My husband, Adam, is allergic to poultry. A unique, but not unbearable, affliction most of the year, but a tricky one in November. When they first learn, people are usually very interested. “Chicken?” they ask. “Duck? Goose?” Yes. Chicken, duck and goose. Anything that flies. “Eggs?” No. Not eggs, but he doesn’t like them. If you ask me, this really shouldn’t be an option when your choices are already limited.
When Thanksgiving arrives, we prepare for our annual trek to Cincinnati. I assemble my contribution to the holiday dinner, including all components for Adam’s meal. A pork roast, poultry-free stuffing, and pork gravy on the side. We are a food-laden van, no turkey in sight, headed down I-71 on the busiest Wednesday evening of November. The thousands of minivans that we pass all have a similarly stuffed appearance. Suitcases, sleeping bags, children, and the occasional lot of Christmas presents tossed into the back. I venture a silent guess that no other van has a pork roast traveling on the floor of the passenger seat.
Before I continue, you should know that many of my mother’s relatives are Jews. I grew up attending Bar Mitzvahs, Bat Mitzvahs, and occasionally Hebrew school with my cousin Julie. I remember her Bat Mitzvah well because I was 13, too. A 13-year-old, not-quite-confirmed, not-yet-baptized girl watching Julie complete this rite of passage. What I remember most, though, is the glittery pink reception that followed, the gifts, the cards, the money, and my own realization. . . I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to be a Jew.
Shortly thereafter, realization be damned, I was confirmed on a Sunday morning, following a quickie baptism, next to the boy of my dreams, Tom Lucky. Certainly, our joint baptisms and simultaneous confirmations meant that Tom and I would be together forever. If holy water isn’t binding, what is? Alas, my teenage heart was wrong, and so I arrive back at my story, present day, traveling in my silver Honda Odyssey with the true, albeit poultry-allergic, man of my dreams.
And we are driving a pork dinner into the midst of my semi-Jewish family. I wonder if I should provide labels: “Warning! Turkey! Could kill Adam!” or, “Pork, the other white meat! Could offend Uncle Herb!” We place the Waldorf salad and my dad’s mashed turnips between the meats as a buffer. My Uncle Mike, who’s Catholic, gets to try everything.
I believe in teaching my children to respect all faiths, and every year, as I finally pack the ever-present pork roast, I take a moment in quiet gratitude for my faith heritage, one that has offered questions for my children to ponder. Good questions like, “Mom, are we Jewish or Christmas?” Poultry or pork, Christian or Jew, I know that everyone I love will be together around one table, and this I count among my many blessings.
My youngest brother was recently married. Wouldn’t you know it–she’s a good Jewish girl. And I say, “Mazel Tov.”