Thursday, September 17, 2009

Elul Project #4 - Crimson Red Pomegranates

Thanks to Ronnie Fein for sending along this poignant recollection (and also for making my mouth water with her feature on hummus in today's Stamford Advocate).

My family was not observant and when I was growing up I often felt at odds with some of my Jewish friends whose families went to synagogue and got dressed up for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. And yet the holidays were always meaningful because it was one of the times that my Great Uncle Max, whom we called "Feta" paid us an especially long visit. Feta was married to my grandma's sister.

He was a kind, soft-spoken, humble man and we all adored him, especially my mother. I guess in a way he took the place of my mother's father, who had died when she was eight. When Ted Kennedy died recently and people spoke about how he stood in as a father figure for so many, I thought of my great uncle, who did the same.

Feta always made us laugh and told my mother all the family gossip. He also always brought us treats from the Lower East Side. Pickles. Knishes. Rye bread. And, most wonderful to us kids, Root Beer lollypops with twisted, pretzel-like cardboard handles.

At High Holiday time he brought a special treat: large, fleshy, crimson red pomegranates. My brothers and I would peel away the thick skin, bite off chunks of the glossy seeds and swish them around in our mouths, downing the tangy juice and then seeing who could spit out the seeds the farthest.

Every autumn when September comes and I see pomegranates in the market I know that the High Holidays are about to begin. In our family we get dressed up and attend synagogue. It feels good to be part of a larger Jewish community. Is a time to celebrate life and for me, also a time to reflect and remember my great uncle.

No comments: