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A Slice of Life -- Someone Else's Life

January 17, 2008 By:
Mara Sokolsky, JE Feature
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It's not that often that we eat Shabbat dinner on a bed in the middle of a dining room. But my husband and I were so happy to get a dinner invitation from my daughter and her roommates that we would have gladly eaten off the floor!

It's my daughter's first post-college apartment. Four young women share a space in Boston that comfortably fits two. When one of the roommate's mothers came in for a visit from Hawaii, that became the impetus to host a Shabbat dinner so the parents could meet each other.

Diplomas and graduations have their place. But when your daughter invites you to a home-cooked dinner, that really feels like a major milestone.

Of course, I spent almost a week deciding what to wear.

Unlike my younger daughter ("Mom, you're not going out in that, are you?"), my Boston child actually thinks I have some style. But what outfit would show that I was hip enough, yet dignified enough to be a good role model to these twenty-something roommates and a contender with their moms? What did I want to convey about who I had become?

Memories Old and New
As we drive into Boston, I am flooded with memories; my husband and I met -- and courted -- there 25 years ago. Now we are walking down some of those same streets to bask in the product of that particular courtship.

The apartment is up some rickety stairs. The roommates greet us at the door a bit self-consciously and usher us into the cramped living room. I nod at the parents and find the edge of a couch to perch on. The guacamole salad on the folding table is her concoction, my daughter tells us proudly. My heart swells in the overheated room.

Soon, it's time for blessing the wine and homemade challah. How naturally these young women enact the ancient ritual, as if there's no conflict at all between their look and feel as mainstream American 22-year-olds and their commitment to ushering in the Sabbath bride.

I turn to one of the mothers and begin to chat. We discover that we both lived in Harvard Square in similar years and took dance classes at the same center. How odd that I might have spied her in her leotard and tights, and had no idea then that we'd both have daughters who would grow up and move in together.

I don't really feel all that removed from my former Harvard Square self. I have to pinch myself to remember that it's my daughter's turn now, not mine.

We are called to the kitchen, where several vegetarian dishes are waiting, and I pile food up on my slightly chipped plate. This is when the bed in the middle of the dining room comes in handy. Since the dining room also functions as one of the bedrooms, the bed makes sense, and several of us sprawl atop it, delicately balancing our plates.

The father next to me turns out to also come from New York City, and we reminisce about our neighborhoods.

His daughter eyes him from the doorway. I wonder if she's worried that he'll say something embarrassing -- or revealing -- about her. I'm not quite sure, this evening, where my loyalties belong. These young women are our hostesses and my daughter's new cohorts, but their parents are my partners in midlife.

The apartment may be vegetarian, but it's not sugar-free, so we finish off with an assortment of gooey desserts. It's late now, and the roommates look a little bleary. They are probably worn out from this strange brand of entertaining that allows them to see something of where their new friends come from, and at the same time exposes their own loopy lineage.

It's an hour's ride home, and I am filled with images of the crowded apartment and the two generations filling it.

What a wonder to watch our progeny on the next leg of the journey. And how sweet to be included -- even for a night -- under their tent.

Mara Sokolsky is a freelance writer living in Providence, R.I. E-mail her with any comments at: sokolskaya@cox.net.


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