking.  But it was such a good price that he couldn’t resist.  “And who can tell the difference?” he asks rhetorically.  Dad, I am no connoisseur(se), but you buy rot gut wine.

Sidebar on sidebar:  FOPOB is no better.  He goes for the cheapest Kosher wine he can find.  One year, he told us not to buy wine because he was bringing wine.  He brought ONE bottle and he knew we were having nearly 20 people.  Are you kidding me?  Good thing I always buy non-kosher GOOD wine.  Clearly, we only serve DOB’s and FOPOB’s wine to someone on his or her fourth glass, because that person is too shiker (Yiddish, meaning drunk) to know the difference.

I arrived at DOB’s house around 1pm.  He decided that he will just come over early and hang out with us, while we are trying to put together a sit down dinner for 16.  Oh, goody.  But DOB is such a lovely guy and very lonely, so how could I not bring him along?  I called POB, who primed SOS to read books with Grandpa DOB.  Ok, they went through a survey of American history, and the origins of the Silk Road and it was only 2:30pm.  Time for reinforcements.  I called HOSOB, who is busy working on commissioned pieces of art.  But I know SOB was working hard at the hospital, so she couldn’t stop my asking HOSOB to drop the paint brush, shower and run over to our house to entertain the “boys.”  SOB might have stern words for me later for my having taken HOSOB away from his work, but that day it was better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

HOSOB, a fabulous member of the clan, came over and took over, leaving POB and me to our preparations.  At one point, DOB was tired and SOS needed a little more exercise so HOSOB took SOS for a walk.  (Some days, I think we really should have a treadmill . . . .)

Meanwhile GDJOB arrived with Kosher for Passover cakes (which were indeed FABULOUS).  As she walked in, she said, “I know you thought I was probably [DOB] . . . Ummmm [as she saw DOB seated]  Oh, hi, [DOB]!!”  Ah, yes, GDJOB, careful when you walk into our house, because as DOB gets older, his sense of appropriate arrival time can make you wonder whether he thought Passover was a lunch or dinner affair.  OOOOOOOOhhhh.  The first of many, many, uncomfortable moments chez nous.  Luckily, GDJOB had to park the car and run some errands.  She exited stage left, post-haste.  And we have a memory for the ages.

Fast forward . . . .   Seder time.

Sidebar:  Elders, children and the sandwich generation. Believers in one thing or another, non-believers and people just having a power nap before dinner.  There was one moment when I looked at my assembled family and remembered when they were the giants of my youth, when they were young and strong and idolized by my sister, my brother and me.  Wasn’t that yesterday?

We all sat to fulfill a commandment that binds the past with the present and the present with the future:

We will go, young and old; we will go, bored and snoozing; we will go, Jew, non-Jew and Atheists; we will go all together to observe the Passover ritual for we shall tell our children, on that day, G-d freed us from slavery, from the house of bondage.” 

Pretty profound stuff.  That is until I noticed my 80+ year-old uncle was already napping and drooling, and FOPOB had taken the whole bowl of haroset and started eating out of it with his spoon. . . .

Also, there is a personal corollary theme: 

We were not delivered from slavery to eat turkey and drink gross kosher wine.  We were liberated to eat a lovely marbled brisket cooked to perfection and delicious Cabernet that can stand up to a Yiddisha brisket.

We don’t follow the Haggadah religiously (as it were).  I like to make the Exodus story relevant to the modern day.  I pick the passages and copy the relevant pages so we can all read together and discuss.  I find portions of the story disturbing and don’t shy away from that.  There is a reason why Jews “tremble” before G-d.  The G-d of the Hebrew Bible is pretty violent and mercurial.  But we must observe the traditions, from generation to generation, even if one year, my theme was:  Saddam Hussein and G-d, compare and contrast.”  Yep, step away from the computer, lest a lightening bolt destroy you and your family.

Because of Arab Spring, SOS has become very interested in revolution and civil wars that inevitably follow.  So, in my preparation for the Seder, I read the Exodus story to find elements that spoke to heady days of freedom and the subsequent factionalism once the common enemy is vanquished.  There is a lot of turmoil following the Red Sea crossing.  The fluidity of the story is both a strength and a weakness — anyone can find something to support his or her thesis, whether for good or malevolence.

And of course, in addition to the usual “emblems of festive rejoicing,” we have our own:  (i) the Moses action figure (with detachable commandments for easy throwing); (ii) a watch symbolizing that we only have one hour before my sister takes the Haggadahs away and declares the ceremony at an end, and (iii) a bottle of the two-buck chuck my Dad will always bring and we will never, ever, drink.

We will fill in this second Seder plate as our tradition continues….

But for now, the matzo balls floated and that is indeed a blessing.

 

A zissin Pesach to all.