Annabelle and I were at the coffee shop next to the dance studio this past Saturday morning, having our usual bagel with the other moms and daughters, when my friend Betsy’s little girl asked Annabelle a question.
She had just bitten into a bagel smeared with cream cheese, so Annabelle’s mouth was full when she answered the question, which I didn’t hear but assume was something along the lines of, “Hey, aren’t you Jewish? Why are you eating bread on Passover?”
“Oh, I’m not very Jewish,” Annabelle answered through the cream cheese. She stopped and swallowed, then announced, “I’m only Jewish-ish.”
I have to say, my personal comedy routine didn’t sound as funny, delivered by my 7 year old.
Now, it’s true. We’re not very Jewish. Sophie wasn’t at the coffee shop with Annabelle and me this particular Saturday morning because she was already done with her ballet class, so my not-very-Jewish-mother took her to the not-very-Jewish country club for a not-very-Jewish Easter party.
It might be true, but I didn’t like hearing my kid say it, and I felt like what I’ve been feeling like a lot lately: a self-loathing Jew.
Could it be (and bear with me here, I smell a tangent coming) that I prefer Easter to Passover simply because Easter offers the forbidden fruit? The idea that whatever’s on someone else’s plate is sure to be tastier, that the grass is always greener, the — you know what I mean.
Thinking about this, I had deja vu, and realized my self-loathing Jew thing is not that different from my Phoenix inferiority complex. Do I hate Phoenix because it’s legitimately loathesome (no culture, too hot, too far from anything remotely worthwhile) or simply because I was born here?
(And here I’m talking strictly about culture, although we could have a big discussion about politics. This place is disgusting! Did you see the story on the front page of the Sunday New York Times, all about states cutting vital services to vulnerable populations, including people with Down syndrome? Did you notice where it was datelined? PHOENIX. That’s right. An entire country, and that story came out of Phoenix. The other news last week: Notre Dame is giving President Obama an honorary degree when he gives the university’s commencement address this spring, but Arizona State University — where Obama’s also schedule to speak — doesn’t think he deserves one. True, I was raised by University of Arizona Wildcats to be rabidly anti-ASU so I wouldn’t take a degree from that place on a bet, but seriously? No honorary degree for Obama? He hasn’t accomplished enough? This place is a hell hole!)
OK, back to culture. Today, driving to lunch, my colleagues and I were commenting on a new, very large public art installation in downtown Phoenix. I try to be a champion of the local arts scene (which has gotten downright easy — there’s a lot to love), but I had to admit that I think the installation’s pretty ugly.
“Then again,” I added, “if I saw that thing in San Francisco, I know I’d want to know why we didn’t have something so cool in Phoenix.”
(I explored this idea ad naseum in a cover story for Phoenix New Times a while back, http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2005-05-12/news/phoenix-has-an-inferiority-complex/)
I love San Franciso. I love Easter. To be fair, both are undeniably lovable. But both are also undeniably unattainable. I won’t move to San Francisco (can you imagine trying to drive there? and the earthquakes!) any sooner than I’ll convert to Christianity.
So here I am, a self-loathing Jew in a self-loathing town, ashamed by my bad attitude.
Funny, when I look at my kids, the whole self-loathing thing goes away. I am so freaking proud of myself for creating these two amazing, gorgeous little human beings. I stare at them when they are asleep and (when they let me) when they are awake and applaud myself (and Ray, he gets credit, too) heartily.
I’m not sure why my self-loathing doesn’t transfer in that direction, but I’m definitely grateful for it. Now the key is to figure out how to keep Annabelle and Sophie from falling into my self-loathing trap.
Number One, stop complaining about being Jewish. Number Two, stop complaining about being from Phoenix.
I think I can handle the first. The second will be tougher. But I’m on the right path, I know. (And hold on, here comes another tangent.)
Yesterday afternoon I paid a visit to one of my favorite Phoenicians, Georganne, who runs one of my favorite retail shops in Phoenix (and on the planet).
The store is called Frances — named for Georganne’s grandmother, not the badger, but it’s a lovely coincidence, don’t you think? If you live in Phoenix, visit Frances in the inside-out strip mall on the northwest corner of Central and Camelback. Otherwise, head to the web: www.francesvintage.com
I’m quite certain I’ve already written about Georganne and her fabulous “Love Phoenix or Leave Phoenix” bumper stickers. She’s from here, too, but she loves it and with her store, she’s making Phoenix a place for other people to love.
I do love Phoenix when I’m at Frances. Or maybe I just love Frances. In any case, take a peek at what I bought on the 50% off, post-Easter sale table, and tell me it’s not some sort of a sign:
A sign of what, I’m not 100 percent sure. But tonight I’ll pack up the Easter/Passover Rubbermaid and carefully tuck away the Easter Chick in a Party Hat and the singing matzoh man my mom brought to the seder.
That’s the last holiday Rubbermaid til Halloween, which makes me sad. And maybe a little relieved.
In any case, there are birthday parties to be planned.