Sunday, January 10, 2010

Meeting the parents, meeting the kids

I'm in an interesting state. I'm not having any of the mood symptoms of depression -- I'm not unhappy -- but the vegetative symptoms are making it impossible for me to blog. Somehow I function at work; I conduct individual and group therapy, I take care of case management issues like entitlements or housing, I do intakes and assessments. I'm even funny on occasion. But writing is torture. My concentration is poor, and my creativity is low. And I don't feel like doing anything at night. Last night I was invited to two parties and didn't go to either. Just not in the mood.

I met JV's parents last Sunday. We went to their apartment after going out to dinner so he could take a look at their virus-infested laptop. As we walked in, JV hugged his father, and his mother and I smiled at each other nervously. Both of us were kind of holding ourselves back, not sure whether to lean in for a hug. Ultimately we didn't; I'm not a big hugger, except with my family.

Mrs. V served us tea and the sweetest pastries I've ever tasted. It was like hypersugar. Some of them were bouncy little meringue blobs, tasting of strawberry and sugar and sugar; there was also a cake that was layers of crispy meringue, custard, and chocolate frosting. I have a sweet tooth, but these cakes were insanely sweet. I don't know how JV finished his piece, although as he pointed out, I did have dessert in the restaurant and he didn't. (If I go somewhere and they offer chocolate souffle, it's a given that I'll get it. I'm too lazy to make it at home. The restaurant we went to didn't quite cook it long enough, so it was like warm chocolate batter, but I like chocolate batter, so that wasn't a problem.)

We spoke in English, although Mr. V's English is only slightly better than my Russian. JV couldn't fix the computer right away, so after a few more tooth-aching bites, he took me home. As we left, JV hugged both of his parents, and I smiled at them, all of us kind of holding ourselves back from a hug.

A week later, today, I met JV's kids, Malchick 1 (M1), aged 7, and Malchick 2 (M2), aged 6. JV told them, Friday night, that he has a "special friend" they were going to meet on Sunday.

"Do you remember Ayelet?" he asked them.

"She's the girl that's afraid of mice," said M2. "Why is she afraid of mice? She's a grown-up."

(Nice to meet a child who does believe I'm a grown-up.)

"Babushka (Grandma) is afraid of mice too, remember?" said JV. "Girls are scared of mice." I'd call him a sexist but unfortunately he's right.

So we met at a place that represents one of the compromises I'm making for this relationship: EJ's Luncheonette. A diner. Not a kosher restaurant. I'm probably falling from grace in all your eyes. The kids had pancakes; JV and I had omelets. The kids seemed to like the gifts I got them: a book about sharks and some of those foam toys that expand 600% in water, shaped like an octopus and a manta ray.

After brunch we walked to the American Museum of Natural History. M1 took my hand as we left the diner, and M2 walked with JV. Throughout the day the kids would take my hand, or grab my coat, or pull on my arm. Very comfortably and naturally. To them, I guess I was just another nice grown-up to pay them some attention.

It's funny how kids latch on to something you say offhand and then talk about it for 10 minutes or more. An alarm kept going off, briefly, as we walked around the apatosaurus.

"Is that the fire alarm?" asked M1.

"It could be the alarm that goes off if someone touches an exhibit," I said. "That happened to me once on a date. The guy leaned in to touch something, I said, 'Don't touch that!' but he did and an alarm went off. The security guard came over, and I pretended I didn't know the guy."

That led to a ridiculous number of questions.

"Why did you pretend you didn't know the guy?"

"Because I was embarrassed."

"Why were you embarrassed?"

"Because he was acting like a baby, and I told him not to do it and he did."

"Why were you there with him?"

Not enough time in the world to answer that one....

There was a very smart guy right in front of us at one of the exhibits, who seemed to know a lot about the topic. When the kids would ask JV and me about something, and we didn't know, he stepped up with the answers. At one point he heard JV talking to the kids in Russian.

"Oh, is that Russian?" he asked. "I speak a little Russian."

JV gestured for the kids to come over and say something to the know-it-all. I dug into my meager stock of Russian and said the equivalent of, "He speaking Russian!" The kids did not seem surprised. After they thanked me for their gifts I said "Pazhalusta."

"That means 'please,'" M1 informed me.

"Also 'you're welcome,'" I said.

"No, it doesn't," M1 said, bewildered.

"Yes, it does," said JV.

Ultimately, the kids got tired, so JV took them home to avert a possible meltdown. Overall I would say it was a successful first encounter.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. Frank Opinion1/10/2010 9:06 PM

    According to our tradition, eating trefe clogs up the spiritual pipes and makes it difficult to understand truth and spirituality. Personally I wouldn't call it a compromise for you to eat non-kosher. Only he can compromise that issue. You can give in on another issue but you are merely violating what you believe in to eat trefe. A true compromise is where you both can be satisfied. You bring kosher food to a trefe restaurant. You eat at the kosher restaurant and he keeps you company, then you keep him company at the non kosher restaurant. But anyway, if you've made your decision and I understand why, I want to encourage you to keep kosher as much as possible when you eat at a non-kosher establishment. No meat, no cheese. Pretend you are vegetarian, (except for eggs). In fact, in any area of compromise, you should try your best to keep as much of your ideals intact as possible. The Torah is not all or nothing. The Al-mighty understands the situation you are in. He loves you. Do as much as you can.

  2. I feel as is if a major depression is on it's merry way to knock me over for a few months.I sincerely hope not.

  3. Cut yourself some slack, A. Spiritual pipes are theoretical constructs, at best. Love and family are real. Your value is inestimable, and no omelette can change that. You did good. Everything should continue smoothly and well.

  4. I'm so thrilled for you Ayelet! Glad the meetings with the kids and parents have both gone well.

    Maybe being involved w/JV is somehow minimizing your depression; I hope so. Too bad it's there at all, but hopefully it will ebb as the days get longer.

    I agree with the last few sentences of Frank O's post. Go to the treif restaurant, but why not order a fruit salad and yogurt? I do it all the times at business meetings and nobody notices anything amiss.

  5. Sounds like things went really well with the kids! They sound like good kids. His parents were probably as cautious and nervous as you were.

    Best of luck, and it's true... if you're compromising your kashrut, it doesn't mean you have to eat pork and shrimp, either, or even non-kosher chicken. You can stick with salads and fish, many people I know consider this a workable compromise.

    May things go well, and continue to go well, and only increase in doing better and better. :)


  6. Ayelet,

    Eating an omlet in a non-kosher diner is how my grandparents, who considered themselves Orthodox, kept kosher. I may have stricter standards personally, but I never doubted their status as observant Jews.

  7. am I the only one finding these comments telling you what religious practices you should follow incredibly patronizing? Why do people think it is ever appropriate to tell another person what religious practices they should keep? Sheesh!

    Seems the meetings with family didn't go horribly, so congrats! If you felt awkward about not hugging his mom, farkin just hug her next time. :) Hugging really breaks the ice of awkwardness I think.

  8. Batzi: I sure hope not. Is there anything that's helped you in the past, like exercise, increasing medication, or going to talk therapy? Usually the light box helps me, but this January I'm feeling really draggy.

    Thanks to everyone else for your encouragement :)

  9. To Abandoning Eden,

    You would be totally correct under other circumstances. This blog, however, is putting out whatever the writer wants to put out there for others to read, learn from, find amusing or interesting, and AlSO comment on. People give relationship advice, encouragement, and comment on her spiritual struggles because she puts them out there. As long as people are not insulting or offensive. (And don't forget, the author of the blog doesn't have to air any comment that she doesn't want to.)