Taking the “oy” out of the High Holidays

by Marnie Macauley August 28, 2015


Dear Marnie: Every Rosh Hashanah, auntie Tillie, the family yenta, throws huge dinners which we all better attend or “you-know-what.” I can’t stand it. So I ask you, what is the best way of going about not seeing bad-vibe relatives during the High Holy Days?
-California Artist

MARNIE SAYS: Oh pooh, Little Ms. Yidgrinch! (Remember to include this on your Yom Kippur atonement list.) But for you…I’ll begrudgingly advise.
If you are positively forced to attend a “do” or risk being cut out of Tanta Tillie’s will, you could…explain you’d love to “drop by,” but only for an hour as you’ve signed up for Rosh Hashanah duty for the poor across town.

Or, you can stay for the whole thing under the motto “grin and bare it.” Whenever one of my nutty nearests utters some swaddle, I smile, mention how I adore them “despite that minor arterial flow problem,” then hug the offender.

Here’s why. Picture it: Rosh Hashanah 1980. In attendance: Uncle Iggy, the spendthrift who buys silk briefs and displays them to the family – after which he borrows from us to pay his water bill.Aunt Merna of the-tofu-and-copper-bracelets who lectures us on the benefits of honey vs. raw sugar and weighs-in at 300 pounds. Brother-in-law Yitzak whose motto is, “Don’t mind if I do,” then helps himself to the rest of the chicken, and the carpeting. Grandpa Jake, the family “historian,” whose versions always make him part Goliath and part “The Kosher Crusader” whether it was starting the family business or giving birth to our cousins, the triplets. Cousin Adele, who redecorates our home before the appetizer, muttering what odious taste we have, then rushes off to visit her grown children (in recovery).

And that’s just a sampling. Each one had the capacity to put each other, nevermind waiters, salesmen, travel agents and their offspring in a rest home faster than an epidemic.

View your quirky kin as part of your patchwork. A rip roaring, life-thumping, crazy quilt that grows deeper with each succeeding generation. And surprise surprise, you may feel as I do.
Tell yourself you share the cosmos with this particular group of kin for but a moment. In an eye blink, the “bad vibers” will turn from annoying to anecdotes.

I’d give a piece of my soul to hear Aunt Merna waft on about her sputum, watch Maurice pocket the breadsticks or see Uncle Iggy parade the tops of his silk undies one more time.

Now I can only tell stories about them.

And I do. During the holidays.

After all, what right does one stitch have to ignore the design?

Dear Marnie: My very proper in-laws have invited us, once again, to their very prim break-fast. All was great during the High Holidays when it was my husband, myself and our newborn, Aaron. But since Aaron turned “terrible” two, it’s been havoc!  I don’t want to create a family scene, so I’m thinking we should skip it.
-Nervous Nelly

MARNIE SAYS: It’s tough, especially since little Aaron just learned that black marks on white sofas creates a WOW-factor. My General Rule is: Tradition rules! How are we going to teach our kinder to appreciate family ties and tradition if we don’t make them (and us) suffer?  OK, but not that much.

*Expect toddlers to be Lord/Lady Fauntleroys.  Most are motorized darlings with less of an attention span than that itsy bitsy spider making its way up that water spout. It’s called normal.  Yes, you want them to behave civilly. But hey, you’re working on it.

*Assign “the problem” to only one parent who gallops around screaming, “PUT THAT DOWN THIS MINUTE, AARON!” or is under the table finding Aaron squeezing latkes while the rest talk about The Middle East. Share the load so all adults can gobble food after a day of starvation.

*Expect little Rebecca to remain “unmoved.” While even small children can sit still for a bit, asking a toddler to wait out Uncle Blablahganoush’s 20 minute verbal tour of his hernia is too much (for any of us).

*If you’re the parent, anticipate at times your babe will be bored, scoot and want to treasure hunt. Bring toys, CDs, stuffed animals, child-friendly snacks and any other calm-down activities. Then retire the spawn to a child-friendly room where he can play or calm. Again, this task should be shared with another, so all get to sample adult fare.

*Leave before the witching hour. You know it. The moment when your adorable kinder mutates into a creature with a voice box the size of Sasquatch. Like migraine flashes, heed the warning signs and gun the motor.

And before you leave, take the hands of those in your clan, who, despite the fuss, the fume, and the sticky-fingers, are part of your crazy quilt called “family.” The tapestry, woven from these years, can grow larger and deeper with each generation. It’s in the very hands of those sticky-fingered toddlers. It’s the little ones who’ll decide to either keep stitching – or ignore the design.  That makes them VIPS or Very Important Participants.


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