I've learned a few things from my grandmother during our brief stay here in New York for the holiday. 1)I don't know my way around a kitchen because she's been cooking longer than me. 2)All black men beat their spouses. 3)All arabs smell funny (not the best site, but I'm too lazy to look for a better one). 4)English should be the national language and those who don't speak it be damned. I don't speak to my grandmother often, and the aforementioned lessons reminded me why. There isn't too much else I learned from my grandmother save this one last bit, which floored me.
She was trying to go over my family tree and perhaps it was just due to the dementia (not an insult, simply the technical term for her current mental faculties) she inadvertently led me to believe that I have cousins who married each other (she was unclear as to whether they were blood relations or not). Maybe it's legal, maybe it isn't. Either way something about that isn't kosher. Sure I laugh when I watch George Michael pine after his cousin on Arrested Development, but now the jokes strike a little closer to home. Ewwww.
When discussing these cousins my grandmother went on to say that they are such nice people and it's a shame their kids grew up to be such free thinkers. This is one of the biggest yet politest insults my grandmother could come up with: free thinkers. Because there is nothing worse than a free thinker. Sure these kids live on a commune and are probably living some sort of grungy hippy lifestyle, one of which I probably would not be so comfortable living myself, but out of all the ways to rebel this is one of the most peaceful. This commune, she confirmed, is not one belonging to any cult or crazy religious faction, just a bunch of "free thinkers" living together on the land. I was almost disappointed when she said how great of a guy I am, not like those "free thinkers." Sure I may be a vegetarian ("What do you mean you don't eat meat? That's just not healthy." This coming from the same woman who complained there wasn't any shmaltz in the chopped liver) but that can be forgiven.
Scratch that, I am disappointed. I don't go out of my way to show how different I may be, I am what I am. I always kinda hoped, however, that I'd stick out just a little. I am a bit odd, my name amongst my friends usually turns into an adjective ("that's such an Amichai thing to do" used when I make a fool of myself usually by bumping into something or tripping over myself, both physically and verbally). My clothes most often don't match, though that has less to do with an intentional aesthetic and more to do with the fact that I am color blind. I never stick out of a crowd but I never quite fit in either. This disappointment quickly washes away as I realize not being a "free thinker" may be the least of my worries because someday I am going to die (say it isn't so, I can't stand it).
It's true, and though the mere thought of death sends me into a panic attack (one panic attack about my own mortality once forced me to take an early lunch at work, I nearly hyperventilated - and I'm only 24) I shall continue. I know I'm going to die because my grandmother is going to die. I don't think she's going to die anytime soon, but the more I sat and talked with her the more I realized she really is of a different generation. I always knew this conceptually, but I can count the amount of times I've actually sat down and talked to her on one hand making this concept easier to ignore. She dropped out of college to help work for the war effort for christ sake. The most I can really say is I dropped out of a cultural criticism course in college because I spent a semester getting stoned thus lacking the mental capacity needed to comprehend the readings assigned. She is of an older generation solidifying me as part of a younger generation I have never really identified myself with. But once you are part of a generation you know there will come a time when that generation will end. Soon all those alive during world war two will be gone. Hence, someday I too am going to die.
I realize all this during Passover, the holiday when all Jews are supposed to think of ourselves as if we personally left the bondage in Egypt. This one particular idea strikes me as being particularly bogus, especially after the horrid but inevitable conclusion that my life has an expiration date. The Jews who left Egypt (if they ever really existed in the first place) are now the oil under the Sinai desert. The only real bondage I'll ever have to deal with is the repayment of my student loans (which is not the same sort of pressure as building the pyramid, but still horrid in a different sort of way). If anything I'd prefer to think of myself as the generation of Jews who enter Israel after 40 long years in the desert. But that is really neither here nor there.
As I neither exodused from Egypt or received the land of Israel crossing through the waters of the Jordan river split in twain (when it comes to crossing bodies of water God is a one trick pony) Passover seems a bit silly. I have to admit, however, it is my favorite holiday. It gives me hope that one day I'll be visiting my potential grandchildren, sitting in their parents living room, boring the crap out of them as my grandmother did to me, forcing them to realize they are just as mortal as I am.
Those unsuspecting suckers.
Set Your Sail
3 weeks ago