Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Relaxed, and a little sad

"Cute necklace," I said to Jerusha when we met up for dinner the first night of our vacation.

"Cute? These are real, Ayelet!" she said, fingering the gumball-sized South Sea pearls dangling from her ears and around her neck. They were a 15th-anniversary gift from my brother-in-law, who is a quiet but passionate man. Fortunately, I didn't really like the mixed shades -- gray, white, green, peach, and gold -- so I wasn't completely overcome by envy.

I was staying in one bungalow with my mother (Dad couldn't make it), my cousin Yaffa, and Yaffa's girlfriend, Christine. Shoshana's parents and sister, Yonit, were in another bungalow with Yonit's husband and children. Jerusha and her family were in a third bungalow.

Yaffa and Yonit are from the not-religious side of my family, but Jerusha and I are very close with them; we grew up in the same town. We're scattered now, in California, Illinois, and New York, but we try to get together at least every other year. It was so wonderful to see Jerusha's kids playing with and loving Yonit's kids, and to think that the closeness will extend to the next generation.

These vacations are a little tough for me, though. The kids love Aunt Ayelet, and everyone wants me there -- I considered bailing on the trip but reconsidered after being pelted with disappointed emails. But being single amid all that married hurts. I include Yaffa and Christine among the married; they've been together for about ten years, bought a house together, and wear wedding rings. Yonit's children, whose father is Israeli, call them Doda Yaffa and Doda Chrissy. Jerusha's kids call them Aunt Yaffa and Aunt Chrissy, but are still a little confused by them.

Shira and Malka are obsessed with marriage and relationships -- how everyone is connected to everyone else. Yesterday, lounging by the pool, Shira started asking me questions.

"Aunt Ayelet, I'm related to you by blood, and Daddy is related to you by marriage, right?" Shira asked. I told her that was correct. "Are you related to Shimmy by marriage?" Shimmy is my brother-in-law's nephew; his family lives in Israel, and he was in the U.S. for about a month to visit his grandparents and uncle. He joined us on the trip.

"Shimmy and I aren't related," I told her. "Mommy is related to him by marriage, but I'm not related to him."

"So you could marry him?" she asked.

"Shira, Shimmy is 13. I'm almost three times his age."

"But you could," she persisted.

"Legally, not for at least five years. Morally... never."

She certainly is determined to get me married off. I wish her parents had one-tenth her enterprise in that regard.

Yaffa came over and sat down, sprinkling us with chlorinated droplets. "Aunt Yaffa, why aren't you married?" Shira asked.

"Hello to you, too, Shira," said Yaffa. "I can't marry Christine, and if I can't marry her, I don't want to marry anybody else."

Shira pondered this, furrowing her brow. "You don't want to marry a boy?" she asked.

Yaffa has always been very discreet when describing herself and her life to my sister's kids, who haven't really met many lesbians. She said, "You know how your mommy loves your daddy? That's how I love Christine. We live together and we love each other."

Malka was bewitched by cool, omniscient Aunt Yaffa, with whom she enjoyed long nature walks in the woods and cooking vegetables for dinner each night. She wanted to spend as much time as possible with Yaffa and suggested a sleepover. "Can I stay in Aunt Yaffa's room tonight?" she asked me. It's funny how Jerusha's kids will sometimes ask me for permission to do something, and even funnier that I actually do have some authority over them. They often obey me more willingly than her.

"You can sleep with Shira," Malka wheedled. Shira has been feeling slighted because when I visit them I sleep with Malka in her double bed, and not with Shira in her twin. I had told Shira we'd sleep together in the Catskills, but Malka didn't want to take my bed in the room with my mother, who unfortunately snores. She was brainstorming alternative sleeping arrangements.

"There's only one bed in Aunt Yaffa's room, Malka."

"I can sleep in the bed with her!"

"She sleeps in the bed with Aunt Chrissy, Malka. I don't think there's room for another person."

Aunt Chrissy was surprisingly game. "We usually sleep with three dogs and four cats," she said. "There's probably room for a small person."

But I managed to talk Shira out of a Catskills sleepover with Aunt Ayelet by promising to sleep in her new trundle bed over Rosh Hashana, so Malka wouldn't have to sleep with Grandma. I didn't have a problem with her staying overnight with Yaffa and Chris, but I wanted them to have their space. They love children, but they have dogs and cats. They were playing and spending a lot of time with the kids, and I didn't want us to impose on them too much.

Shira's conversation wasn't the only one that hit home. On a walk with Jerusha a few weeks ago, she'd been pointing out houses in the neighborhood that she might like our parents to move into when they get older. Today I told Mom about that -- how Jerusha looks for ranch houses close by so the parents won't have to climb stairs or walk too far -- and Jerusha said, "Yeah, I'm looking for a house for you and Mom and Dad."

Ouch. She doesn't believe I'll ever get married. I know she's looking out for me -- obviously doesn't want me to be elderly, homeless, and alone, and, as she put it, "I can't afford to buy three houses." But it still stung. I was kind of relieved to hug everyone and go home.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. That was a pretty shitty thing for Jerusha to say, but as far as the kids are concerned, they're just trying to sort out the world. Kinda like when my 8-year-old cousin said to me, "You've been married for like three years. Why can't you get your woman pregnant?"

    Actually, it's not quite the same. Your nieces aren't hellspawn.

    It's good to have you back, love. I, for one, missed you.

  2. About the pearls or about the house? ;) I'm glad my nieces are nicer than your cousin!

  3. this was a good post.

    i'm not too crazy about tantes chrissy and yaffa, but whatever.

    you're so lucky to have a close family. they'll all be dancing at your wedding, im yirtze hashem VERY soon.