Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Woman Who Makes Jacob Happy

Jacob really only sees his parents twice a year. They live in Syracuse, NY and he generally sees them at Thanksgiving and Passover. This year it made sense to ask them to come out here for Passover since the first two nights were on Wednesday and Thursday and I would have to miss a lot of class to attend. Once they were here, they stayed through the weekend. It seemed like a perfect time for our parents to meet.

What was unfortunate is that many Jewish people restrict their diets further during Passover to remember the affliction of the Jews as they escaped from Egypt. Wheat flour that has been leavened at all is out, as well as all legumes (peas, chickpeas, soybeans, corn), all other grains. Do you know how many products have a derivative of either soy or corn? For Jacob's family, this is in addition to eating only certified kosher meat and keeping milk meals and meat meals separate. Also, during Passover, it's impossible to eat in restaurants since there is no guarantee that the ingredients are pure.

(Some families go even further and use separate dishes and pots and pans for milk and meat meals plus they kasher the house, which involves throwing away all existing food that is not kosher for Passover. Luckily, that's not part of Jacob's tradition.)

So, my parents invited Jacob's parents over for dinner. They also invited all of my brothers and all of Jacob's brothers to recreate the experience we had with Meena's family.

Despite my anxiety beforehand, things went swimmingly. I didn't engage many of the 15 other participants in conversation because I was happy just wandering from room to room and seeing small groups Montagues talking with Capulets. (Today, my younger brother told me that Jacob's mom had a story about Jacob, saying that he was the easiest child to shop for presents: one year he only asked for "his own bag of oranges." How much do I love that man? And how much do I love that his mom told that story?)

I am hoping that the evening calmed some of their fears. We all have those kinds of fears. Fears that someone you love will attach to different kinds of people and drift away from you. Fears that you will be judged and found lacking by new people. I totally empathize.

However, I hope that in seeing that I come from good, laid-back people who have produced other children that are stable enough to successfully social, some of their fears will be put to rest. There were no giant crucifixes on the wall; the house doesn't communicate ostentatious wealth. I am also hoping that once those fears are put to rest, the difficult interactions will decrease.

Jacob's brother Josh and his sister-in-law Claire were extremely gracious and brought a bottle of Champagne to toast us but neither set of parents were really comfortable giving the toast. Each side said some halting words regarding long life and love. Then, Jacob's brother Barry stepped forward.

"I didn't know Rebecca before she knew Jacob but I've known Jacob for a long time. I've never seen him as happy as he is now."

I cried.

Of course.

I have found that this aspect of marriage is very important to me. To be The Woman Who Makes Jacob Happy is an identity I never expected to have. It turns out that I'm very proud of it. The day after we got engaged, I wrote this in my journal:
It's just that I had sort of written off ever being that woman. . . It's somewhat overwhelming that Jacob can change my identity with one question. I know that people will say, "Jacob didn't do it. You're the agent of your own destiny" because we all want to believe that we are completely self-sufficient. But I could not be a woman who makes a man so happy he's willing to bet the rest of his life on her without Jacob's agency being involved just a little.
Joining families of different traditions is hard work but if it makes it easier to be The Woman Who Makes Jacob Happy, then I'm willing to do it.


mushroommeadows said... sweet!

Jake and Jess said...

when i first met jake there were a number of his friends who made that exact comment. it still give me shivers everytime i hear it... "the woman who makes Jacob happy..."