a new hope

tonight is Orthodox Christmas eve. tomorrow will be Orthodox Christmas. merry Christmas, eastern and southern Europe, a couple of thousand people in Jerusalem, and Egypt and Ethiopia!
Mar was there for all of it; she and mom went with grandma to Aunt Olga’s condo and spent the entire day baking. “traditional” food. mom always breaks into Fiddler on the Roof whenever we talk about the traditional food, and it doesn’t matter that they were Jewish in that play.
you make, at Orthodox Christmas Eve dinner, pierogies, potatoes, pierogies with potatoes in them, potato soup, bread, peas and mushroom soup. and you set out garlic cloves, salt, nuts, prunes, booze and enough Diet Pepsi to keep my many husky cousins satiated. you do not set out plates. you just set out spoons. grandma or someone says a prayer. and you share.
last year’s dinner was a big one. it marked 100 years my family has been throwing it, and grandma was not fooling around about its seriousness. my sister and brother and I, we all turned out for that.
but not everyone does. grandma was one of seven, and of those seven only four had kids. and among them, one set of cousins and aunts and uncles hasn’t shown up for it in years. basically, it’s come down to two branches carrying the torch for this slowly dwindling family gathering. I couldn’t make it this year. Mike as well. and my mom’s sister and my 30-something cousins are in Thailand “taking kickboxing lessons,” I am told. so today, it fell onto Mar’s shoulders to learn how to make some of these starchy delicacies. because it’s called passing that torch, Mar.
for as much importance my mother and grandmother place on the idea of family tradition, not a whole lot of the aforementioned family seems to care. granted, it’s not easy to make it back to northwest Indiana midweek in early January for people in Nashville, San Francisco and Milwaukee — and if anyone actually did, the effort alone would have been surprising — but my grandmother busts her 90-year-old hump putting this thing together every year. same goes for her 88-year-old sister. and that lack of effort, or even acknowledgement of this event, it kind of grinds my gears, so to speak. 
so if it falls to me, Mar and Mike eating store-bought bread and garden center hay on someone’s kitchen table to make it an uninterrupted 150 dinners a few decades from now, then so be it. because grandma had ornaments made for 100 years last year. and that means, that she means, business.

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