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Friday, August 25, 2017

A Word From the Weiss


Pattie at the Space Needle in Seattle.jpg

      It’s been a long, hot summer. Not to mention a busy one, at least in the world of this nice Jewish mom. But believe me, I’m not complaining! I can only hope that you’re still there after all this time, and that you can forgive me for disappearingSorry about thatbut it couldn’t be helped. I mean, it was summerI had things to do. Places to go. And people to see, including my summer-school students. But now I’m back. Back at last!

Pattie in Butchart Garden in Victoria.JPG

       The good news is that I’m back with good news. And when I say good, I don’t just mean good.

       I mean REALLY good. (Dare I say HUGE?)

Good news.jpg

       Make that amazing! 

       Before I tell you what happened, let me assure you, as well as my daughter, that what I am about to tell you will be the truth and nothing but the truth, but it won’t necessarily be the whole truth. Because the story that you are about to read is in large part her story.

       And also because this story revolves around our (or more accurately her) future in-laws. By which I mean my machultunim.

       That, as you may or may not know, is the Yiddish term for the parents of the person whom your son or daughter marries. My son, as you know, got married last summer. Now it’s my daughter’s turn.

       Yup. That’s rightYou heard it here first. My daughter is ENGAGED! To be MARRIED!

Allegra and JP in Vancouver.jpg

       Before I get to the actual proposal, though, let me tell you about whom she’s marrying. And how our summer began.

       In early June, Allegra and her longtime boyfriend JP were here visiting for the weekend when his mother happened to call him.

       In all the years that they had been dating – nearly three at the time, but who’s counting? – my husband and I had never met his parents.

       We hadn’t met them in part because they live very far away. And in part because we had been waiting until we got some kind of formal announcement from Allegra and JP that might require us to meet. But in those nearly three years that they had been dating, such an announcement had yet to come. So I was excited when JP’s mother called.

We had never met JP's parents.jpg

       Upon hearing that I was in the room, she asked when we were coming to visit them. That depended on JP, I said. But when I asked him about it later, he merely shrugged.

       The truth was, I wasn’t really asking him when we might be invited to visit. Let’s face it. (I’m sure he did.) I was really asking if a reason to meet his parents might be imminentBut as the summer continued to fly by, neither an actual invitation nor reason ensued.

       JP is half German and half Hong Kong Chinese. But he is also 100 percent mensch. Allegra met him in the summer of 2014, soon after she arrived in Hong Kong to sing for a few months there at the Four Seasons HotelThat meeting was hardly by chance.

JP and Allegra met in HK.JPG

       Back in high school, my husband’s best friend was a British exchange student named Paul. Decades later, Paul’s son Tom was best friends with JP in college, at Oxford. When Tom learned that Allegra would be living in Hong Kong, he asked JP, who had just moved back there, to look in on her and make sure that she knew her way around.

       They met for lunch at a dumpling shop. Dumplings led to dinner. Followed by many more lunches and dinnersSoon she knew her way around, but they continued to meet.

       When I asked Allegra who this fellow was that she was spending so much time with, she assured me that they were just friends. But one day she sent me a picture of them.

       One look at the expression in JP’s eyes, and, being a nice Jewish mom, I knew better.

JP and Allegra clearly smitten.JPG

       Poor JP. He was a goner. And my daughter was clearly smitten, too.

       Neither one complained when the Four Seasons chose to extend Allegra’s three-month singing engagement for nearly four seasons. After it was over, she elected to stay on.

       And when she was finally ready to come home, after a full year, JP chose to follow.

       Having met him while visiting her, we were thrilled. He has a smile that lights up a room, a delightful British accent, and the sweetest nature of anyone I have ever met in my life.

       Best of all, and far more profoundhe adores my daughter and treats her like a treasure.

       So as the years passed, we kept hoping for an announcement. But it had yet to come.

       And so meeting JP’s parents had remained on hold. When I said that they live far away, I meant FAR. They spend half the year in Vancouver, and the other half in Hong Kong. We live in Connecticut. Allegra and JP, I learned, would be visiting them in Vacouver in August themselves.

Allegra and JP in Vancouver on sofa.jpg

       How likely was it that they would get through another summer without getting engaged?

       Honestly, it’s not that I was rushing things. But I will admit that I was a little worried.

       I wasn’t worried about their getting engaged. That, I figured, would happen eventually.

       I was worried about meeting his parents. Or more accurately, not getting to meet them.

       If we didn’t meet his parents before they returned to Hong Kong in the fall, and the kids got engaged, then we might not get to meet them till the wedding itself.

       And if I was going to have new machultunin, then I definitely wanted to meet them first.

       So when my husband began to suggest a wide variety of exotic locations for this year’s summer vacation, from Amsterdam to various cities in Japan, I firmly stood my ground.

       And continued to quietly needle poor JP.

       As exotic as Amsterdam and Japan might be, I wanted to go to Vancouver instead

I wanted to go to Seattle.JPG

       Finally, Allegra and JP agreed to let us join them for the weekend they’d spend there.

       We bought our plane tickets. And planned the trip. But still no announcement came.

       And then, a few days before we left in mid-August, we suddenly got some news.

       No, not just news. BIG news.

       Allegra and JP had gone shopping. Shopping for a ring. And they’actually found one!

Allegra's engagement ring.JPG

       It was a beautiful ring. Aengagement ring.

       But it needed to be sized and wouldn’t be ready until after we returned from Vancouver. So there would be no engagement before we left.

       We were excited. Not to mention delighted. But now it was really awkward. We were going to meet his parents to presumably celebrate our kids’ impending engagement. But they weren’t engaged yet. How could we celebrate something before it even happened?

His parents wanted to serve lobster and champagne.jpg

       A day or two before we left, Allegra called to say that JP had told his parents about the ring, and that they’d invited us over on our first night there for lobster and champagne.

       This was good news. Very good. Never mind that lobster may be the ultimate in trayf (food forbidden by the laws of kashrut)My husband and I don’t keep kosherI love lobster. Yum! But best of allwhen people hear that their child is getting married, and their first reaction is “Lobster and champagne!”  rather than, say, sackcloth and ashes – you can pretty much figure that they have no objections to the match whatsoever.

       They see it as cause for celebration.

       But I must admit that my husband and I were still a bit disappointed about one little thing. We were still hoping that JP might call us before the trip to ask for our permission to seek Allegra’s hand in marriage. When we dared to mention this to her, she laughed.

       “No one does that anymore! she insisted. This kind of formality was too old-fashioned.

Chuppah with bride and groom.jpg

       Old-fashioned? We didn’t care. Getting married under a chuppah is also old-fashioned. Some traditions are so meaningful and meant to last that they will never go out of style.

       JP, however, didn’t call. And so, we flew off to Vancouver with things still up in air.

Dim sum with JP's parents and godparents.jpg

      On our first afternoon there, we went out for delicious dim sum with JP’s parents, as well as his godparents. Jews, as you may know, don’t have godparents. But we figured it was a good thing to be invited to meet his. Even if this led to our eating even more trayf. (Please notice the Chinese dress I bought just for the occasion. They did.) 

       We spent the rest of the day with the kidsand their little dog Lunasightseeing nearby.

Luna and Allegra.JPG

       Then we went back to the parents’ exquisite apartment for lobster and champagne.

       We ate the lobster. We drank the champagne. Even though the kids weren’t engaged.

       During dinner, JP’s father, who is German, began to tell us a story from his childhood. During WWII, his parents risked all of their lives to hide a family of Jews in the attic. They were among the righteous who tried to save their neighbors from the NazisUnfortunately, after some time, the hidden family was discovered and promptly killed. And JP’s grandfather was arrested and taken to Dachau for the remainder of the war.

       It was truly tragic, a heart-rending story, and as he told it JP’s father’s eyes welled up. Hearing it, so did mine. But then, suddenly, he completely changed the subject.

       “Why am I talking about these things right now?” he asked. “JP has something to say.”

       At this, all eyes turned to JP, who looked startled, then began to tell a story of his own, with both fathers impatiently egging him on.

       He spoke of the dumpling shop where he and Allegra had metthe good friend who had introduced them, and their wonderful year spent in Hong Kong together. But what I remember most clearly is what he said happened when Allegra wanted to return home.

       “I decided not to let this one get away,” he said, his voice nearly cracking with emotion.

Allegra and JP after his proposal.jpg

       He’s going to do it at last, I thought. Ask for our permission. Maybe even our blessing! But that was not where this story went.

       Instead, he began talking of wanting to spend his future life with Allegra. Then he asked her to marry him. Right in front of both sets of parents. With our permission, he added – and yes, our blessingof course.

       At this, Allegra began to cry. Then they hugged and kissed. I gasped. OK, maybe screamed.

JP's father and Allegra.JPG

       His father bounded up and congratulated the kids. His parents were clearly ecstatic.

       Mazel tov!

       There was only one teeny little thing that I was not entirely thrilled about.

       As exciting as this turn of events was, the happy couple immediately ordered us not to tell anyone. Being the mensch that he is, JP wanted the chance to propose once again, but properly – with ring in hand – as soon as we returned from our trip. It would be very anti-climactic to do this if everyone on earth (or at least Facebook) already knew.

       So we had to sit on the biggest news of our lives and keep mum for another 10 days.

       I couldn’t tell my family.

       Couldn’t tell friends.

       That wasn’t a thrill. It was tantamount to torture. The greatest joy of having good news, I suddenly realized, was getting to share it with the people you care about most.

Allegra at high tea with Congratulations.jpg

       When we went for high tea a few days later at the posh Empress Hotel on Vancouver Island, I couldn’t post any photos on Facebook. My husband had tipped off the dining room about the newsso our tray arrived with “Congratulations!” scrawled in chocolate. How could I risk having some astute observer ask, Congratulations for what?”

Seafood in Seattle.JPGAt Butchart Garden with my family.jpg

       We still had a wonderful time on the rest of our vacation. We got to explore the beautiful Butchart Garden on Vancouver Island. Then Allegra, her Dad, and I flew to Seattle, where we visited bustling Pike Place Market, sampled the local beer, and, yes, ate even more trayf.

Pattie drinking local brew in Seattle.JPG

       Allegra also performed twice, at two different restaurants, including a funky place called The Royal Room.

       But given the circumstances, as much fun as we had, I still couldn’t wait to go home.

Allegra at The Royal Room in Seattle.JPG

       Now we are back at last. And “mum” is no longer the word. I’m not just free to tell friends and family. I’m telling the world. And you!

       Although the second proposal was far more private, I have it on good authority that it involved purple roses (Allegra’s favorite color) and that JP actually got down on one knee.

       And Allegra now has the ring!

Allegra and JP ENGAGED!.JPG

       For once, Nice Jewish Mom was right. Good thing we weren’t in Amsterdam or Japan. Now I can definitively say to my husband, “I told you so!”

       But the best thing is that the kids are engaged. And we (and they) couldn’t be happier.

       As for when and where the nuptials might take place, that remains to be seen. All I know is that it will be sometime after my machultunim return from Hong Kong in May.

       So, I predict that we are in for yet another long, hot, and very busy summer.

4:13 pm 

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That's me. The redhead on the right. But that is NOT my baby.

     No, sir, that's not my baby. How could any mother smile beatifically while her own child wailed? Never mind that neither of my offspring ever cried so plaintively, as far as I recall (not while I was there to nurture them through their every perceptible need... although my son still complains that I often dressed him in garish and girlish color schemes, scarring him FOR LIFE).
     Besides, I'm distinctly beyond prime delivery age ("Kitchen's closed!" as my mother might say), and my kids had departed the diaper stage by the dawn of the Clinton Administration. Now in their 20s, both are currently living on their own, in not-too-distant cities, although each manages to phone me daily. In fact, to be exact, several times a day, then sometimes text me, too. (That may sound excessive, and emotionally regressive, but I subscribe to the Jewish mother's creed when it comes to conversing with kinder: Too much is never enough.)
     Two demanding decades spent raising two kids who are kind, highly productive and multi-talented, who generally wear clean underwear (as far as I can tell), and who by all visible signs don't detest me are my main credentials for daring to dole out advice in the motherhood department.
     Presenting myself as an authority on all matters Jewish may be trickier to justify.
     Yes, I was raised Jewish and am biologically an unadulterated, undisputable, purebred Yiddisheh mama. I'm known for making a melt-in-your-mouth brisket, not to mention the world's airiest matzah balls this side of Brooklyn. My longtime avocation is writing lyrics for Purim shpiels based on popular Broadway productions, from "South Pers-cific" to "The Zion Queen." Then again, I'm no rabbi or Talmudic scholar. I can't even sing "Hatikvah" or recite the Birkat Hamazon. Raised resoundingly Reform, I don't keep kosher, can barely curse in Yiddish, and haven't set foot in Israel since I was a zaftig teen.
     Even so, as a longtime writer and ever-active mother, I think I have something to say about being Jewish and a mom in these manic and maternally challenging times. I hope something I say means something to you. Welcome to my nice Jewish world!   
In coming weeks, I will continue posting more personal observations, rants, and even recipes (Jewish and otherwise). So keep reading, come back often, and please tell all of your friends, Facebook buddies, and everyone else you know that NiceJewishMom.com is THE BOMB!
The family that eats together (and maybe even Tweets together): That's my son Aidan, me, my daughter Allegra, and Harlan, my husband for more than 26 years, all out for Sunday brunch on a nice summer weekend in New York.

Comments? Questions? Just want to kvetch? Please go to GUESTBOOK/COMMENTS.