"I mean, it’s been [BEEP] years, I think I know when her birthday is, Mom." My brother’s reaction to my mom calling him to remind him to call me on my birthday (which was December 20th) like she does every year. To all of us. About each of our birthdays.
The holidays have just ended (goyishe - we all know that Hanukkah is not a real one…) and even though my family and I do not celebrate these, we do partake in the annual flying-to-different-warm-parts-of-the-world-to-spend-time-together Jewish tradition.
One highlight this year included my mother thinking she was a genius to get adjoining rooms with my sister so she could be available to her two kids night and day. Isn’t that sweet? Cut to my sister calling me screaming from the airport that she is not in 7th grade anymore and adjoining rooms are, in fact, her worst nightmare and if I do not call housekeeping and lock those doors she will get herself right back on that plane and go home… and that was just the beginning!
When you are dealing with a Jewish family there is no escaping the drama. Especially on vacations, when all of the kids, I don’t care if there are 2 or 22, are destined to share one room, in the fanciest of resorts in Palm Beach. This is because it is the goal of the parents (read: Mother) is to make everyone as close and loving as possible (the father’s goal is to curtail Mom when she gets out of hand, THANK YOU, DAD). And if that is impossible? At least take a damn picture of the family that looks as if you would all do anything for each other so Grandma can tell her friends at canasta what a tight nit group they are and how they would do anything for each other. ”Just like my kids!” Grandma’s friend Dorris would say.
It all comes back to survival and the fact that Jewish parent are keenly aware that they won’t be around to meddle forever, and remind you constantly of that fact, so all you have is each other. The only question my 93-year-old grandfather ever asks me is when I am moving back to the East Coast which is immediately followed by the “How could I be so far from family?” Series of questions. Maybe I should have him read the “adjoining rooms” anecdote…
My family’s mantra has always been you can say anything bad to your family, but never to anyone about your family. That is just not an option. And if someone does something against your family, well, you don’t even wanna go there. Because as my mom says “You don’t know who I know and what I’m capable of.”
At the end of the day for Jews, family is all we’ve got. Why should we trust anyone else, what are you gonna do for me? We barely trust each other to remember birthdays.