Ya know how you never really notice what’s in your house until you see it through someone else’s eyes?
Now that my mother is no longer here to point out when I gain weight or if my curtains are shabby I’m pretty much on my own.
Of course I do have my niece Stephanie who won’t say anything about my looks (well she may be forced to correct an outfit but that’s as far as she’ll go in that direction) but as to my house? Fair game.
I’ve been grateful for that too. I remember when she slept in my bed in Montauk and was horrified at the condition of the mattress.
“How do you sleep on that thing?”
It was only then that I realized that dave and I had been rolling into the slope in the middle of bed for years and just accepting it.
I got a new mattress and it was sweet dreams from then on.
The situation I find myself in now is quite different.
My nephew and four of his sons are here on a visit from Israel.
Sure it’s a little crowded but I couldn’t be happier. The boys are all sweet and loving and I adore them. When I say boys, except for the youngest who is in his teens the others are married and have families of their own. My nephew nee Eric now Yitzhak is the light of my life.
Usually he comes alone or with one kid.
Since he lives in fear of getting goy cooties from anything in my house I have a big black bag full of kosher pots, bowls and serving pieces that I take out each year for us to use.
We eat on paper plates and use plastic utensils. Mostly we eat tuna fish and salad or Yitz will bring kosher prepared foods from Brooklyn.
Still I am always found wanting. Last year I went to heat the chicken he lugged from Brooklyn in my oven. I thought he’d faint.
“Did you self clean that oven before I got here?”
He didn’t really have to ask because a blind man would have seen the remnants of a sweet potato that had exploded on the top shelf of the oven the week before so I had to fess up.
This year I was determined to get everything right. I wanted my nephew to be proud of me in front of his sons, some of whom I was meeting for the first time.
I did do the self cleaning thing the night before he came and may I say it wasn’t a good experience. It got so hot that I was terrified that it would blow up and kill me and Raymond. He and I kept peeking into the kitchen during the night expecting to see a black hole in the place of that room.
Since there would be six of us eating, tuna wouldn’t be sufficient so I went to Brooklyn myself and brought back any food with Jewish writing on it. Chicken, matzohs, hummus gefilte fish, I got it all. And it couldn’t just be Kosher it had to be Super Kosher.
Now I’m a proud Jew and though it’s definitely part of my identity it falls in the category of a cultural trait. It isn’t the main part of my life except in the fact that I say “oy” a lot.
These guys are serious Jews but I was prepared for them. At least I thought so.
I just never gave any thought to the wooden statue of Saint Francis of Assisi that Liz gave me to thank me for helping her with her cat and dog. He’s holding little birds and looking really sweet. I only saw him as a lover of animals not a religious figure. That is until I found a towel draped over him.
Then I understood. It kind of embarrassed my nephew in front of his sons that I had an icon from another religion on my terrace. Remember being Jewish is their gig.
“You covered my Saint Francis, Yitz? Not a problem” I said to him this morning as he and the boys were leaving for temple.
“Saint Francis is the least of it. Your refrigerator? Your refrigerator has magnets of the Pope all over it. what kind of Jew has pictures of the Pope on their refrigerator?”
“The kind of Jew that went to Rome. What was I gonna bring back, a magnet of a bowl of spaghetti ? (I actually did bring home a magnet of a bowl of spaghetti which was right next to my Pope magnet.) And he’s a great Pope”
After he left I decided to go around my house and remove anything that might make my guests uncomfortable.
Down came the photo of me and Billy Graham sharing cocktails at the Plaza. In the closet went the picture of me and Louis Farrakhan at Comicon and I had to ask Liz to hold on to the painting of me and Gandhi at Woodstock. That guy really knew how to party.
I’m only glad that I had a falling out with Brigham Young so I threw away the letter he wrote me telling me that I was one hell of a gin player instead of framing it like I might have.
I’ll put them all back when they leave.