It wasn’t the fancy New York vacation we were expecting, with extravagant restaurants and the sights, or the classic family road trip. It was a Kosher nightmare for my goyishe sister and me, who felt constantly criticized by our orthodox Jewish uncle into not spending our money. Or having fun. When we did what we wanted, he sulked in the background, and dampened our spirits. Soon, our friendly, happy spirited relationship as Uncle and nieces was embittered, as when carpeting gets stained by a sick child.
During the summer going into my sophomore year, my Uncle Larry offered to take my sister and I on a cross-country trip. He was first driving his Israeli relatives on a trip to New York, so he needed company on the long ride home to Phoenix. We agreed and were extremely elated to see more of America. My sister was had just graduated from high school that year, so it seemed especially important for us to bond. Also, we saw our Uncle as fun and adventurous, but it seemed now that we were older, we couldn’t understand each other, being teenagers.
During our time in New York, we didn’t see the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, or the Empire State Building, because we figured, it wouldn’t be worth the time and money. But we still wanted to. We didn’t see Rockefeller Plaza like the normal tourists because we were tired of walking and Uncle Larry, or name before immigrating, Lutze, would not pay for taxis. We understood why; it’s not that the funds weren’t present, but because his parents had lived through the Holocaust, in concentration camps, instilling in him survival mechanisms that some perceive as penny pinching or greed. We knew he wasn’t greedy though. We loved him, and those ideals were passed onto my sister Kim and me as well, making us the indecisive, yet practical spenders we are now.
Kim and I grew up in an extremely reformed Jewish household, yet our father’s side is Christian, exposing us to a great amount of pork, shrimp, lobster, and cheeseburgers; all which are considered nefarious dietary options by the Jews. On this trip though, we had to remain Kosher. At first it was fine; not milk mixing milk and meat wasn’t a big deal, and we loved kosher hot dogs. But then, as the trip wore on, we’d stop into Kosher delis, and the taste was getting old. We’d eat continental breakfasts from hotels and take bagels and cream cheese packets for lunch much of the time.
We did get to see Julieta Venegas, a great singer, in Central Park for a Latino music festival, and went to some museums, but Larry hated it the entire time, not letting us out of his sight. Soon Kim and I distanced ourselves from the man, hardly talking on the road, as we read or listened to ipods. One day, he confronted us, demanding us to “listen to his music and talk to him.” We realized that it wasn’t much to ask, but did so grudgingly. In discussion of his viewpoints, we learned that his viewpoints on immigration seemed very old-fashioned and contradictory, because he had been an immigrant himself. We hated his stubbornness, and what we perceived as racism. We couldn’t wait to get home, but enjoyed the trip as much as we could on our own, which we now see was a bad attitude. We should not have let money or ideologies get in our way of having a good family experience. We are family, and have ironically since become vegetarians; and basically Kosher.
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