Last week my parents went to Stanley Freeman’s 70th birthday party. Stanley is the father of one my best childhood friends, and she was in attendance along with her gynecologist and dentist brothers, and all three of their spouses. There were also four grandchildren and, for good measure, the dentist brother used the occasion to announce his wife was pregnant. On our weekly call my parents went on and on about the filet mignon and the speeches the kids gave and how funny Stanley’s wife, Rivanne, was with her five martinis, but I’m pretty sure all that progeny made quite an impression too.
My parents have a long tradition of Jewish family envy. I know it’s a stereotype, but the truth is all the Jewish families we know are big and close and successful. It makes quite a contrast to our own family’s grandchild-lessness and waspish trademark lack of warmth and intimacy. It’s not that we don’t like each other, it’s just that we’re not very touchy feely about it. I, for one, am quite happy with our familial arrangement and have no desire to be “friends” with my parents. And frankly, none of us can really be bothered. While the weight of responsibility for the family being grandchild free rests squarely on my shoulders, my parents aren’t going out of their way either. Despite the fact that I’ve lived in England for five years, they haven’t found the energy to pay a visit.
The last time my parents admired a Jewish family this much was when my cousin married into one. The wedding was an extravagant affair at a ski resort in Utah, culminating in a Sunday champagne brunch thrown by the groom’s grandparents. At breakfast the bride’s family took a backseat as the groom’s family toasted each other with lavish compliments highlighting their multi-generational successes. My parents were suitably impressed.
The happy couple were divorced within a year, and while I take no pleasure in the breakup of my cousin’s marriage, I do view it as a cautionary tale for my parents. For now, the closest my family is going to get to being Jewish is a bowl of matzo ball soup at Canter’s Deli.