I’ve just returned from my cousin’s house. A laughter-filled, question loving house on the edge of the “Jewish” neighborhood. It stands in stark contrast to my upbringing, and it seems so foreign a thought that our parents (number four and five) grew up closely in the same household.
We spent hours talking about normal things. How my parents’ basement was a great place to spend a winter shabbos afternoon or how our zaide, a man I can barely remember, would meticulously cut the edges off cheese sandwiches he made for every eineklech who walked through the door. We talked about heavy things. We talked about light things. We could have been regular, normal cousins having a regular, normal conversation but for the covering on our heads and the Yiddish being spoken.
I understand that my cousin doesn’t have a vested interest in my observance or custody case. I get she doesn’t need to speak firmly with me because she understands there’s nothing she can do to change either situation. And still she laughs with me, open about everything and closed to nothing but our family’s growing intolerance.
How did our two family branches grow so far away from each other? How come I get the judgemental, soul-destroying branch while there’s another one immediately adjacent that boasts such a caring relative? Are our family values so skewed that mine values outside perception while hers is okay with just supporting the family you don’t get to choose but love anyway?
I know not everything can be perfect there. Nothing can be. I just wish my perfect looked a lot closer to hers.