WOULD YOU LIKE TO STAY FOR DINNER?

CELEBRATING THE FAMILY WE NEVER MET AND MAYBE DON’T WANT TO

“So,” says Uncle Shmuel, who having appeared out of nowhere, now miraculously speaks vernacular American English — albeit with a heavy Yiddish accent, “Nice place you got here. I see you keep your animals in your house. That one there sounds like a pig but looks like a dog.”

“They are our pets, Uncle Shmuel. The oinker is Nan. She just makes that sound. She’s kind of old. I think that’s the dog equivalent of ‘oy’.”

“Pets, shmets. Animals. In the house. What’s next? Toilets? Never mind, your life, your choice. Oy.”

“Can I give you something to eat? Tea? Coffee? Cake? If we don’t have it, I can go out and buy some.”

“Are you Kosher?”

“Uh, no. Not Kosher,” and I shiver, remembering the bacon that has passed through our kitchen. “Oh, wait, here’s my husband. Uncle Shmuel, I’d like you to meet my husband Garry.”

Shmuel looks shrewdly at Garry, then at me. “He doesn’t look Jewish.”

Garry’s eyes twinkle. “But really I am,” he says and deftly pulls a yarmulke out of his pocket. It say “Joel’s Bar Mitzvah” across the back in big white letters. Fortunately, Shmuel doesn’t notice.

“So,” Shmuel continues after a pregnant pause, “You have problems with the Cossacks?”

“No Cossacks, but lots of politicians,” I reply.

“Cossacks, politicians, there’s a difference?”

“Not so much,” I admit.

“And for a living you do what?”

“We’re retired. But before that, I was a writer. Garry was a reporter. On television.”

“What’s a television?”

I look at Shmuel, realize we are about to embark on an extended conversation, so all I say is: “Oy vay is mir!” Which seems to sum it up.

Oy vay. Can someone set the table?

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION IN 100 WORDS – HAPPY BIRTHDAY U.S.A.!

The Revolution was about money. Like all wars. Mostly about taxes, especially on tea, which was huge until we discovered coffee. And who should pay what to whom.

We believed we should keep all the money. King George felt otherwise. We offered to split the difference.

96-FLAGS-GAR-73

George said “Hell NO!” Then we fought a war.

France, pissed at England, came with warships and troops. They helped us beat the British, then went home. In a later skirmish — “The War of 1812” — the British returned to burn down Washington DC. We survived.

Next, we become a real country. The rest is history.

HEY MOM! THEY’RE ALL HERE!

In Israel, they have a word that translates loosely to “close-far.” It refers to the tribe of “almost relatives” by marriage or informal adoption. This includes all the rest of the folks who claim some sort of relationship to you, like your cousin Alfie’s second wife’s husband’s niece.

Picnic-Crowd

I recommend we have a Gathering Day during which we collect all these “relatives.” The ones who are related by blood, albeit so distantly we are unclear on lines of descent (but are sure they are there, somewhere), the kids mom and dad fostered while their parents were getting a divorce. The related-by-marriage to second and third cousins and their off-spring. The brothers-in-law of our sister-in-law, twice divorced and their adopted children’s children from their third marriage.

A mighty big picnic. With guitars. And booze. Lots of burning meat. A sing along to which everyone brings their favorite dishes.

Ya think? We get a day off from work during the best time of year for warm, sunny weather and do it in a public park. It’s safer in public.

We will call it Extended Family Day. It would be a huge hit! The greeting cards and invitations alone would generate a ton of money and maybe some new jobs! No downside unless you are unlucky enough to come from a family dominated by bad cooks.

Who’s ready to jump on my bandwagon?

Don’t be a spoil sport. Even if you have no known relatives or none you want to know, you can invite all the fake aunts and cousins — or hook up to another group and be one of the almost relatives in someone else’s clan. Anyone for whom you feel even the vaguest familial attachment will suffice.

On this special day of days, water is as thick as blood!

DECLARING INDEPENDENCE – A TIMELINE

Today is America’s Independence Day. It celebrates the announcement of the Declaration of Independence, our formal statement to King George and Great Britain that we no longer were willing to retain our status as colonies.

declaration_independence

There’s more than a little confusion about which event happened when regarding the Declaration of Independence, so here’s an historical timeline, Not everyone agrees on this precise timeline, but it’s close enough for a general consensus.

JULY 2, 1776: John Adams, a leader for independence, gets the delegates to the first Continental Congress to unanimously ratify the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson had written the draft document as there was general agreement that Jefferson was the best writer of the group.

JULY 4, 1776: The Declaration of Independence is signed. Thus July 4th became the U.S.’s official independence day, although John Adams argued it should be July 2nd, the day the document was ratified (rather than the 4th on which it was signed). But Adams argued about everything.

JULY 4, 1776 through August 2, 1776: Following its signing on July 4th, the Continental Congress announced the Declaration of Independence. It is distributed and read across the colonies. The process of reading the Declaration — getting the official word out — was not instant. It took about a month.

By August, a more attractive document displaying all the delegates’ signatures had been produced. In any case, whether or not the colonists had read or heard the document read, everyone knew what was happening. The “official word” took a month to get, but men on horseback going from town to town to tell their friends and family were faster and more thorough.

And of course people talked in pubs. Just like they do today, but without Twitter.

JANUARY 1777: The first printed versions of the Declaration of Independence for general distribution appeared. By then, the colonies are fully engaged in war.


Jefferson’s original draft, with changes by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, as well as Jefferson’s notes of the changes made by Congress, can be viewed at the Library of Congress.

You can see the most famous version of the Declaration, the hand-written signed document, at the National Archives in Washington DC. This is the version which for which the signing was completed on August 2, 1776.