Thursday, May 30, 2013

Friday Funnies: Randomness

I'll admit that this post is a little very random.  The events described here didn't even happen recently.  But as I was preparing dinner I found myself contemplating the various ways others have identified me in the past and figured it could be funny enough for a post.

The beginning of the train of thought was thinking of my new nephews names.  Both are very unique.  Very strong.  I like them (not that it matters what I think of their names).  Then I thought of our kids' names.  Joshua.  Hannah.  Abigail.  Jeremiah.  Very common.  Very Biblical.  Very Hebrew.  I like them.  Then I thought of my own name.  Rebecca.  Also common.  Also Biblical.  Also Hebrew (except for the spelling).  Also liked by me ("Thanks, Mom and Dad!").  And all of this reminded me of an encounter I had a few years ago as I was walking down the streets of Hartsdale, NY with our kiddos (then only numbering two).

Another stay-at-home mom, whom I had met previously, crossed my path.  She was just about to deliver her second child - a boy.  Not knowing more about me and the kids than our names, the building where we lived, and our usual time to walk up and down the street, my neighbor asked me this question, "Do you have a recommendation for someone to perform a Bris?"

I stood there, searching my internal dictionary and vainly trying to make connections in order not to sound as ignorant as I was.  "A bris?" I thought to myself.  "What is a bris?"  Then I made a couple of connections based on the very little information I knew of my neighbor.  I knew her name and her daughter's name, I knew which building she lived in, and I knew what time of day she walked up and down the street.  Did I know anything else about this person?

Think.  Think.  Think.

*Ding!*  I remembered that she mentioned once that she was Jewish.  This "bris" must be some kind of ceremony.  And then I put it all together.  Baby boy due very soon.  Mother looking for a recommendation of who and where to hold a bris.  Covenant between Abraham (you know, Father Abraham with the many sons?) and God to circumcise all males on the eighth day after their birth.  Yes.  I knew what a bris was.  But why was she asking me???

Some more thinking and it hit me.  She thought we were Jewish.  After all, my first name is Hebrew.  Both of our kids' first names are Hebrew.  We lived in an area where it was common to be nominally Jewish (which, by the way, is excellent if you're into bakeries and things).  My neighbor did not know our last name.  She had never met my husband.  Of course, she had no idea that we're about as far from being Jewish as, well, Gentiles.  Pork is like a staple in Asian cuisine, is it not?  But no one ever mistakes our kids for being half Chinese anyway...even though I was thought to be part Asian by a college friend.  Anyway...back to the conversation.

So, after a slight pause, I replied, "No.  I'm sorry.  We didn't have one for Joshua."

To which she replied, having perhaps recognized her error, "Oh...okay."

I didn't think it was worth mentioning that my Chinese-Malaysian-Australian-transplanted-to-the-U.S. husband would probably be Jewish if he could.  (We are grafted in, aren't we?)  Nor did I share with her that my Grandpa Tino, being the good Italian-American grandfather that he was, sometimes called me "Rivkah" for the sheer pleasure of getting me riled up.  (As a kid I didn't know that he was calling me by the true Hebrew form of my name.)  Perhaps those things would only be confusing...and a bit unnecessary for such an encounter.

And so, having established ignorance on both our parts, we each continued on our way in true New York fashion - pretending like the whole thing never happened.  Kind of like how my neighbors who were within 15 feet of my about-to-give-birth-in-less-than-an-hour self casually walked by as if they didn't notice an incredibly pregnant woman, leaning on a rail, groaning through contractions.  "Don't worry, neighbors.  I'm not really about to give birth.  At least I hope it doesn't happen here.  Really, there's no need to stop.  I'm not really alone.  My husband and 15-month-old son are just walking up the steep hill to get our car so that we can go to the hospital where childbirth won't scare people away (except for that poor male nursing student who has no idea that he's about to witness a natural childbirth in less than an hour).  Yes, just keep walking.  It's making me laugh, actually, and that's saying something for someone who is in transition."  I jest.  That morning I was truly thankful for the skill people in our old neighborhood had for pretending like they didn't see or hear you.  I really did want to be left alone.  How awkward would a conversation about a bris have been at that point???  ;)

 Here we are, looking Jewish as only a half-Italian mom and two half-Chinese kids can look. Circa 2009. This would have been around the time of the bris conversation and several months after I learned the best way to avoid an unwanted conversation with neighbors - just look really pregnant and do your best to convince them that you are in very active labor.  They'll probably leave you alone.

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