You may remember we just decided to incorporate a couple Chanukah traditions.
Last night we celebrated the last day of Chanukah with a Jewish family whose children go to our boy's school. Actually, they invited us to their grandmother's home to celebrate along with their larger family. The mother said she was just so glad to have other parents in the school interested in Jewish traditions; we rarities in Zion have to stick together :-).
But just picture it: A gay-headed family was there with a bunch of strangers and we were invited by a couple we only know from brief chats when we drop off and pick up our children. We were there celebrating one of their important religious holidays, a religion that's based on a book that, in centuries past, called for our murder.
Sounds potentially awkward, doesn't it? I know it did to me.
It was anything but awkward, though. Everyone was exceedingly warm and welcoming. We get a cold reception from uncles and such at Rob's extended family Christmas party, held each year in their ward house, but not here for Chanukah in a stranger's home. We were warmly embraced and felt more than welcome. We had a wonderful night. The boys did too, playing with a bunch of new friends and their classmate. The older kids organized games for the younger; they played dradle and such.
And man, the latkes... When I thought "potato pancakes" I was thinking they'd be kind of bland, something I'd eat to be polite--I even made sure I snacked before we went :-)--but boy was I off. I went back for a larger plate of seconds. The yam and parsnip latkes were the best but the traditional latke, with a bit of gingered sour cream, were delicious too.
Good food aside, these are the sorts of experiences that trigger an irresistible reflex of hope in me. It was much like our recent dinner with leaders of various minority groups. We fit right in; differences were there and apparent but were a source of interest and interaction, not conflict. And it wasn't that all too thin some-of-my-best-friends-are-gay friendliness in those who "hate our sin" and love us... while posing us as a threat to humanity, family, marriage, and goodness. It dosen't take long in a social conversation for me to taste the difference and this was the real thing.
We had much in common anyway. I've never been in a social situation outside of a university before where I was asked what my dissertation was about and my description wasn't met with automatic regret for asking and that social flight response. Even I'm sick of that work :-), but I actually had to answer some questions that showed they heard the answer to their first. Most every adult there was a doctor of some sort, one quite near my field.
And charitable... Talking about a class on Islam one man was taking, the conversation turned to the local refugee community and it turned out most everyone there was involved in helping out, from the school system to working at the free clinic.
In all it was an evening spent with some really great people, strangers who felt like friends. That means a lot to me, living where most strangers have it out for us, politically and religiously.
Simply, I left more happy than ever to incorporate into our holidays a bit of the traditions celebrated by such a great group of people, and to tell our boys that's where some of the "plans" for their build, as their know genes, come from (Must also get Rob to ask for their latke recipes! Mmmm...).