Saturday, January 13, 2018

Skyping with my parents

It recently occurred to me that I never updated this blog (that I hope some people still read) about whatever happened with my parents after I sent that email to my dad about being too mad to talk to him.

So here's what happened. We didn't talk for a couple of months.  A few days after Thanksgiving my dad emailed again asking if I wanted to skype sometime with C and I agreed. So we set up a time to talk like a week later.  Unbeknownst to me, he set it up for a time that he was visiting my Brother and his new wife at their home.  So of course I couldn't chew them out for not going to my brother's wedding- since my parent's were sitting right next to my brother and sister in law, and that would be weird. Sneaky.

The good news though is that my parents were at my brother and sister in law's house about 2 months after the wedding!  They didn't even meet B until a year after we married.  So that's good.  My brother seems unwilling to fight with them and just wants to stay in their good graces, which kinda annoys me a little- like I seem more upset about this whole thing that he does, but since he's not too upset, I feel like I don't have as much of a right to be upset.

Meanwhile I haven't seen my parents in person and they haven't seen C since August 2016, and we have no plans to meet up in the future as of yet.  I will be in Philly in August for a conference so I may ask them to meet up with us down there (about a 2 hour drive from them).

While on skype I asked my parents to send me a real menorah so I could light candles with C (the only one I had was a fake light up one for the mantel and a travel one where the candles constantly fell over and doesn't have the classic menorah shape).  She has been talking about being jewish lately and when we saw the Frozen holiday short (during her first movie at a theater!) she was super excited to see there was a family with a dreidal and menorah.  But I don't want to pay for one, so I figured I could ask my parents for one. But they sent me a huge oil menorah without the oil cups and with a bunch of tiny candles?

We ended up crumpling up some tin foil to make little candle holders to put in the oil cup, and we lit it once with all 8 candles- two nights after Chankuah actually ended.  But during chanukah we did a thing where each day we added an additional candle to the big menorah (but didn't light it).  I've decided I don't mind doing some traditional things as long as we aren't too religious about it.  I also made latkes for the first time in 10 years and C had like half of one. Learned how to use a new function on my food processor though, so that was cool. :)   We also played dreidel a few times but instead of pennies we used some of the fancy rocks we have from going gem mining last year.

Meanwhile I've emailed with my dad a couple of time about random things over the past month, but only had that one skype session about 6 weeks ago.  That is about the level of contact I want right now.


  1. Sounds like your parents's strategy worked - they deliberately wanted to show you that your brother was cool with them, so you should be, too. I agree, sneaky. But at least they're beginning to learn from past mistakes and visiting your brother and their new non-Jewish daughter-in-law.

    Enjoy whatever level of cultural Jewish engagement as you feel comfortable with!

  2. I'm glad to see that you and your family are finding a way to overcome your differences and remain a loving family. I'm proud of you for hanging in there even though it hasn't been easy. My family has similar difficulties, though not religion based, so I get encouraged when I read that yours is winning the battle. I'll keep working on mine and give it more time, I hope I have the stamina. Thanks for blogging :)

  3. Maybe this thought will be interesting to you:

    In the academic field of "religious studies", one of the big questions is "what is the definition of religion?", i.e. "What is within our field of study?"

    After years of studying religions, including multiple forms of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Yoga, Discordianism, Flying-Spaghetti-Monsterism, and the Church of the Sub-Genius, I decided that the correct definition of religion for academic purposes is "a set of rituals shared by a community". No beliefs necessary; no laws necessay; no authority involved; no priests or rabbis necessary. I think the ordinary English use of "religiously" (as in, "he has oatmeal for breakfast every day, religiously") encapsulates it.

    So in some sense I believe that following traditional rituals is the essence of religion. All the belief stuff is grafted on by people who were trying to mind-control other people, and is IMO bad every single time. The core and essence of a religion, in my opinion, is simply the shared ritual, and the beliefs are an unwanted and undesirable "barnacle" following along.

    My own family and cultural traditions, which are quite idiosyncratic to my family and friends, aren't usually considered "religious", but I've realized they serve the same role.

    Some rituals can be actively harmful and problematic to some people -- some of the traditional Orthodox rituals are just a huge trouble and inspire no joy in a lot of people, while some are actively violent and abusive and should be outlawed, such as infant circumcision. So I strongly prefer communities which aren't rigid about observance of ALL traditional rituals as a condition of membership. Some rituals are bad and need to be replaced. Still, rituals in general are what bring a community together.

    Anyway, enjoy your menorah, latkes, and dreidels. :-) You're recovering the good bits of the religion while leaving behind all the toxicity and mind control. And I'm sure that, unlike the doctrinaire, you'll understand when someone who's allergic to potatoes doesn't want to eat the latkes. :-)


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