My uncle was the first honourary Jew in my family. When you’re a pasta fed kid growing up in Nonantum where the streets are painted red, white, and green, and you and all your friends have at least one Anthony, Vincent, and Marie at home, walking through town can be a journey to a different culture. Uncle Robby was 10 when he discovered matzo ball soup. He’d ride his bike after supper and get a double dose of home-made nourishment from his new pals. That bike was the only thing dividing him from chunky and fatso those years. And it was his connection to a new world.
When Joshua and Eric had their bar mizvah celebrations, Robby danced the Hora like a real chosen person. His jealousy over becoming a man at the age of 13 evaporated thirty minutes into Joshua’s recitation from the Torah in Hebrew. Waiting two more years to be a Confirmed Catholic and not having to memorize anything seemed like a good deal.
In 1970, Robby invited his friends over for a traditional holiday celebration. Ceramic mice scuttered up painted illuminated trees from Aunt Nicole’s pottery class, leaden tinsel hung from artificial branches, and amaretto was served while Dean Martin and Tony Bennet took turns on the record player. Along with rum cake, the food fest included a distinctly festive new treat. Latkes. With a sprinkle of Parmesan. Aunt Rose’s new favourite.
Happy Chanukah to all my friends and family! Wishing you light, love, and latkes.
(This essay was first published in December, 2017)