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 my 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, who are Scottish.
The question of what to call each other was not on the radar when we first learned 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.) At our wedding, I was nearly beyond child-bearing age, and already had produced two purebred Jewish children. Still, my father had been intensely opposed, refused to attend the wedding and refused to speak to me for months afterwards.
My dad is 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.
My daughter’s future in-laws 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 as ours had. Plus they weren’t given much time to work through these issues, since the happy couple gave their families exactly 5 days notice of their upcoming wedding.
Yes, you read that right. 5 days. Alli was not pregnant. And they weren’t planning to elope to Vegas or anything like that. People actually were expected to show up.
That kind of schedule didn’t allow for the traditional rehearsal dinner—there was no rehearsal and barely time for dinner. I didn’t want to meet the in-laws for the first time at the wedding itself. So we arranged to meet a few hours before the wedding, at a local 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 they said was that our situation was just like ….”Meet the Fockers”. The ice was broken on the spot.
Four years later; and I’m still not sure which of us was supposed to be the Fockers.