L’shanah Tovah, Rocky. Wherever you are


‘Okay, so I got that phrase from a Macy’s ad’

Just because I didn’t grow up wishing my friends and family a Happy Rosh Hashannah doesn’t mean I don’t sincerely wish it today. I do! I especially wish it to the person who introduced me to feasting, fasting, and the dreidel song, my freshman roommate at the University of Missouri, Roxanne.

Now, you have to remember that my U of Mo stint took place back in the days when people didn’t mix much while growing up. There was exactly one person in my hometown who would have known, personally I mean, what the heck a Hanukkah Bush was. And he married a local girl, so I’m betting he put up a Christmas Tree like the rest of us, bless his closeted little heart.

So, anyway. Back to Roxanne. She was this really smart would-be Journalism major (like me). Back then the University of Missouri was one of the leading J Schools in the country. Still is, as far as I know. So Rocky (as she preferred to be called) made her way there from Skokie, Illinois.

Now Skokie, back in those days, was almost as not-very-diverse as the town I grew up in. My townspeople, some 2900 strong, were divided into two major camps: the Catholics, who had the biggest church and private schools and kids who were snappy dressers and the best basketball players; and the Methodists, who ran the newspaper and the public schools and had no booze at their weddings but cool kids in rock bands. Oh, there were a few African-American families too, but they dressed like the Beach Boys just like the rest of us.

Quick fun digression — To illustrate my point on the non-diversity of my home town, here is an actual chart from the present-day Carlyle, Illinois, website (where you can also find data about jobs, hospitals, and sexual offenders, if you are so inclined):

Demographics in Carlyle today. Trust me, there were zero Hawaiians when I was growing up there.

Demographics in Carlyle today. Trust me, there were zero Hawaiians there when I was growing up.

But back to the two ‘camps’. I didn’t grow up in either of the majors. Indeed, I was one of the Lutherans, the ‘B Team’ of Catholicism. Lutherans, as you may know, started when Martin Luther, who had been a priest (or was he a monk?) got mad and split off from the Catholics. Forgive me for being fuzzy on the details. But what it meant, growing up when I did, was that Lutherans were defined by what they didn’t get to do. When we sinned (which was pretty often), we didn’t get to confess and get a nice clean slate. We didn’t get to wear frilly First-Communion dresses like all our friends. Or even hats. It was kind of like being Catholic, but stripped-down, and with black-wall tires.

So anyway. Roxanne and me. (It was important to set the stage so you’ll understand, that when we met on that fateful freshman move-in day, we were, shall we say, curious and wary.)

Actual first conversation:

‘Hello. I’m Roxanne. I’m Jewish.’

‘Hello. I’m Alice. I’m Lutheran.’

‘It’s not the same.’

‘I know.’

So, Happy Rosh Hashannah, Roxanne (er, Rocky), wherever you are. If you read this, get in touch. I’d love to know how things worked out for you.

And, if you’re interested (marginally, I know) in Things Related to Freshmen and Moms Thereof, please feel free to click here:

Gone Baby Gone

New York City. September 2014

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4 thoughts on “L’shanah Tovah, Rocky. Wherever you are

    • It wasn’t a whole family. It was Leo Guenzberger (!) I’m pretty sure he’s the Only One of the Chosen People in residence. Though things have changed since Our Day. Did you notice that there is now a Native Hawaiian???

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