Although I’m Jewish, I don’t know much Yiddish. But I love the words I know, which perfectly capture things that the King’s English cannot begin to describe. Schlep. Schlemiel. Chutzpah. Chatchkes.
Perfect words and impossible to imagine living without them. If Yiddish was still in use, maybe we would have words for other things equally hard to articulate—like some of today’s complicated relationships. For instance, what is the word for the relationship between husbands—present (V) and past (H)? They have a relationship, but how to label it? Things are getting way more confusing all around, and someone needs to invent terms for this stuff. In English.
There is a Yiddish word to describe what my daughter’s in-laws are to me. But unfortunately that word—machatonim— doesn’t do me much good with my machatonim, Shane’s parents, who are Scottish.
Of course the question of what to call each other was not on the radar when we first learned that we were about to have a relationship. We knew absolutely nothing about each other, had never met, and the religious issue loomed. What would Jesus do?
I knew what I would do, since I am a veteran of a mixed marriage (that’s to V, if you’re following). At our wedding, I was nearly beyond child-bearing age, and already had two purebred Jewish children, but still my father had been intensely opposed. He was no longer here to witness history repeating itself. And based on my own experience, I knew that if one of my children chose to marry a non-Jew, my reaction would be to swallow hard, and smile. Which I did.
Shane’s parents had it worse. As Christians, their faith is far more central to their lives than Judaism is to me. Their family had not expanded into unfamiliar religious territory. Plus they weren’t given much time to work through these issues, since Alli and Shane gave their families exactly 5 days notice of their upcoming wedding.
Yes, you read that right. 5 days. (a future blog, I promise) Alli was not pregnant. And they weren’t planning to elope to Vegas or anything like that. People actually were expected to show up. And we did.
I didn’t want to meet Shane’s parents for the first time at the wedding itself, so we arranged to meet a few hours earlier at a coffee shop. This was several years ago, and I had just seen “Meet the Fockers”. I remember thinking about that as I walked toward the coffee place, with V on one side and H on the other. Two husbands. Devout Christians. Oy vey.
The first thing Shane’s mom said to me was that our situation reminded her of….”Meet the Fockers”. The ice was broken on the spot.
I’m still not sure which of us was supposed to be the Fockers.
In the 3 years since the wedding, we haven’t had much opportunity to get to know each other. Especially since Shane spent 15 months of their marriage deployed in Iraq.
We live hundreds of miles away. My “machatonim” have never been to our house. I’ve never been to theirs. So when they invited us to join their July 4 family barbecue, this was a first.
On paper, you would assume there isn’t much our two families have in common. Other than the fact that we both love Alli and Shane. We do–and they do.
Shane’s family has embraced their Jewish daughter-in-law with love and warmth. Watching her in this other home where she clearly feels at home, surrounded by her other family, was a complete revelation to me.
And there was more. Besides the bonus that Shane’s dad is a master barbecuer. I had a great time. H had a great time. We all did. Families are families no matter who they are.
And it turned out that Shane’s mom and I did have things in common. We bonded over cluttered homes and chocolate chip cookies. (hers were amazing.) So in the end, with Shane’s family, I got just what I most wanted and needed on July 4th: connecting with people and chocolate.
Connecting and chocolate……Come to think of it, that’s pretty much what I want on any day.