A Day of Rememberance

April 8th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

People who know me outside of this blog know that I’m obsessed–and obsessed is an understatement here–with genealogy. I’ve let it take over a huge portion of my life, as I’m able to chalk it up to “research.” As someone who is interested in writing about different periods of time, I’m using what I find as the basis for writing. All it takes is one small detail, one tidbit and my mind is reeling and I wonder, “What’s the story behind that?” Since I’ll never know the real stories, I simply make up my own. Or, even if I do know the story, I’ll make up what I think is a better story.

When I began this endeavor, all I had was a general outline of a family tree my grandfather had started many years ago, in the days before the Internet and Skype and digital photography. Now, I use Ancestry.com to make my tree and I’m able to share it with family members who add information or as a way to connect with relatives I didn’t even know I had. Thanks to technology, I’ve been able to fill in many gaps, find pictures, gravestones, records, people.

One of the things that always disturbed me, on that original family tree, were all the places where the line ended abruptly. A single name, nothing more, and the notation, “D 1941.”

My great-grandfather and my great-grandmother–on the sheet they are the ones who made it out, Abe and Yetta–were from the same town in Latvia, Varaklani (spelled oh-so-many ways, but that is the current spelling). In 1897, Jews made up 75% of the population in the town. Today, as I understand it, there is a single Jewish family still living there. On my great-grandmother’s side, there were as many “dead ends” on the family tree. Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Israel, keeps a record of all who have perished. Survivors post Pages of Testimony of those who were killed. Page after page of my Varaklani relatives reads a variation of the same: “1941 Shot by Germans.”

David Daragoi

Today is Yom HaShoah–Holocaust Remembrance Day. The day that Jewish people recall the lives of those who were lost. Now that I know so many of the names, now that I see how much of my family died, I feel a need to speak their names, to let the world know that they are remembered. My family, at least the ones I know about:

Killed in Varaklani:
My great-great grandfather, Youssel Tania Kapelovich, 1848-1941
My great-great grandmother, Tania Raiza Kapelovich, ?-1941
Lazer Kapelovich, 1889-1941
Lea-Mara Kapelovich, 1882-1941
Mana Kapelovich, 1920-1942 (in Leningrad)
Peretz Kapelovich 1922-1941
Rachel Kapelovich, 1924-1941
Moshe Kapelovich, 1926-1941
Lea Racha Kapelovich, 1930-1941
Riva Kapelovich, 1886-1941
Pesse Kapelovich Gudman, 1881-1941
Micha Shana Kapelovich Dimant, ?-1941
David Dimant, ?-1941
Itzick Dimant, ?-1941
Peretz Dimant, ?-1941
Tirza Dimant, ?-1941
Sara Dimant, 1877-1941
Reuven Kapelovich, 1896-1941
Riva Kapelovich, ?-1941
Labe Kopelovitz, ?-1941
Mufsha Kopelovitz, ?-1941
Yankel Kopelovitz, ?-1941
Benzion Dorogoi, 1857-1941
Enta Vainer Dorogoi, 1864-1941
Chaya Leah Dorogoi Jucha, 1891-1941
Mordechai Leib Jucha, 1886-1941
Symcha David Jucha, 1924-1941
David Dorogoi, 1901-1941
Rajzia Dorogoi, 1905-1941
Baruch Dorogoi, 1907-1941
Yentke Dorogoi, 1935-1941
Mikhail Dorogoi, 1936-1941

Killed in Kobryn, Belarus (read “From an Eyewitness”):
my great-great grandfather, Yitzak Leder 1862-1941
his second wife, Sarah Feignbaum Leder
his children (from both his marriages):
Velvel Leder
Chaya Leder
Leah Leder
Miriam Leder
Pinchas Leader

Killed in a camp after being sent from Suwalki to Biala Podlaska
My great-great grandfather, Chaim Brennholz, 1864-194?
Yaacob Brenholc, who was the coach of the Maccabee’s soccer team in Suwalki, Poland, perished in the Holocaust, but we don’t know where or when.

I know I will uncover more names on my family tree, more dead ends. I worry about the day that no one remembers those who were killed, when the survivors are all gone, and the Holocaust is merely an entry in a history book. We need to remember them all–those who were strong and fought (these photos are particularly moving) and those who were strong and lost. My family.

We must remember. Never again.

The Plagues

March 24th, 2013 § Comments Off on The Plagues § permalink

Twas the night before Pesah, when all through the house
the mother was stirring, with gefilte fish on her blouse.
The haggadot, homemade, were printed with care,
In hopes that Elijah soon would be there.

The hamtez was gone, not a crumb of bread,
While visions of haroset danced in her head.
And boychick in his yarmulke, and matzah in wrap,
The table all set, at which no one better nap.

On Friday after school, the girl was playing with a friend after school at the playground. They bent their heads together to tell secrets, as second grade girls are wont to do, but all I could see were images of the letter sent home a couple of days earlier: “second grade… lice… nits… check your child…”

“Pie, watch your hair!” I yelled across the climbing structures.

On the way home, I reminded her, “You have to be careful! You don’t want to get lice!”

She thought for a moment and then said, “But wouldn’t it be appropriate? After all Passover is Monday night and lice was one of the plagues! We’d just be re-creating one of the plagues! That would be okay!”

I looked at her and couldn’t tell if she was serious or not. So I said, “Listen, you really want a plague? I’ll cut myself when I chop the apples. Blood was a plague. And I’d much rather have my blood than any lice in the house.”

That seemed to appease her. Now I just hope she doesn’t hold me to it!

(For the Duchess and my other goyim friends:
note: the underline h is a guttural sound, the ch
Pesah=the Hebrew word for Passover
haggadot=the plural of haggadah, the book we read at our Passover meal, which is called the seder
hametz=the leavened foods that are forbidden during Passover
haroset=a yummy mixture usually of apples, nuts, cinnamon, honey, and sweet wine, which symbolizes the mortar used by the Hebrew slaves when making bricks
yarmulke=the head-covering men and some women wear)


March 18th, 2013 § Comments Off on Breather § permalink

Shall we start by saying that Punxsutawney Phil is a big fat liar? The groundhog promised us an early spring. Guess who’s serving up groundhog for dinner tonight? Stupid Phil.

This morning I ran in as many layers as I did in January. Whenever I run in the brutal cold, I come home with huge swathes of red on my body, and it itches like all heck. I have to wait as long as I can to shower as when I do, the cold patches start to burn like pins pricking all over my body. I thought that this happened to everyone, but according to my friend (and running partner) the Duchess*, I have an actual honest-to-goodness known “thing” (albeit to a minor degree): It’s called Cold urticaria. I feel so special now!

At this one moment in time, I have that feeling of utter freedom as I’m between things. Last week I sent both my revised novel and marketing plan to my agent. Yesterday was the Women’s Seder at my synagogue, of which I am co-chair. It’s a big event, where we spend a year writing a new haggadah and then we have the actual planning/doing of the seder itself, which was no small feat. I was excited that we had 68 women come, and it seemed to be a rousing event.

(Of course, as I was leaving–wearing an actual skirt, jewelry, and a shirt with no rips [well, I thought there were no rips; one was discovered later, but the intention was there], I asked the boy, “How do I look?” He, never taking his eyes off the computer, answered, “Fine.” That boy is his father’s child through and through.)

So at this moment, I have no deadlines more pressing than next Monday’s Passover seder. There will be 20 of us, but others folks are helping with the cooking and I’ve got an entire week to prep, which is more than I’ve ever had, I think.

Time to tackle the more mundane to-do list and sneak in a movie or two off Netflix! Yea!

*By the way, I acknowledge that it’s odd that I haven’t mentioned this friend before, as she’s been my most faithful running partner for about two years now; however, running takes place in a “vault.” Everything said on a run is absolutely secret, as they’re basically 6-mile therapy sessions, so most of what I would say about her, I can’t, because it’s been vaulted. Hence, she is a mystery woman to you all.

Hello, Muddah. Hello, Faddah. Here I Am at Camp Granada.*

July 26th, 2012 § Comments Off on Hello, Muddah. Hello, Faddah. Here I Am at Camp Granada.* § permalink

It started last fall. It was the boy. “I want to go to sleep-away camp.”

To which I gave the only logical response: “No f**king way.”

But the boy was determined. “I want to go to sleep-away camp!”

“You’re too young!” I protested. “You can go… someday.”

Meanwhile, I had the girl reassuring me, “I will NEVER go to sleep-away camp! Don’t even think about it for me. Never ever!”

We debated through the fall. It was too late to visit camps, so it was a moot point anyway. I wasn’t going to send him to a camp I hadn’t seen.

“Sleep-away camp, Mom,” he’d say. Then he’d become specific. “Cub Scout sleep-away camp.”

“That one is never going to happen. No Cub Scouts. Cub Scouts are too evil to do sleep-away camp. If you do go to sleep-away camp, it’ll be Jewish sleep-away camp.”

“No way,” he said.

Well, that’s that. I walked away feeling smug and secure as we ended the conversation. Except… he thought for a few weeks and then came back to me. “Okay, Jewish sleep-away camp.”


“Mom,” the girl reminded me, “don’t forget, I am not going to sleep-away camp! Never!”

I attended the camp fair at our synagogue and was fairly impressed by one of the camps. It also happened to be the camp our rabbi had sent his daughter, so I felt in some ways it had been vetted. But the thing that sold me on sleep-away camp for sooner rather than later was this: This summer was the last summer the boy could go for a two-week mini-session. Next year, when he hit fifth grade (did I just say that? fifth grade is just a year away? Ahhhhhggggggg!), the shortest he could do is a four-week session. Plus, one of his buddies from Hebrew school (whose mom not only attended the camp, but worked there for a number of years as a counselor) would be in the mini-session this year.

Relunctantly, I relented: “Okay. You can go.”

A zillion dollars later and the boy is signed up to go to a camp that we’ve actually never seen. About two weeks ago, they had a day for prospective campers and we decided to go. I was worried about going, as the boy had been to a sleepover at a minor league baseball team the night before, and I knew he would be tired and cranky. My fear was that he would see the camp and declare–after the zillion dollars was paid in full–that he hated it. When the boy is tired, he can be a beast. I was setting us all up for failure. I was afraid. Very afraid. I thought about saying we couldn’t go, but I was dying to see what the place looked like.

So we went. And I was right. The day completely backfired on me. I. Am. Screwed.

Oh, the boy was no problem. He liked the camp. It was the girl.

“I WANT TO COME HERE!” she yelled as soon as the adult tour rejoined the kid tour of the camp. “I CAN GO NEXT YEAR TO A MINI-SESSION WHEN I START THIRD GRADE AND I AM GOING TO COME HERE!”


“When I go,” the girl continued, “I’m going to take for my electives the dance, tennis, and art. Or maybe boating? No, tennis! But outdoor cooking sounds cool! Maybe I should do drama? When I get to come for eight weeks, I can do all the electives I want!”

“My love,” I told her, “you will never go for eight weeks. Four weeks is max. I want time with my children.”

“But, Mommy,” she whined, “I want to come for eight weeks! Can you sign me up now for next summer?”

Did I mention how screwed I am? I. Am. So. Screwed.

On Tuesday, I took my boy to camp. He could not get out of the house early enough. “Can’t we drive to drop the girl at her camp and then leave straight from there?”

I told him, “Drop off doesn’t start till 10. We can’t get there early.” The camp is just 75 miles away.

I heard every five minutes, starting at 7:30 a.m., “Can we go now? Is it time to go?”

In the car, he was a little quiet. He admitted to being momentarily nervous, but it disappeared the second we arrived.

He hopped out of the car and ran into his bunk. He so kindly allowed me to unpack him and make his bed (what joy!), and he was thrilled that his Hebrew school friend was not just in the same bunk as him, but the same bunk bed.

I took note of the daily schedule. Which I absolutely couldn’t read. Because–you know–it was in Hebrew. Huh? Oh wait, a Jewish camp. Yeah, that was my idea.

The boy was hopping all over the place and soon ran outside to play Frisbee with one of his counselors (there are three counselors for his bunk of ten boys; all ten boys are there for the mini-session and all ten are going into fourth grade). After that, he headed down to the main area where there was a camp fire and they were getting ready to bake pita bread on it, and he rolled candy sushi (fruit leather as seaweed, and Rollos, Fluff, jelly beans, and other candy as the innards).

After a few minutes, I said, “Okay, I guess I’ll get going.”

He barely looked up as he said, “‘Kay, Mom. Bye!”

And I left.


That night I spent hours hitting “refresh” on the camp website waiting for a picture of my child. I told him I’d pay him 50 cents for every photo I saw him in, to give him incentive to dive for the camera. There were none, although by morning I saw a few.

When I mentioned this to an acquaintance, she laughed and sent me this video. When I sent the video to Adam, he accused me of making it myself:

(Note, the following video drops a few F-bombs, so proceed with caution when watching around others.)

It’s just two weeks. Waaaaaaa! Refresh, refresh, refresh!

*Don’t get the title reference? It refers to a novelty song from the 1960s by Alan Sherman.

Why Is This Child Asking So Many Questions?

April 9th, 2012 § Comments Off on Why Is This Child Asking So Many Questions? § permalink

The good news is Pie is still alive. The bad news is I may still kill her. I love her. I love her little brain. But we seem to have re-entered the question phase. It’s nonstop. Last Friday I was in the midst of Passover prep. We were hosting a seder for 17 of us. And the girl would not stop talking. “How much longer till people come over? Are we having bisket for dinner? I mean brisket? Where is it? What are you making? Can I eat chips over Passover? Why potato chip and not corn chips? Can I have pasta? Can I have cream cheese and jelly on matzah? Will you spread the jelly thin? Daddy spreads it clumpy. How much longer till the seder? Can I sit next to Jasmine and Cee? I’m bored. What can I do? But I don’t want to set the table. I wish I had school today. How much longer till the seder?”

Finally I screamed, “The youngest is only supposed to ask four questions! Four! You’re over your limit by about 137!”

To which she said, “Why are there just four questions?”

Seders are over. The first night we hosted, the second night we went to a friend’s house. Ours was a loose affair–it started early (before sundown) so we wrapped by 9:30. The second night was at the rabbi’s house, so it was more traditional, but extremely lively. We had to do “homework,” research a rabbi, and luckily Doodles is old enough that I was able to pawn the job off onto him. He did amazingly well–when we all went around the table reading from the haggadah, we had the choice of reading in English or Hebrew. About 80 percent of us chose English. Doodles chose to do the Hebrew and he did beautifully. Pie napped, so she was able to make it till the bitter end (which was shortly after midnight), but Doodles fell asleep after dinner on my lap. Of course, I made the mistake of telling Pie we’d be there till at least midnight, so starting at 8 p.m., she began asking, “Is it midnight yet? How about now? Now? Is it midnight now?”

I haven’t posted much about my Martha tendencies, but Passover brings them all out. Each year I make a new haggadah.

A year or two ago I made a Passover bingo that keeps the kids busy during the meal (bingo gets you a piece of chocolate).

And last year I embroidered and sewed my own matzah cover because I couldn’t find any I liked.

Next year, I’ll make a matching afikoman cover as well.

In the meantime, Passover lasts until Saturday at sundown. Which means I have to figure out what to feed a boy whose entire diet consists of chicken taquitos and pasta and bread and brie (verboten, verboten, and verboten! Unless he’s willing to eat the brie on matzah, which I doubt). As long as he doesn’t ask me any questions about it, we’ll do just fine.

The Book of Life

October 9th, 2011 § Comments Off on The Book of Life § permalink

I don’t talk much about religion here, because my feelings are so ambivalent. But while I’m not sure where I stand in terms of my beliefs in a higher power, I have strong attachments to tradition. I love knowing that what I’m doing has been done countless times before me by my ancestors. My father rejected religion, yet as a child he was bar mitzvahed, and I know he attended Yom Kippur services. My grandparents before him did, as did those on my mother’s side. And I know their parents did as well. We could keep going back, but what’s the point?

The closest I come, though, to a spiritual connection is on Yom Kippur, one of the high holidays. I’ve been fasting on Yom Kippur for about the past 17 years. I started in grad school. I’m not strict—I allow myself to drink—but I don’t eat, watch TV, get on my computer, and the like. And we go to synagogue. All of us.

Kol Nidre is my second favorite service of the year. My synagogue has begun a tradition of, just before sunset, before the start of Yom Kippur, of having Kol Nidre played on a viola (once sunset starts, playing an instrument is not permitted). The melody is so hauntingly beautiful. (This is the most famous version, Neil Diamond’s version in The Jazz Singer)

Kol Nidre is the beginning of Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. Kol Nidre means “all vows” and it’s a dissolution of all vows made between man and God. It begins the 25-hour fast of Yom Kippur.

But my favorite service is Ne’ilah, which is the closing of Yom Kippur. It is said that on Rosh Hashanah, God writes the names in the Book of Life and on Yom Kippur, God seals the book. Ne’ilah is the closing of the gates on the Days of Awe, the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when we’re supposed to make amends to the people we’ve done wrong. Ne’ilah is when we make our final confessions, when we’re invited, individually, to approach the ark (the place where the Torah is kept) to make a personal prayer, when we sing Avinu Malkenu, a song that sends chills up my spine, when we make Havdalah (the separation of the holiday/Shabbat and the next day). For our Havdalah, the kids, who had been listening to stories in another room, are given glow sticks and the lights in the sanctuary are dimmed as the kids walk through up to the front. And when Havdalah is complete, a final shofar blast is sounded, one long blast, done by everyone with a shofar in the room, signaling, “This is it. The book is sealed. The gates to heaven are closed.” I leave Yom Kippur feeling revived, rather than hungry.

Our synagogue has a tradition, every Shabbat, which Yom Kippur fell on this year, of reciting the names of all those Americans who died that week in Afghanistan and Iran. The list always seems too long, although of course, one name would be too long, and I’m in shock every time I hear it how many men and women are still dying overseas.

I’m not one to make note of anniversaries. Not sure why, but I tend to let them slide. But I feel compelled to mention that the 10-year anniversary of this blog just passed. I had actually forgotten about it, until I was listening to the names, ages, and hometowns of the soldiers killed, and it reminded me that when I first started this blog, the cloud of 9/11 hovered over it, and I was concerned with my friend who had Anthrax released in his office, consumed by the NY Times reports of the people who died in the bombings, all while trying to plan my own wedding and start the next segment of my own life.

This blog has seen me through a lot. Our wedding. Our move from Seattle to the Boston area and the purchase of our house. HBS. More HBS. And yet more HBS.

This blog has seen me through a child. Another child. And all the other writing, vacation, family, crises, life events that have occurred in the past decade.

Ten years ago, Adam and I attended Yom Kippur services at the Hillel at the University of Washington. We spent the day attending services, fasting, reading, and generally feeling introspective. Just the two of us.

Yesterday, Adam, Doodles, Pie, and I attended Yom Kippur services at our synagogue. We attended services, the grown-ups fasted, and for the first time, all of us read (Pie can really read now!) and some of us felt, occasionally introspective.

If there was poetic justice in the world, this would be a good time to ends this blog. It’s been a decade. Everything has changed. Yet nothing has changed. The gates are closed. The book is sealed.

But poetic justice was never my style. So I’ll stick around. For ten more years? Who knows. But at least for the foreseeable future.

G’mar chatima tova. May you be sealed for a good life.

We Interrupt This Blog…

May 2nd, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Every Passover, we celebrate the freedom of the Jews, that Moses led us out of slavery. We remember that we will never be slaves again. It’s a joyous holiday, with storytelling and singing and wonderful food.

Yet, in the midst of this celebration, we recite the plagues that were sent down to Egypt and, for each plague, we dip a finger into the wine and put a drop of wine upon our plate. The idea is that we take some of the wine away, diminish some of our joy, in remembering the suffering of the Egyptians, the despair they went through as they suffered through the plagues, their fear, their death as they drowned in the Red Sea.

I, like everyone else, feels—well, something, relieved, maybe? worried? uncertain?—in the death of Osama bin Laden. I can’t help feeling, someone died. We can feel avenged. We can feel vindicated. But I don’t think we should be rejoicing. Too many on all sides have suffered. And I can’t help but feel like we’ve just cut the head off of the Lernaean Hydra, and I fear what will come in its place.

Last night we lit a candle for Yom Hashoah. Holocaust remembrance. An odd coincidence, no?

I don’t normally blog about serious things here. I like to stay out of politics, unless it’s a matter of mocking my husband for his Republican ways. I like to keep things light and fluffy. But given that one of my very first posts, back in October 2001 when my blog was still searching for a voice, was about a woman who died in 9/11, I feel that it is something I should address. I feel as if things have come full circle. If I were looking for an excuse to end this blog, this would be it, although I still have stories to tell, so I’ll stick around.

Last Friday, I let Pie get up early and watch the royal wedding before school started. Today, I wrestled with the decision, but ultimately let the boy get up early to watch CNN. Both things they’ll most likely remember for a lifetime; the two eliciting such diametrical emotions.

On the way to school, I asked if the boy if had any questions. He didn’t, but he told me much of what he learned. At one point, he said to me, with a twinge of concern in his voice, “I guess I should be careful. They said Americans should be on their guard.” For the first time in a long time, he held my hand as we walked to school.

I nodded. And I said to him, “I’ll tell you what. You don’t have to be on your guard. I’ll be on guard for you.”

With that he gave me a smooch (a block away from school, where we won’t be seen) and ran off to school.

I don’t have an end to this blog post, no nice and neat wrap up. Because we can only wait and see what happens next.

Fish Heads, Fish Heads, Rolly Polly Fish Heads

March 28th, 2010 § Comments Off on Fish Heads, Fish Heads, Rolly Polly Fish Heads § permalink

It’s the saga of the fish. Who knew fish would give me such headaches. Tomorrow night is the first night of Passover, and I’m hosting, as I like to do. Out of all the Jewish holidays, Passover is my favorite. I love the story, I love the Seder, I love the food. Doodles, even, is incredibly into it. He came home from Hebrew school today, saying it he loved class today because he learned the fourth question and he got to take home his own Haggadah. He’s been practicing the four questions and can’t get enough of listening to our Passover c.d.

I’ve been cooking up a storm. So far I’ve made: horseradish, Moroccan carrots, Sephardic salad, orange cake, Passover brownies, meringues, candied walnuts (for the haroset), chicken soup, and salmon pate. Tomorrow I make the potato latke “muffins,” scarlet chicken, balsamic roasted veggies, and matzah crunch.

But the fish. The fish has plagued me (the famous eleventh plague). I need whitefish, carp, and pike. Basic gefilte fish ingredients. I heard on one of my e-mail lists that the Newton Whole Foods would grind fish for you. So I called it last week. “I hear you grind fish!”

“Yeah,” the guys said. “We can grind fish. But we’re out of fish.”


“Out of fish. Completely out of fish.”

“How are you out of fish?”

“Out of fish. Try next year.”

I called all around. Tried everywhere. A different Whole Foods assured me that they could order me whitefish. Yea, whitefish! Except he called back the next day. “I called everywhere! No gefilte fish fish!”

Frantic web searches came up with a single recipe that called for tilapia. So I decided to make my fish (a fish loaf from the New York Times Passover cookbook) with tilapia. And I bought the jarred stuff. As a back up.

For some, it’s next year in Jerusalem. For me, it’s next year in whitefish. Chag Pesach Sameach.

Barbies, Bakugan, and Baking, Oh My!

June 23rd, 2009 § Comments Off on Barbies, Bakugan, and Baking, Oh My! § permalink

Well, instead of ice cream and sprinkler parks, we celebrated the first day of summer with chicken soup and tea. Some summer weather. Happy summer.

Even though school didn’t end till yesterday, Doodles had his end-of-year celebration last Thursday. I think he’s a little sad the school year is over, but he’s not talking about it. He’s just been a little off these few days. It’ll be hard to leave kindergarten–his teacher and the assistant were fabulous and Doodles has made such huge strides. He did a self-evaluation at the end of the year. He wrote the two things he learned in kindergarten were “read” and “write.” The two things he is still working on are “write using spaces” and “keep my fingers out of my mouth.” Of course, there are some downsides, too. We were introduced to the world of Bakugan. Think Pokemon. But more expensive. Way more expensive. Oh my goodness. Adam and I both have masters degrees. We both read those instructions about twelve times. Both of us have no idea how to play. Apparently, you need the mind of a six year old to operate these things.

On a random side note, Pie and I were listening to the album Celebrate Kids: Kids Kosher Cuts, and on it is a song called “Deli-ightful.” It’s about food. Kosher food. Pie says to me, “Mommy, I want to keep kosher.”
Me: Okay. We can consider that.
Pie: Good.
Me: But you realize, if you keep kosher, you can’t eat bacon or ham?
Pie: Why?!?
Me: Because they’re not kosher.
Pie: Hmmmm. That’s a problem!

Anyway, see the pretty picture of a cake? That was my contribution to the elementary school picnic cake walk and the final nail in the coffin that is my urban, cool life. I have officially given up all of my final vestiges of hipness. Just because I like to listen to “Modest Mouse,” it only means I’m a suburban haus frau who listens to “Modest Mouse.”

The Pie has discovered Barbies. She’s been asking for Barbies for months, and finally for an end-of-school-year gift, I bought her a Barbie. And the, just a few days later, a big score. A Freecycle offer. Barbies. Two little bags of them. I managed to get them and we picked them up within twenty minutes of the item being posted. Pie is so happy. And I’m in a time warp. Because it was an older woman. Whose daughters are in their thirties. And it was their Barbies. Which means all these dolls are about twenty-five years old. We have the neon-colored “Rock” shirted Barbie with the big hair and the oversized earrings. We have the crocheted dress Barbie. We have the over-the-shoulder light blue chiffon dress Barbie. We have the Barbie accessories. Including the Walkman. The big Walkman. With strap. And plastic cassette. I tried explaining that one to Doodles.
Doodles: So when you were little, you listened to tapes on a Walkman?
Me: No,no! Not till I was much older. First when I was little I listened to records. Then I listened to eight-tracks. After eight-tracks, I started listening to cassettes. The Walkman didn’t come till high school. And then when I was in college, I got CDs. And then, in the past few years, it was MP3s. You know. iPods
Doodles: Huh?
But Pie doesn’t care about any of that. All she cares about is that she has Barbies. Lots and lots of Barbies. She has no interest in that one guy doll, but the rest is Barbie heaven. They now travel with us (maximum allowed out at any time, though, is two).

Which is good. Because apparently summer isn’t coming to our neck of the woods. So it’ll be Pie and Barbies. Doodles and Bakugan. Mommy and martinis. You know. Life as usual.

Daughter of the Commandments

May 17th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

When I was about eight or so years old, I told my parents that I wanted to go to Hebrew school and have a bat mitzvah. Now, as I’ve mentioned before, my parents aren’t exactly what you’d call, um, observant. In fact, I think the words we’re looking for are apathetic, atheistic, non-joining Jews (adjectives used only in relation to religion). They talked about it and they sat me down. “Jennifer,” they said, because in those days I was just beginning the transition to Jenny, “if you want to have a bat mitzvah, that’s fine. But if you want to have a bat mitzvah, we have to join a synagogue and we will have to attend services. Now we don’t want to go to services, but if this is that important to you, we will do it. But you will have to follow through. This isn’t like dance or the guitar where you can just do it for a couple of months. You have to go to Hebrew school every week, for the next four [or whatever it was] years. No quitting. No changing your mind. So? Do you want to have a bat mitzvah?” And, of course, as they planned, I was terrified and said no.

Flash forward thirty-two years. I finally had that bat mitzvah.

For the past two years I’ve studied with eleven other grown-ups (and a rabbi), arguing, learning, discussing, discussing, discussing, and yesterday was the culmination: the actual ceremony. I learned three verses of Torah–got the trope down, learned to read it without the vowels–and I wrote our group’s introduction to what our Torah portion was and our d’var Torah (a sermon, if you will, and no, it did not start with “Today I am a woman,” although I really wanted it to). But the ceremony was just a small part, just a recognition of all the studying I’d done these past couple of years. I was surprised at how meaningful it was for me. I went armed with the women of the family: I wore a pin made by Pie, a sweater that had been my paternal grandmother’s, a necklace that belonged to my maternal grandmother, my mother’s ring, and a purse that the Tweedle Twirp had bought for me a few years back. My tallit was purchased by me in Sfat on our recent trip to Israel. My non-synagogue parents came up for it, my in-laws came, Beetle and Tab came, as well as my husband and kids. And it was nice. Very, very nice. That’s the only way I can really put it.

Of course, as well as I read the Torah, I didn’t do as well as Pie. While I absolutely made sure to learn the trope and how to read the Hebrew, I also had a CD my rabbi made for me to hear how it was chanted. I’d listen to it in the car, and it was Pie’s favorite. “Mommy,” she’d say every time we got into the car. Put on Rabbi J.!” It wasn’t until I was practicing–“Im Be-hukkotie telechu. V’et mitzvtie–“–and I stumbled that Pie chimed in, “Mom! ‘Tishmru!” that I realized she’d memorized the whole thing. Maybe we should make sure we have the same Torah portion for her bat mitzvah, since she’s already halfway there.

I’m feeling that post-achievement letdown I often get. I’ll keep studying, because I enjoy it. And it’s something I can cross of my lifelong “to do” list. But there’s now this big “what next” feeling. I have no excuses anymore not to finish this novel of mine.

I will say there is one cool thing about having a bat mitzvah at 40. I got an SLR camera with an extra lens for a present. At 12, probably all I would have gotten is an $18 savings bond. Not too shabby!

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  • Who I Am

    I read, I write, I occasionally look to make sure my kids aren't playing with matches.

    My novel, MODERN GIRLS will be coming out from NAL in the spring of 2016.

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