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The Red Dress Club: Stolen

Friday, 8 April 2011

courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Dear Mom & Dad,
I would like to offer a belated “thank you” for not allowing me to visit New Orleans in 1988 with my high school choir. Though it’s been over two decades since I was deprived of that experience, I don’t think that I could have appreciated what seemed to be an unfair decision without the advantage of time and experience.

When you informed me that I was not going to be permitted to join with my classmates in our annual choir tour, I was sorely disappointed. Or, in teen-speak, I was “devastated.”. That the tour would occur during Chol HaMoed Pesach was of little concern as our tours typically occurred during the intermediate days of Passover. And, when faced with observing Pesach away from home while in college, I appreciated that I had learned how to handle the eating restrictions while away from home at such an early age.

So if not Pesach, what, then, was the motivation for your seemingly-unfair decision? You cited the difficulties of managing to keep kosher in a city renown for its obsession for treif. And not just a little treif. Really, REALLY high treif. Pork, shellfish of every kind, alligator, and other forbidden items that to this very day remain unrecognizable to me. It isn’t just that treif is featured on menus. That I was accustomed to avoiding. No. You knew that in NOLA, one must go to great lengths to find any possible item that is not in violation of one, or more, of our dietary restrictions.

And that is what seemed so unfair; by robbing me of my own decision-making, you had stolen the autonomy granted to me by our Tradition. At age thirteen, I stood before the Ark and accepted my place as an adult in the Jewish community. In that one moment, the obligation of fulfilling the Commandments transferred from you to me. Decisions about ritual observance were mine to make and for which I was now accountable. And there we were, just a few years later, and you were usurping my power.

As with so many things, it is both time and experience that give us new perspective. Now a mother (the mother of your three oldest grandchildren), I better understand the motivation behind your decision. It wasn’t that you lacked trust in my ability to maneuver through a city with scant food options. Rather, you were relieving me of the difficulty to make those food choices as a lone voice and without the support of the four other Jews in choir. You were, as my parents, trying to protect me. To ease what some might see as a burden.

So a long-overdue thank you. For shielding me. For restoring my authority. And, ultimately, for preparing me for a lifetime of making hard choices and standing firm against the tide.


Red Writing Hood is a writing meme. This week’s prompt was to write about something of tremendous value that was stolen from me and whether or not I was able to reclaim it. Constructive criticism is encouraged.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Friday, 8 April 2011 1:35 pm

    I truly enjoyed this post. The way that you wrote it, as a letter, perfectly positioned to share what you experienced and felt then, along with where you are now as you reflect back on it. It’s so true that our parents steal our ability to make choices for a while, but then we look back and decide whether or not their making those choices encouraged and taught us, or led to our rebellion.

    This sentence is fantastic: “what, then, was the motivation for your seemingly-unfair decision?”

    Gut Shabbos, and thank you for sharing this experience with us, your readers. And me, your new friend!

  2. Friday, 8 April 2011 3:37 pm

    I love the line about high treif- reminds me of a conversation with a rav many years ago. Treif is treif, but some things go beyond normal “treifness.”

  3. Friday, 8 April 2011 5:02 pm

    I love the fact that what was “stolen” was an experience!

    I found myself wondering if there was going to be a punch line that revealed a sarcastic tone, with you as an adult still regretting that you didn’t get the opportunity, not just to visit NOLA, but to test your own ability to make decisions under difficult circumstances. It was nice to find at the end that you were glad they had “stolen” the experience from you.
    I appreciated the links to explain the terminology that was unfamiliar to me.
    The only piece I wondered about was “And, when faced with observing Pesach away from home while in college, I appreciated that I had learned how to handle the eating restrictions while away from home at such an early age.” seems to contradict the fact that your parents did not let you go to NOLA, they did not let you “learn how…away from home”. I assume you learned on other trips, before and after.

    And thank you SO much for commenting on my post! I know what I wrote was quite odd; I was hoping that people would recognize that and comment on it, not just say “Huh?” and quietly slip away. Hopefully now that people see your comment, they will feel safe to comment as well!

  4. Monday, 11 April 2011 3:44 pm

    I have to admit that the treifness is overwhelming in New Orleans. Luckily, when I went, Jessica provided me with a box of See’s candy, so I was okay for a little while.

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