Afterlife, Ashes…and a Kickline for Al Diamond

Today as I stepped out of the shower, my mind turned, in that untraceable-to-first-thought, how-did-I-get-here way that minds work, to the subject of cremation.

If I could tell you why I was thinking about this, I would. But let’s just start here.

Would I be cremated? I asked myself. There are a couple considerations. First, there’s the afterlife. I mean, what if there is a there there, and what if we really do need all our parts — what happens if I’m all dust and gone? I wouldn’t have a hand or a forehead to smack it against, no mouth to say “Doh! Mistake!” I wonder, would I be able to get a loaner? Could pick a different body type? Could I be taller?

But if, as I suspect, there’s no need for the body once we’ve expired, what reason is there not to return to the cosmos all dust and ash? The only other reason I came up with was so that whoever’s left behind has a place to visit.

In my family, that kind of visiting does not happen. It’s not our thing. But boy do we remember. I think about my late grandparents often. I think about them when my son’s expression reminds me of my dad’s dad; or a word my mom says sounds just like her mom; or when a terrible joke with no punchline reminds me of my mom’s dad; I think of them at every Bar Mitzvah, Shabbat and Torah study when Kaddish is said.

And I think of them at anniversaries. Today is the fifteenth anniversary of my grandfather’s death, his Yartzheit. I was lucky to have him as long as I did. And though I do not visit the cemetery where he was buried, he visits me quite often.

Like today. I went to a dance class, and the teacher chose a campy, Vaudevillian routine. I thought, my grandfather would love this. Under the music, I said to myself and him, “This is for you, Grandpa.”

Then, I decided to say it louder. So often I live in my mind, not sharing the good thoughts I am having about others, whether it is how much I admire them, or how they have inspired me, or how beautiful or kind they are. Lately I’ve been trying not to keep those thoughts so private. Besides, since I’d already invoked his presence, I thought it would be polite to let my fellow dancers know someone was watching. So I shared what had been silently percolating in my brain, “Today is fifteen years since my grandfather died, and he would have loved this number.”

“What was his name?” a friend generously asked.

“Al Diamond.”

“This one’s for Al,” she said.

The teacher cued the music, turned up the volume, and shouted “Sell it!” It was stunningly easy to feel him there as we danced and hammed it up, with a kick line to bring it home.

I don’t have any answers about an afterlife, whether spirits roam or visit us, whether we will be able to come back and visit once we’re gone – believe what you want, I say – but I do know that for those 8 bars of 8, he was there with me.

How to See Miracles

My grandmother Lilli Diamond has taught me many things. Among some of the lasting lessons:

  • The Yiddish word for “stickshift” is…“stickshift”;
  • If someone declines your offer of a banana, offer him half a banana (because why would anyone in his right mind turn down a banana??)
  • Laugh every day, even if you “gotta crack your own self up.”
  • Use hyperbole to heighten one’s sunny outlook, as in “This is the best hot dog I ever had! In my whole life I never had a hot dog as good as this!”

This last point deserves explanation. A person could think such extravagant exuberance could dilute genuine emotional power; if everything is grand, nothing is. But it’s the opposite. She says it with such enthusiasm, she convinces you. She convinces herself.

(On the other hand, maybe the hot dog warranted the outburst; she eats fruit for dessert every day, and disdains those at her old folks’ home (her words) who order ice cream. And I’m thinking – Grandma, if not now, when?)

So forget the hot dog. Let’s try another example. A few minutes ago she called to tell me: “It was the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me.” Let’s hear it, Grandma. “Today, when the girl went down to the dining room to get my oatmeal, they were all out. Guess what I had for breakfast? I had the scone that you brought me yesterday!” To some, a rock-hard day-old scone; to her, a Hanukah miracle.

“I know I’ve told you this before,” she said to me yesterday as we crept toward the dining room at lunchtime. We were trailing behind another lady using a walker, and a man in a wheelchair passed us – unfair advantage, he had an aide. She paused to allow herself a fit of laughter at the incongruousness of where she found herself and her self-image. “I sometimes imagine that I’m in a play,” she continued, “and I’ve gone to the Director, and he has handed me my sides. ‘You’re going to play an elderly lady. Go to hair. Go to makeup. Go to costume,’ she looks down at her outfit and starts laughing again. ‘Go to props,’ she says, shaking with giggles and grasping her walker. ‘And go live at that Belmont with all the old people.’” She is playing a role – her outside a far cry from her inner life.

I laugh with her. We may cry a little, too. But right now we stand in a bubble, no one else can come in. Not the helpful staff, nor the perplexed residents. It’s our moment. I breathe in whatever I can from her. I inhale her amazement at the ordinary moment, her ability to find something wonderful or hilarious in the midst of a depressing milieu, her determination to sustain and entertain herself, an 18-year-old spirit in a…an older woman’s body.

How One Mother’s Grief Led Her to Create a Haven for Thousands More

I hope I never know what it’s like to walk in the shoes of Sarah Shaw.

Sarah is the protagonist of my novel, Shelter Us. We share some demographic traits: mother of two boys, Berkeley JDs, residents of Pacific Palisades, California.

But Sarah is also the mother of an infant who died. I have not known that pain.

When I was close to finishing the manuscript, I decided I needed an expert’s advice to be sure it honored the truth of the grieving parent’s experience. As a novelist and mother, I could try to imagine what life would be like after the death of a baby. But I was terrified of misrepresenting the emotional terrain of a grieving mother and inadvertently adding insult to injury.

I reached out to Susan Whitmore – grief counselor, founder of griefHaven, and mother of Erika – who unfortunately has walked in Sarah’s shoes, asking for her feedback on Shelter Us.

Susan graciously and generously read my manuscript. She confirmed the things I’d gotten right, added nuance in places that needed it, and told me “that would never happen” in one pivotal scene. I’m eternally grateful for her openness.

Susan’s openness is what led me to be sitting in a hotel ballroom yesterday filled with Sarah Shaws – mothers, as well as fathers, grandparents, and siblings — who had experienced the death of a child.

We were there in support of griefHaven, a resource for grieving parents. Susan founded griefHaven after her daughter Erika died of a rare sinus cancer, and she became frustrated in her efforts to find help. She decided to create what she felt was missing. As she explains on the griefHaven website:

As I began my personal journey, I discovered there were many support tools, but they were scattered everywhere, and finding them was a painstakingly arduous process….I needed one place where I could learn about a variety of support tools available and, ideally, what other grieving parents and family members found helpful as well. It was then I decided I would put together that web site–a grief haven–where parents, siblings, family members, friends, and specialists could come and find all that was available…a foundation from which you may start rebuilding your life.

The luncheon was emotional. We heard from an array of griefHaven supporters and clients: We met Molly’s mom, who lost her 21-month-old daughter last year, and who bravely told us what it meant to her to see that there can be light in life after total darkness. We heard from Billy and Carol’s dad, former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan, who lost his son to a scuba accident and his daughter to a heart attack. We heard from Jared’s cousin, now an eloquent 16-year-old, who opened a window to her then-six-year-old grieving soul upon the death of a baby cousin ten years ago.

We heard from Polly’s dad, Marc Klaas, who founded KlaasKids to prevent violence against children, and Ron’s sister, Kim Goldman, who has written a book called Can’t Forgive, about her brother’s violent murder twenty years ago. “It only takes a nano-second to be transported to a place you thought you’d never be,” she said.

It wasn’t an easy afternoon, but it was meaningful. Little Molly’s poised and sorrowful mother said that in the aftermath of her daughter’s death, she wrestles with the meaning of life. She shared with us with words Susan Whitmore had offered her that have helped:

“Maybe the meaning of life is just to grow our souls.”

With admiration, love and support for all who yearn for a haven for their grief, and for all those who provide it,

Laura

Sugar-Free? I Dare You.

There can be no doubt about who is the favorite for “Meanest Parents” award. After threatening to take away our son’s smartphone, we have now taken away ice cream, cupcakes and candy. S’mores have been banished; is there a greater summer sin?

This one wasn’t my idea. My husband hatched it while helping our niece with her bake sale last Sunday.

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Imagine the scene: A gorgeous day, adorable children shout out to hapless Farmers’ Market shoppers, “Help sick kids! Buy brownies!” Our sons march through the crowded pedestrian street bearing a banner that points people to their cousin’s stand. To put our money where their mouths are, they get their Dad to cough up $20 for the cause.

They figure that entitles them to three baked goods each. After they gobble chocolate chip cookies, and inhale luscious brownies-baked-with-cookies, but before consuming their regular brownies, a friend of mine and her teenaged daughter come over. The mom buys a cookie; her daughter does not want one.

“She’s not eating sugar because of a dare,” her mom explains.

“How long has it been?” I ask, amazed by a child avoiding sugar on her own initiative.

“Three years.”

Screeching halt. Christopher breaks the silence. “I wish someone would dare me not to eat sugar for a month.”

Too easy; I grant his wish.

That’s how this began. One by one, ours sons and I all signed on. Thirty days, no sugar. Here’s how it’s going.

Minute 1. I put the boys’ untouched brownies back on the For Sale tray. They must have been too full from their cookies and brownie-cookies before to make an uproar. So already, this is going better than expected.

Day 2. Breakfast. Following the rule of our teenaged inspiration, we allow reasonable cereal. No to Lucky Charms or Coco Crispies, but yes to wholesome Puffins or Heart to Heart, and all fruit. That’s normal for us, so no mutiny yet. One glitch: Our beloved vanilla yogurt with granola is not okay. I buy plain, non-fat Greek yogurt, sprinkle in chopped up strawberries and blueberries, and am surprised to find it creamy, yummy and satisfying.

Day 3. Goodbye après-swimming lesson lollipop. Our swimming teacher rocks, but I could live without the lollipop bucket. I let my kids have one every time. But today when my son asks, “Can I have one, Mom?” my eyes give him the answer he already knows: “Not for 29 more days.” There is no whining or debate. This dare is powerful potion.

Day 4. A kind and generous friend offers the boys cookies with lunch. But they resist that strong temptation. I am amazed. Then I realize it’s because I’m there. Still, that’s two sugar hits they missed, and I never had to say “no.” Christopher comes across a Hershey Bar in his office, a remnant from a camping trip. He begins to unwrap it, then remembers the dare and changes course. I stop at Starbucks and although my eyes linger on the case of pastries, I get tea and add milk and honey.

Day 5. Our son goes with friends to a water park. They stay all day. I don’t even ask about the dare. What happens in Soak City, stays in Soak City.

Day 6. We go for an end-of-summer movie matinee. Instead of going The Candy Baron (what has become our four-bag-filling tradition), we say yes to a small popcorn and a bag of Pirate’s Booty. This dare is gaining power every day.

Day 7. The grandparents take the boys to the Dodgers game. Wait — I’m not event that bad! I don’t breathe a word about the dare. Neither, apparently, do the boys.

The verdict as we approach the close of one week? Glorious success, slips and all. We are far from perfect, but perfect is not the goal. Our modest dare is a much needed reset button, a detoxifying opportunity, and an impetus to read labels. It is also a wake-up call to the volume of insidious sugar hits that pile up in a day, a week, a month. All those harmless lollipops and innocent chocolate kisses that appear at the barbershop, the dry cleaner, the market, the after-school activities. When school starts this week, that will multiply into birthday donuts or cupcakes that every child wants to share. I’m no birthday Grinch, but we have to work together, right? I believe what I read about sugar being addictive and a carcinogen, so as a loving mom I try to limit it. Which means that when my kids get sweets from other sources, I don’t get to be the fun one bringing them to the ice cream store or baking them a cake. I’d like a little more of that fun.

For now, the omnipresent treats have met their match in the beauty and power of a sugar-free experiment borne of a bake sale. At the very least, it has helped us pause before reflexively accepting every sweet that is offered. Perhaps it will only last the week. Perhaps we’ll make it the full thirty days. As for three years, don’t bet on it.

Mother’s Day again: Vote for Wendy Greuel for Mayor

I’ve heard from friends today and the past few days asking — who should I vote for for Mayor? One said, “I’ve never been undecided this close to election day. Who are you voting for?”

Well, since he asked, I’m happy to tell him. I’m voting for Wendy Greuel.

Let me say, there’s a wee tad bit of discomfort in talking about this. There are some lovely people with a different point of view. I’ve got no problem with that. I’m not trying to shill for votes (okay, yes, well, I am) but I’ve got two very good reasons for doing so:

1. A friend asked my opinion, so I’m giving it to him in this very private way. (Really, I don’t have that many readers.)

2. I was very impressed with Wendy after meeting her, and I’ve heard excellent reports of her can-do effectiveness from people I trust.

3. My Mom asked me to.

Some of you know my mom. She is fantastic. She is hard-working, loving, committed to healing the planet (and really needs to learn to say “no” more when asked to serve on committees or, ahem, to babysit…pleading guilty here). She is a woman who walks the walk. Literally. She has canvassed and gone door-to-door and made phone calls (I hope you were polite to her).

Last night she asked me to do her a little favor, while I was in the “Expressing Motherhood” show to express my mother’s deep wish, to tell people who may be wondering, who may be undecided, to please vote for Wendy. Do it for your city, do it for yourself. And if all else fails, do it for my mom. .

Pandering for votes, or helping undecided friends make up their minds, or simply a belated Happy Mother’s Day.

Thanks for listening.

Laura

 

Recovering from Mother’s Day

I had my worst Mother’s Day, to date. No one woke me with burnt toast. I was awakened by Emmett, actually, but it was with a beautiful hand illustrated book he had made about how much I love him.

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And a bracelet made from paperclips and tape.

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All good. Aaron gave me nothing, because in Middle School the teachers don’t do that shit for you, and he didn’t get around to doing it himself. That’s another discussion.

But I didn’t want gifts for Mother’s Day. What I wanted for Mother’s Day, all I wanted, was to go on a bike ride on the beach.

Aaron was happy to oblige. He was dressed and ready to go. But Emmett, oh that darling, sloooooow and “I don’t wanna do it” Emmett, was not cooperating.

You know what? I can’t even bear to tell you more. It’s too harrowing to relive. So I’m going to let Christopher’s Mom give it to you straight, the story he told her on the phone at the end of the day, which she succinctly boiled down to its essence:

“Laura wanted to go on a bike ride for Mother’s Day to the Farmer’s Market.”

        Okay, I’m piping in. YES, that’s all I wanted!!!

“Somehow, Laura, Aaron and Christopher arrived there in two groups and found that Emmett (who had procrastinated at home) wasn’t with them. Christopher thought he was with Laura and Aaron, and Laura thought he was with Christopher.

“Not only that, but they had all left their cell phones at home.”

       Because we wanted, just for a day, to be unplugged. And we were all supposed to be TOGETHER.

“Laura went to search the Farmer’s Market. The Farmer’s Market manager called the police, who were about to dispatch helicopters, while Christopher raced home on his bike. He found a very shaken up Emmett with his bike in front of their house, who had tried to call all of them, and thank goodness met a nice neighborhood family who helped him!

“All’s well that ends well.”

I still want my damn bike ride.

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Grandma Power: Electing Women and Protecting the Environment

This week is the Grandmother Power Blogging Campaign, brainchild of photojournalist Paola Gianturco and writer/inspirer Tara Mohr. The goal: to connect women to flex their power to change the world.

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Me and my grandmother, Lilli, on her (nn%&*st) birthday last year.

And why not? Grandfathers have run most countries and Fortune 500 companies. We could use more healing Grandma power, and Grandma strength. My kids are lucky to have two of the best.

In that spirit, today I bring you my mom, Fran Diamond, in her own words.

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Take it away, Mom!

My own Grandmothers, Rose and Sarah, gave me love, comfort and life lessons that are with me still. Grandma Rose enveloped me with pure love and endless admiration whether deserved or not. Baba Sarah loved me as much and set an example of humility and generosity. They set a high standard for being a grandparent.

Today my four grandchildren inspire me in so many ways, including the work that I do. Knowing that what I do affects them makes an enormous difference in the decisions that I make and how I look at things.

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For over forty years there have been two themes to my life’s work: Environmental activism and electing pro-choice, progressive women to public office.

In l968, I joined my husband and neighbors to fight against oil drilling along the coast of Los Angeles when it was threatened by Occidental Petroleum and Armand Hammer. After a twenty-year David vs. Goliath battle, “No Oil” won and the coast of Los Angeles is protected from off-shore oil drilling.

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Since l999, I have served on the California Regional Water Quality Control Board. Our mission is to restore and protect the surface and groundwater of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. We have made tremendous improvements in water quality. Just looking at the Heal The Bay report card, you can see that many beaches that were given F, D, and C’s before are now A+ most of the time. When I see surfers in the water or families at the beach, and when my grandkids go boogie boarding, l know that my work is making a difference.

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That is what keeps me going, as hard as it is at times. When we are debating policy issues and scientific standards, I think what is best for those kids and the future. I see the beautiful, sweet faces of my grandchildren, and I know what I have to do.

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Even before I became an environmental activist, I worked to elect women to public office. In the early 1970’s there were no women in the U.S. Senate, or for that matter the California State Senate. Without women’s voices we don’t really have a representative democracy. Women bring a lot to the table that is different from men. I believe that women are more collaborative and naturally think of what’s best for children and families. It is my belief that when both candidates are equally qualified, we should vote for the woman until we are closer to parity in elective office. Right now there are only 20 women in the U.S. Senate out of l00. Next year we may have no women on the Los Angeles City Council or citywide office. That is shameful. That is not the world I want my granddaughters or grandsons to live in.

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That’s part of why I am working to elect Wendy Greuel to be the Mayor of Los Angeles. I have known and worked with both candidates for a long time. They are both good people. Wendy Greuel, however, is the most qualified and has the leadership skills to move L.A. forward. What I know about Wendy Greuel is that she listens to all sides, can make decisions and knows how to implement them. She knows how to get from A to Z. She is willing to tell people what they might not want to hear. She is tough, decisive and fair. Los Angeles has been a city for l63 years and we have never had a woman Mayor. Now it’s time. I know that both my granddaughters and my grandsons will benefit from having Wendy Greuel as Mayor.

This year I will turn 70. I have never been more inspired to achieve my goals. Maybe it is because of four amazing young people, Rebecca, Noa, Aaron and Emmett my adored grandchildren. Through them I can touch the future. And it is amazing.

It Takes a Village, and Mine is Yummy

I’m noticing connections between parenting and writing this week. Both can be thankless pursuits. You do the work because you love it, or some days because you simply have to, but not because you expect rave reviews to come at the end.

Both can be solitary, like in those dark wee hours trying to comfort a painfully uncomfortable newborn, an all but faded memory to me now. And the solitude of writing is, for me, the antidote to the communal chaos of motherhood.

Both have intrinsic rewards, like hearing a perfect phrase in my head and simply transposing it to the page, or having my second-grader inexplicably wake up to a Mommy-phase, kisses included.  First Friday March 2013

Both take villages to make them work. Grandparents and sisters and friends offering fresh arms to rock a baby, or take them out to a movie; or those same grandparents, sisters and friends sharing the results of that solitary writing time.

Today I’m honored to have the latter kind of of support from the wonderful Jessica Heisen. Her food and photography blog, CopyCake Cook has some seriously tantalizing recipes and photos, and she’s sharing me as her featured artist of the month. Please check it out, and spend some time browsing her site. Whether you’re in the middle of a juicing frenzy (Christopher), freaking about what’s for dinner (me) or a richly chocolate mood (you know who you are), the gal does it all. I’m hoping to get some blogging tips from her, to take mine to the next level.

Yes, it takes a village. I give thanks for mine.

This Time We Can Help

My eight-year-old son comes to me in the dawning day in mismatched pajamas. He hesitates for a moment before climbing into my warm bed, then he speaks: “Time to snuggle.”

It is this exquisite moment I am trying not to think of as I suppress a sob a few hours later this morning.  I am sitting at Sarah’s kitchen table, listening to a woman I’ve just met describe her eighth year. That was the year she survived the Holocaust.

I know eight so well. I picture my son’s 2nd grade classroom full of energetic, earnest and exuberant boys and girls, whose greatest concerns are mastering handball and subtraction. I picture her at eight years old, watching her mother fall victim to a death march they were forced to endure. Other women, younger and stronger, urging her to keep going. She says she would not have survived without their help. Here she is now in Los Angeles, telling her story, strong and secure, with children and grandchildren of her own.

I am at a meeting of the Steering Committee for the Funds for Holocaust Survivors in Urgent Need. I have found my way here due to the plea of one of my Torah study mates, Sarah Moskovitz, a pioneering therapist to child survivors.  They have organized because the last survivors, the children who survived concentration camps and ghetto annihilations and death marches, the children who watched their brothers and sisters and parents and grandparents die, the children who were miraculously hidden and saved by righteous gentiles, need help.

The Committee, many of them survivors or children of survivors, discuss the situation. There are about 10,000 Holocaust survivors remaining in Los Angeles. Of those, about 3,000 are at or near the poverty line. They make daily choices between food, medicine and rent. These children of the Holocaust need not be put through suffering again, when they have us, their communal family, to help.

Sitting at my side, Samara Hutman, Executive Director of Remember Us: The Holocaust B’nai Mitzvah Project, expresses her view: “The world once stood by and allowed these most vulnerable people, these children, to suffer such agony. Now we have one last chance to do right by them.”

Jewish Family Services of Los Angeles provides help to these Survivors, but the financial support that once came from the German government as Restitution for Holocaust Survivors have now been cut. The need is great.

I’ve never done anything for Holocaust survivors. I’ve cried at films, I’ve visited museums, but I’ve done nothing. It seems so distant in time and place. But sitting next to a woman, elegantly dressed at this early hour, who says, “That was me. I lived that,” I am moved to action. Humbled by the strength and dedication of the people at this table, I offer what I can. We offer what we can. Jews, Gentiles, all of us. Like the women who would not let that little girl fall down when her mother could go no longer, we are their family.

If you’d like to learn more, please contact The 1939 Club at (310) 491-7802 or info@1939club.com or visit www.1939Club.com. To contribute, a tax deductible check may be written to The 1939 Club, 8950 Olympic Blvd. #437, Beverly Hills, CA 90211. You will be sent an acknowledgment and receipt. You may use the form below, or at visit the website of Kehillat Israel Synagogue.

Thank you.

Hanukah Games — Yiddish Password Rules!

And on the 6th night of Hanukah, the Jews played Yiddish Password.

When I was a little girl, my grandmother tried to teach me Yiddish. Do not be fooled. Although she was a first generation American born in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn to eastern European Jewish immigrants (known to me as “Big Grandma” and “her husband”), she was a thoroughly modern Lilli. Our first lesson took place in the leather seats of her Porsche 911. “Vus es dus?” she intoned, pointing. “Dus es a stickshift.” That’s as far as the formal training got. I suspected her qualifications at that point.

Fast forward thirty years to Hanukah 2012. My extended family, including the still fabulous Grandma Lilli, gathered in the living room of cousins Liz and Mitch. You’ve heard about my extended clan of cousins – like our camp song-filled Thanksgivings. You’ve heard about my grandmother, too, and the trip we took to Brooklyn to visit her birth city and her younger sister Shirley. Shirley taught her grandchildren the wisdom, “Just because you can leave Brooklyn, doesn’t mean you ought to.”

Our Hanukah parties have a flair all their own. We used to spend hours playing football or softball on the field just outside their home. But calmer heads prevailed, and now a certain gang spends hours around Liz and Mitch’s poker table, betting and bluffing like schizophrenic Martians. Pair of 2s? All in!

Mitch has become the entertainment maven for these events. For many years he printed out lyrics for Adam Sandler’s The Hanukah Song, until the children protested that it was embarrassing to hear their parents singing “and smoke your marijuanica!” After a couple years more, we heeded their complaint and switched to singing the Maccabeats’ Hanukah versions of pop songs like Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite” (“I throw my latkes in the air sometimes”) and Fun’s “Some Nights” (“StandFour”).

One exceptional year we got to crawl through an elaborate maze built by Mitch and their son Nathan. What had begun as a haunted Halloween maze crafted from cardboard boxes and duct tape in the garage, became the “in search of the first temple” maze for Hanukah, complete with a narrative about Alexander the Great conquering Jerusalem, a battle scene (using skeletons from Halloween), and a Temple Wall the kids could draw on. It was epic, until my niece got left inside and Great uncle Larry had to crawl in to rescue her. Mitch reports that he would have kept the maze but the boxes attracted termites, so that First Temple was also lost forever.

Which brings us to Yiddish Password, this year’s invention, which required far less physical labor than the maze. You may recall the old game show: in teams of two, one person sees a word that their teammate has to guess, and gives their teammate clues to help them guess. The shtick? All the words were Yiddish.

Mitch has generously put his game on YouTube, so do yourself a favor and try it. You will be surprised at how many Yiddish words you know, and how many words you never realized were Yiddish (“stick shift” was not among them). Schlemiel. Putz. Schlock. Schmuck. We’ve got all the best put downs. It’s a great language teacher, better even than Grandma Lilli could have concocted, but best of all is the laughter you’ll generate. Watching my father act out “schlemiel” was one of the funniest things I’ve seen. Meshugenah mishepuchim. Happy playing, and happy Hanukah.