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?

Nope.

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?

Abso-freaking-lutely.

“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 I would miss her when she was dead.

Cool.

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.

Mom Life

With apologies to Bruce Springsteen, Santa Claus isn’t coming to my house…

At the risk of sounding Grinchy, I’m pretty far from feeling the Christmas spirit this year.

Not that that’s anything specifically new — I’m Jewish. And contrary to what the non-Jews will tell you, Hanukkah isn’t a major holiday. It’s a minor festival. And not like a cool music festival type of festival. You sing a couple prayers, light a couple candles, and if you’re feeling bougie and want to impress the people you invited over, you make some latkes and maybe serve some donuts. If you didn’t invite anyone over, the latkes probably aren’t happening. They’re a lot of work. 

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Then the kids get presents.

Presents are where the similarities to Christmas start and end. And to be honest, the presents are an assimilationist trick to counteract the whole Christmas thing. Traditionally, kids got a little money (gelt) at Hanukkah, usually with the idea that they were supposed to learn to give to charity (tzedakah) with it. Which is a pretty far cry from what most kids (including my own) get for Hanukkah. (Although to be fair, I told my family that all I want is gelt — adulting when you have a kid is EXPENSIVE.)

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But I’m not here to explain Hanukkah today. I’m here to talk about the draft (only my parents laughed at that, sorry not sorry. They’re providing my gelt this year!). 

I’ve actually run into a new problem — which probably isn’t remotely new to non-Christian parents, but it’s my first time experiencing it.

That problem is Santa Claus. 

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I get that most people love Christmas. What I don’t get is the inability to recognize that others may not celebrate the same holiday. And these random strangers are extending that insensitivity to my child. 

Jacob saw a toy ice cream truck at the grocery store last weekend that we had no intention of buying him. It was too small for him, cheaply made, and neon pink (I have no problem with him having pink toys, but the neon made my head hurt). And because he’s two-and-a-half, he had a slight meltdown when we said no. On the scale of meltdowns, it was minor, but there were some tears and throwing his head back and wailing.

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“Oh Jacob, don’t cry, I’m sure Santa is going to bring you that toy,” our previously favorite cashier crooned to him.  “You don’t want mommy and daddy to buy it for you because what will Santa bring then?”

Jacob stopped crying and looked at her, interested. Thus encouraged, she continued. “See, it’s not worth crying, because Santa is going to bring you that toy!”

Hubby and I stood there frozen in shock.

Even if we celebrated Christmas, it was inappropriate. I read that fantastic article about why we shouldn’t tell our kids that Santa brought big gifts because it makes poorer kids feel like they must not have been as good as their richer classmates. And we were never going to buy that toy. 

 

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But doubly so for a child whose only exposure to Santa so far has been seeing inflatable lawn ornaments and asking who that man was.

Now before you accuse me of reigniting the “War on Christmas,” (which is total BS. Sorry not sorry again.) I have no problem with Christmas. Celebrate absolutely any holiday that warms your heart. And I let my kid go trick-or-treating despite Halloween technically having Christian or pagan roots (depending on who you ask). I’m not anti-fun. But for all of these people who want to “keep the Christ in Christmas,” I have to say, Santa isn’t it. 

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If I’m being honest, I already have mixed feelings about the tooth fairy too. I’m not sure I see the value in deliberately lying to your kids, only for them to later discover that you lied to them, rather than telling them the truth and building trust from the very beginning. And while my mom to this day denies it, when I *caught* her being the tooth fairy, she tried to tell me I was dreaming (and did all kinds of swirly hand things to “prove” it). And the fact that she maintained the lie the next morning (and today for that matter. I guarantee when she reads this, she’ll tell me that never happened) just made me wonder what else she and my dad weren’t being entirely honest about. Was the Mormon Temple really NOT Disney World and “you just can’t get there from here”? Did my Sesame Street tapes REALLY not play in my dad’s car? What else were they lying to me about?

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While I don’t personally agree with the decision, I also am fully aware that I have no right to tell others how to live their lives or raise their children. So I know that the Santa lie is going nowhere. But I don’t quite understand why strangers are foisting it on my kid.

The day after we went to the grocery store, we were playing with Jacob and he announced to us that, “Santa is bringing me my ice cream truck.”  Hubby and I exchanged glances, having discussed what to say at length when this came up after we both stood there frozen like deer in the headlights at the store. Then we patiently explained that Santa wasn’t bringing him toys, mommy and daddy were because we celebrate Hanukkah, not Christmas. Then we ordered the Little Tikes version of that goddamned ice cream truck while he watched us do it so we could make the point about *us* being the ones to buy it.

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And we’re never going to that cashier’s lane at the grocery store again.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Festivus for the rest of us.

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