My mother takes me to lunch at a Jewish deli for my birthday. My hopes for the lunch are pretty minimal: I'm hoping we won't fight and I'm hoping she won't eat off my plate.
There's a lot to fight about between my mom and I for some reason. Even though she's proud of me for being so committed to being Jewish (except for that meat and cheese thing - oops), she also seems to feel like she has to cut me down to size a little; to remind me that I'm just a little pisher - the number 6 daughter out of 7 so why don't I shut up anyway?
Since she's a Holocaust survivor and was Orthodox until the Nazis came and killed all the Jews of her town when she lost her belief in God, she automatically knows more than me, as she loves to tell me. I don't know anything because the only thing that has validity is the way they did it in the Old Country before 1941.
So I'm sitting there and things are going pretty well. She is not eating off my plate. Because I know she wants to, I don't finish my soup and hand it over to her so she can finish it. I save a small plate and hand her things from my dish. I don't mean to be a germ-o-phobe, but my mom is normally picking at things with just-licked fingers and then coughing a phlegmy cough.
Then she stops the hostess to chat with her. My mom has two purposes to every conversation she starts with strangers: she's going to tell them that she has seven daughters and she's going to tell them that she's a Holocaust survivor. This is kind of funny because she's never been the type to go speak to schools or join a Holocaust survivor organization, but strangers? She loves to tell strangers.
So she says, "Do you have any children?"
The hostess says, "Yes! I have a wonderful boy. He's 16."
"Only one child?" my mom asks. "Why only one? Didn't you want a girl?"
"Well, I got divorced when he was young and so I never had another."
And here it comes. "I have seven daughters." She looks at me. "This is number six." I'm a number, not a person.
"No! Seven daughters!"
"Yes. I guess I was trying to have a lot of kids because of the war. I'm a Holocaust Survivor, you know."
"I didn't know."
"I saw my whole town wiped out. My family was the only one that came out intact."
By now there are people teaming over at the hostess stand. The hostess needs to go back to work. It's a Saturday at this popular deli at lunchtime, and my mother has brought up just a little, teeny, tiny topic: THE HOLOCAUST.
How do you change the subject when the subject is the Holocaust?
I help the hostess since I've lived with this my whole life. I transition the topic back to her 16-year-old son, back to easier ground, back to children, which is what we had been discussing in the first place.
How do I interrupt my mother when she's talking about the Holocaust? I don't know.