“The only rock I know that stays steady, the one
         institution I know that works, is the family.”

                                                              Lee Iacocca

In some ways, ours was the typical post-war suburban Jewish family. There were the Brothers Bogart, two parents, (each of whom had a sibling), and four cousins. Blending in was Tier Two, a ring of great aunts and uncles buttressed by six or seven second cousins and further inseminated by a slew of nice people also termed “cousins,” although genealogists never could confirm why.

They were simpler times. Indeed, as ignorant as Hal and I were of parental discord, we were just as comforted by the social fabric of our kinfolk. But for age differences, the clan had no caste system, with all treated equally. (It took me years in fact, to realize that Cousin Howard was really my mother’s cousin—not mine, and that, for that matter that Cousin Lil, though no one’s cousin, was everyone’s relative).

The playing field was level.

I suffer not from euphoric recall. Of course there were spats. Still, the ongoing consensus mandated family trumping feud. Always. From picnics at Forest Hills to Seders in Cleveland Heights, simchas topped tsuris. When the bell rang, all were present and accounted for. Family, …the respect for family, meant leaving one’s ego at the door.

Proximity, too, helped bind our ties. “In the day” we were never far apart. From the Hoffmans on Coventry to the Hoffmans on Hermitage…perhaps three miles? Multi-generational housing, as well, was socially acceptable. There was warmth in seeing Aunt Ruth and Uncle Irv live above her parents and pride in knowing Uncle Bob bought an apartment at Shelburne and Warrensville, named it for his wife (“The Arlyne Manor”), and housed both sets of in-laws. It was all in the family.

Perhaps that’s why I struggle at times. I’ve three kids, yet none within a car drive…Perhaps too, that’s what made the other night so exciting—so rewarding.
Let the word go forth that on Tuesday, February 1, our family passed the torch to a new generation of kinship; finding an even better way to beat geography.

It wasn’t just that we Skyped. That’s old news. In our minds, though, we brought even that to a higher level.

For weeks I’d been nudging Stacy to watch “Monk.” Busy lady that she is, it never quite happened. Now I’m glad. Tuesday, you see, we saw it together. In unison with Jason… together.

Step One: she logged on to Netflix;
Step Two: Adam perched on her bed, between husband and wife;
Step Three: Angling their computer, the TV screen in Chicago blazed across my Cleveland monitor, where for the next hour, with my daughter, my son-in-law and my dog, I watched Adrian Monk, Season Eight, Episode 11.

Oh, there were slight—even welcomed interruptions, (Michael in New York thinks he’s funny and kept dialing in…Jason himself kept folding laundry….), Still, it was TV Night in the family compound(s) and together, we had gone the distance.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

It will be traditional tonight.

At 5:45, dinner table set, the troops will land in Lyndhurst. Hal and Margie, the girls, Renee, and me. Shabbos, the way it should be— the way it was commanded lo those many years ago when Mel Brooks descended Mt. Sinai with fifteen—make that ten— Commandments in his hands.

I’ll marvel at them all: mother, father, kids…under one roof—the best of all worlds. Quietly though, I’ll think of my brood—all of them.

New York, Cleveland, Chicago…it mattered not. We proved this week that warm hearts melt miles. This week, after all, we went the distance.

One Response to “GOING THE DISTANCE”

  1. Aunt Helen says:


    As I was taught by Pa, “tradition” (not “Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought” the quarterly Orthodox academic journal published by the Rabbinical Council of America in association with Yeshiva University in New York City) mandates that the head of the family be present at the dinner table.

    Who defined “tradition” for you? Jimi Hendrix? (FYI, I never cared for his version of the Star Spangled Banner – too much feedback)

Leave a Reply