My ridiculous life

To undo the curse of 2020, I have to eat some really old kugel

I think I know why 2020 is the flaming garbage pile that it is.

It all began in January, when my mother told me that my grandmother said she was giving her antique sewing machine to my cousin, who has never sewn anything in his life.

I don’t sew well, but I possess the ability to inexpertly mend things. And moreover, I am likely the last human being on earth who can work that beast of a machine. I have spent cumulative weeks of my life threading it for my grandmother, who, at 93, has not been able to wrap a piece of miniscule thread through its inanely intricate nooks and crannies in many years. I no longer need to ask for help—I know each step of the inexplicably overcomplicated process. I could probably do it with my eyes closed. Forget those tests where you need to remember five words. If you can figure out where that piece of thread goes next, your brain is better than most.

Do I need an antique sewing machine that breaks more often than it works?

No, I do not.

Do I have room for it in my already tiny home office that is now being used as a digital classroom as well?


Do I want that goddamned thing after how much of my life I have spent threading it for my grandmother, while listening to her tell me the stories that helped shape who I am as a writer?


“Why would she give it to *name redacted so he doesn’t hate me for this post even though I’m positive he doesn’t read my blog*?”

“He asked for it.”

Being me, I immediately Googled “antique Singer sewing machine,” and pulled up one that was older, in better condition, and listed for $4,000 on eBay. “Wonder why he wants it,” I grumbled angrily. Then, against my better judgment, I called my grandmother and told her I was upset that she was going to give it to someone else after how many hours I had dedicated to helping her with it and after she had said it would go to me someday. (She did say that. Of course, you could admire literally anything of my grandmother’s from a piece of jewelry to the sandwich she was eating and her response would be, “When I die…”)

She got flustered and told me she never promised it to anyone and if I wanted it so bad, I could just come take it now.

At which point it hit me that I REALLY don’t have room for this thing. Or THAT strong of an actual attachment to it. Do I want a sewing machine or some nice jewelry that I can wear every day and think of her? Easy answer. But I’d be damned if my cousin was going to sell it on eBay, and I said as much. We were both pretty angry and ended that phone call without a resolution.

I didn’t sleep that night. And at 3am, I emailed my grandmother, apologizing. She’s old. God forbid something happened to her, I didn’t want that fight to be our final interaction. So I offered up possibly the only entirely abject apology I have ever given. No excuses. No justifications. Just I’m sorry. It’s your sewing machine to do whatever you want with, not mine. I have no claims on it. And I love you.

My conscience clearer, I went to sleep.

I woke up to an email from her, expecting what I usually get when we fight—some garbled message that makes zero sense but provides some vague reassurance that I am forgiven.

What I did NOT expect was an email saying that my apology was not accepted and that I would miss her when she was dead.


But my grandma is like the tides. Wait a few hours and she’ll turn. And I’ve never known her to hold a grudge, even when she probably should.

I spoke to my mother later that day and was informed my grandmother was baking kugels (a Jewish noodle dish. While every Jew will tell you that their grandmother makes the best kugel in the world, they’re all wrong because MY grandma makes the best kugel and I will fight you if you try to claim otherwise. Of course, at this rate, she’ll probably give the recipe to one of my cousins who will publish it on the internet, so you’ll all get to experience it for yourselves.).

“What for?”

“The bris.”

At which point, I lost it. I was four months pregnant with my second boy at the time. Not even quite at the halfway point. And while we’re not a superstitious family, it’s considered bad luck in Judaism to prepare in advance of the baby.

“The bris is more than four months away. No one wants to eat four-month-old kugel that’s been sitting in the freezer.”

My mother sighed. “It’ll be fine.”

I took a deep breath. Stress is bad for babies after all. Fine. Whatever. If she wanted to make the kugels now, she could make the kugels now. My aunt Dolly was famous for making holiday meals years in advance. Four months in a freezer couldn’t REALLY hurt a kugel. Those things would probably survive a nuclear holocaust.

And, despite not being forgiven, I brought Jacob to visit my grandmother that afternoon. She was still making kugels.

“Why are you making them so early?” I asked, unable to help myself. “You know it’s considered bad luck to make things before the baby is born. You’re jinxing us here.”

She turned to me, a spatula in her hand. “Well, I could be dead by then, so at least something of mine will be at the bris.”

I blinked heavily several times and decided not to press the point. Then I spent the next four hours dealing with Xfinity for her because her cable box in the kitchen wasn’t working. When it was finally fixed (which involved two separate trips to the Xfinity store), I was apparently forgiven.

Then a few days later, her freezer died and the Kugels of Passive Aggression had to be transported to my mother’s house for safekeeping until she had a working one.

You can see where this is going: the pandemic hit, there was no bris, and the Kugels of Passive Aggression sat in my grandmother’s new freezer until just two weeks ago, when my grandmother decided we would eat them at our socially distant Yom Kippur break fast on my parents’ porch.

Who am I kidding? I didn’t fast. I did a social media fast instead. My old rabbi said to make your fast meaningful and honestly that was more meaningful than food this year.

“She’s bringing the Kugels of Passive Aggression!” I hissed to my best friend, who had laughed hysterically at this saga as it unfolded.

“And you’d better eat every bite of that kugel,” she told me. “It’s the only way to end this nightmare!”

So my friends, if Biden wins, the pandemic disappears, and the world just generally stops sucking so much, please know that I ate two pieces of that nine-month-old kugel for all of us.

And it was STILL better than your grandma’s kugel, as you’ll learn for yourself when my other cousin (who has a cooking blog) posts the recipe for the Kugels of Passive Aggression for you all to make for yourselves.