You may remember that I am entertainment-phobic. Nonetheless, I feel I should celebrate the Jewish holidays with my children, as I am their only Jewish parent. Last Friday we had our floating Rosh Hashanah dinner, where we all gather to celebrate the Jewish New Year eat a lot of delicious food. My middle son lives in Rhode Island and his wife works 24-hour shifts as a physician assistant, so this was the first opportunity for everyone to get together. Rosh Hashanah actually took place on September 24th.
I made brisket and roasted potatoes and carrots, plus noodle kugel (a sweet bread pudding type of dish made with egg noodles, apples, cinnamon and cottage cheese – recipe available on request!) and green bean casserole. These are all proven hits with the fam. Everything was done on time – a miracle for me — and with the help of the husband, we managed to hide all the boxes of junk in other rooms so we could access the dining table.
When I tasted the brisket, I was horrified to see that the meat was tough. What to do? I tried putting it back in the oven for a little while, tightly covered, so it could sort of steam in the gravy. I did not have high hopes for this method.
Then everyone arrived, including my little grandson with a bouquet of flowers for me, which he did not want to give up! “Flower! Flower! Flower!” he kept saying. So we gave him one of the flowers and he seemed happy.
Even though the husband gave me a prophylactic glass of wine, I was still a wreck about everyone being happy, and worried about the tough brisket. Then something magical happened.
My Rhode Island son (who is 28 and just got married) came over to me and said, “Mom, you look upset. What is wrong?” That was the first bit of magic – that he noticed my mood! I raised a man who can read women!
I reminded him that I always get upset about entertaining, and that I was obsessing about the meat, etc. He gave me a big hug and said, “No one will be upset about the meat. Has anyone ever walked out on one of your holiday meals because the food wasn’t good enough? No, they have not. This is your FAMILY. We are happy just to be able to be together. Everything will be okay, I promise.”
I have tears in my eyes even as I write this. What a wonderful thing for him to do. He could have said, “Stop being so silly, Mom.” Or he could have said, “Snap out of it already! You go through this every single time!” He could have said, “Oh, everyone loves your food!” Or he could have rolled his eyes and moved on.
But he didn’t do any of those things. Instead, he comforted me, with genuine love, understanding/caring and gentle logic. He didn’t tell me I was irrational. He told me that there were other factors that would guarantee a fine time would be had by all. He told me to trust him about this belief, and I was able to do so because I could tell he was sincere. He wasn’t scolding me or minimizing my feelings. He acknowledged them and then found a way to counter them with words I could believe in.
My son was born sweet and loving and he has always had a big heart and a generous spirit. But I would like to think that he learned some of his comforting techniques from me. When he was younger, we had lots of talks about what being angry or upset with someone meant – that it didn’t mean withholding of love EVER. We also talked about my father’s belief that a problem that can be fixed with money is not really a problem at all. We talked about people making mistakes, and the different reasons for them. Some mistakes are made because the person did not think things through, or the person wasn’t thoughtful in his decision-making. Some mistakes are made because we are all human and sometimes we mess up. Some mistakes are made because someone else in the scenario messed up. We often talked about the consequences of one’s behavior, how losing one’s temper (something we both do) impacts on others and what to do about that, and the great feeling that comes from understanding how bad people feel when they have made a mistake and letting them know everything will be okay.
But I never knew if he was paying attention or if he believed me. He’s had some crummy stuff happen to him in his life, some disappointments and betrayals he did not deserve, and he felt a lot of emotional pain because of those things. I tend to want to endlessly explain or try to come up with solutions, when all the other person really wants is comfort. I had to work hard at that and to learn how to suppress my natural urge to create action steps. What I learned on Friday was that I may have pulled it off, at least some of the time!
There is no feeling that compares to having your baby (and he still is, to me) hold you in his arms and tell you everything will be all right. This is what you have to look forward to, Moms (in only 20 to 25 years from now – and it will fly by)!