Friday, September 18, 2009

Nana and the New Year

The celebration of Rosh Hashanah, commonly referred to as the Jewish New Year, begins tonight at sundown.

I cherish my memories of Nana and the New Year.

Me: It’s not the new year, the new year is in January.
Nana: It is the new year of the Hebrew calendar and I think you know that.
Me: Shouldn’t there be just one calendar, seems confusing to have two.
Nana: Oh there are more than two. Didn’t you go to Chinatown for Chinese New Year?
Me: I thought that was just a festival with fireworks and costumes.
Nana: Really? That’s what you thought? So the book you read and the report you did for “extra bonus” (she meant extra credit), what was that about?

I’m sure my face was all mushed up at this point and my evil little eyes were gleaming. I loved teasing Nana, she enjoyed it so.

Me: Will you read to me in Russian and Hebrew?
Nana: No, you have no respect.
Me: feigning hurt – But …
Nana: Of course I’ll read to you as long as you try to pronounce the words the right way. We have a deal. You fix my English, I teach Russian and Hebrew and all the Yiddish sayings you love so much.
Me: Fine – still being a pain
Nana: I teach 3 languages, you teach 1. Doesn’t seem fair.
Me: I’ll go get the challah bread.

Challah bread is one of the gifts of the universe. Round, with a golden colored crust and light layers of goodness inside.

Nana: We’ll go together. And we’ll stop at the park to feed the squirrels and birds. I have some old bread ready for them. And some plain nuts.
Me: Is it Jewish Rye?
Nana: Yes, it is Jewish Rye for the birds for the New Year – she is laughing.
Me: And why are we throwing away the plain nuts?
Nana: Because I hate them, they are like eating rocks.
Me: But you can’t eat the salty ones, the doctor …
Nana: You’re not the boss of me – laughing even more

My father did not allow me to go to synagogue with Nana and she would not allow me to defy him or lie to my Mother. So I would walk her there and wait in the park in the back. The sound of the shofar always made me cry a bit – it still does.

I wish my aunts and uncles had exhibited more respect for Nana’s beliefs and traditions. My grandfather, a Christian, has insisted his children be raised in the Roman Catholic church. He was of the opinion that this would “make them more American”. Nana agreed. I think my grandfather was a source of huge hurt and disappointment to Nana. She had been so young when she married him and then they had fled Russia and then they struggled to just survive in America. I know she loved him and she would not want me to be disrespectful. Even now. I can hear her – “I don’t care how old you are! Some things are do what I say. Period.”

Years and years later one of my uncles embraced Judaism when he married.

I was always uncomfortable with organized religion but I was always fascinated by the history and the traditions. To this day I have a hodge podge of traditions that comfort me and that I believe honor Nana.

We would have New Year’s dinner together. Apples and honey cooked and baked into and onto a million different things. Rich thick cider and sparkling water.

Me: All these fruits and vegetables, I want a hamburger.
Nana: I made you a hamburger.
Me: No way!
Nana: I did, I did.
She would have some little dish covered with her “fancy holiday cloth napkins” and she would offer it across the table.
Me: This is really going to be a hamburger?
Nana: as I removed the napkin – Yes it is schmutz face, made from the tongue of a yak.

Nana’s giggle was music. Tonight at sundown I will close my eyes and hear it, and her Yiddish jokes, and her singing in Russian. I will hear the shofar. I will remember how the cloth napkins always smelled like spices.

I will remember, as I always do, that she was one of the most extraordinary people to have ever lived.

Shana Tova my friends. Be happy, be kind. Accept. Live and Learn.

And, as always, there is Hope …


Jeni said...

You know Dianne, I was just thinking here but in maybe 45-50 years, some woman will be writing a blog then about her Nana too -telling people that her Nana had a way with words, lots of spunk, loved certain special traditions, tried to teach her how to stand up for herself and have respect for herself as well as others and also, loved, loved, loved cats! Wonder who that might be? Good thing we do have Hope, huh?

gabrielle said...

May the new year taste of honeyed apples.

Daryl said...

Shana Tova, my dear friend .. and the new Nana. I know Nana is pretending to be annoyed, shaking her head but loving reading this as I was ... I miss your Nana and I never knew her .. xoxox

Oh .. your Hope .. she is gorgeous ..poo poo poo

pink dogwood said...

Happy New Year Dianne :)

bobbie said...

Happy New Year, Dianne!

Hope grows more beautiful every day!

Leora said...

Thank you for writing so beautifully about your Nana. I'm sure I would have liked her, too.

(Oh, and the Persians have a New Year in the spring, from before Islam came to Persia).

Shana Tova to you and yours. May it be a year of warmth, health, and happiness.

(my grandmother was a little the opposite of yours - she also came from Russia, but she was very secular - my mother married my father, who came from a religious family - so my grandmother used to challenge our Jewish rituals and strictness. I bet she would have gotten along with your Nana - I miss my Baba, too).

Sparkling Red said...

Happy Year 5770!

Sylvia K said...

Shana Tova to you, my friend. It's been fun reading about your Nana -- isn't it interesting that we all come from such different backgrounds, have such different memories of parents/grandparents/family in general and yet we all seem to find some common ground here in the blogging world! And, yes, one day there will be someone else writing about her spirited Nana -- because there's always Hope!


Anonymous said...

Shana Tova my friend. Wishing you and yours a sweet New Year filled with joy, love and of course Hope.

I so love your tales of Nana. Like many of her generation, she was so wise, loving and warm. We are blessed to have known people like that. Peace.

Linda said...

Your Nana sounds like she was one amazing woman and that your life was nothing but enriched from knowing her and learning from her.

Shana Tova to you and to Hope, too, who shall someday be able to tell stories like this about her Nana, too!

Travis said...

I learned this phrase and it's meaning yesterday from a Jewish friend of mine. I know the names of Jewish holidays, but not anything about the traditions and what they mean.

So I'm very pleased to be able to say to you, L'Shanah Tovah.

Ron said...

What a touching post, Dianne!

I felt like I was reliving your wonderful memories with you through your words.

And of course I had to laugh, when....

Me: Is it Jewish Rye?.


Nana sounded faabulous!

Thanks for sharing, dear lady!

Shana Tova!

X ya!

P.S. Smooch to Hope!

Pagan Sphinx said...

hugs and love and gratitude for such a lovely post, so full of love, from you. Have a good one.

Raven said...

I agree with what Jeni said in the first comment Nana lives on through you and you will be the same kind of Nana to Hope that your Nana was to you.

This was a beautiful memory. Thank you for sharing it. Happy New Year.

Hilary said...

Beautiful memories of your Nana. You brought her to life for us. I could hear her laugh, smell her kitchen .. feel your love for her. Shana Tova, Nana Dianne. And hugs to you and your Hope. :)

Cherie said...

That was wonderful! :)

Mrs. C said...

Happy new year to you, Dianne!

Matt-Man said...

Hee. Hee...I just did a Rosh Hashanah post. I almost used that same table setting picture. We need to stop channeling each other. Or not. Purrrrr. Cheers Di!!

Jay said...

I think it's great that you were exposed to different religions and different cultures growing up. Like you, I'm not a big fan of organized religions, but I do find them fascinating. And I can see where people find comfort in their traditions and customs.

Jay said...

Oh yeah, I forgot. L'Shana Tovah Dianne. ;-)

Rambling Woods said...

Happy New Year Dianne..Love the stories of Nana and the photos of Hope..... (sorry that you too have been down the rabbit hole).... Michelle

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

And A Very Happy New Year To You Too, My Dear Dianne....I love your memories of your Nana and the great love you have for her. She sounds like such a very very special woman and someone I would love to have known!

Scott Oglesby said...

I admit that I have some animosity towards the Israeli state. I had friends back in Florida who were from Lebanon watching their families get bombed out. But that has nothing to do with any individual whatsoever. Some of that food sounds delightful! And as my own grandfather came from Italy I don’t think that you should ever let some of those traditions go. It’s what makes us individuals. Have fun with all of your food, I’m jealous; there is nothing BUT pork to eat here. Well, chicken breast, I guess. Happy New Year!!!

the walking man said...

It is well to know the traditions even if we do not live by them. By knowing we acquire understanding and in understanding come acceptance.

Akelamalu said...

What lovely memories you have of your Nana. Hope just gets more beautiful by the day. :)

Jacob said...

A truly fine tribute to a remarkable woman! It is obvious you miss her a great deal and that she was a powerful influence in your life...

Immortality is in the memories...and what beautiful ones you have...and I would guess that Hope will have.

Shana tova my friend!

Micky-T said...

Happy New Year Dianne, I love hearing about you Nana!

maryt/theteach said...

L'Shanah Tovah, Dianne! Thank you for introducing me to your Nana. Enjoy! :)

CG said...

I always love to hear about Nana. And what a great first comment - I so agree!

Michael Manning said...

A very loving post to your Nana, Dianne! Well done.:)

jennifer said...

Shana Tova Dianne. This was a beautiful post.

And yes, as always there is Hope... thank goodness.