My kids have a bizarre notion that barbeques are the easiest way to fix dinner this side of a take-out menu. This is because their main contributions to barbeques have been eating twice as much meat as normal, urgently spraying ketchup as if they’re putting out a fire, and chugging sodas. My husband mans the grill (“persons the grill” just doesn’t sound right, does it?), and suits up for the job by donning his Official Barbeque Shirt, festooned with a blinding pattern of beers and burgers. This forces me to wear my biggest, darkest sunglasses for at least three hours.
Gayle Redlingshafer was a minister of music at a Texas mega-church. Harold Berman was a secular Jew from New York. When they married, they agreed on a few things: they would never have children, and religion would never get in their way.
Unless you live in outer Uzbek, you are probably under a steady assault of Mother’s Day gift advertising. Despite this media onslaught, I’m not getting excited. With few exceptions, you can hardly find anything for moms today that hasn’t been pulled from a Dumpster and recycled, slapped with a “fair trade” label that cannot be removed under penalty of law, or made from “banana byproducts.”
It had been an unusually stressful week, so I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I checked into the Hilton Hotel in Woodland Hills, California on a Friday afternoon back in February. Normally, there’s no place I’d rather be on Friday afternoons than my own home, as I count the minutes until I light my Shabbat candles and bask in the glow of a sanctified oasis in time.
It happened twice in three days.
The first time was when I stopped with my kids at the bakery. A gentleman ahead of me in line was selecting a cake. Anxiously, he kept asking the store clerk, “Are you sure all these cakes are kosher? I’m taking this to my
sister’s house, and if it’s not 100 percent kosher, she’ll throw me out! They’re fanatic!”
Celebrating Yael’s bat mitzvah in 2006
When I think back to my bat mitzvah close to forty years ago, here’s what I remember most: following the photographer’s prompts as I posed against the tree in the synagogue courtyard; chanting my Torah portion nervously, and giving a speech in which I excoriated President Nixon. I don’t recall how I tied that in with the weekly Torah reading, but I relished having the congregation laugh at my political barbs. I loved dancing with my friends and hoped that the boy I had secretly admired for months would finally realize what a prize I was and begin to like me in return.
I grew up in a home that honored many rituals, some admittedly more sacred than others. Monday night was Mah Jong for Mom and her girlfriends; Wednesday night was bridge for Dad and his friends. As a season ticket holder for UCLA basketball and football games, Dad attended every single home game for both teams with a religious fervor that our synagogue rabbi could only dream of inspiring in his congregants. Some years he even followed his beloved Bruins on the road for championship play-offs. Friday night dinners were special because it was Shabbat, so we ate in the dining room, not the kitchen. And if it was New Year’s Eve, it could only mean one thing: Mom’s annual surprise birthday party.