Saturday, April 26, 2008

Possibly the Funniest E-mail I've Ever Received

From: Facebook
Subject: Zachary Knower said that you two are married...
Date: April 26, 2008 10:17:36 AM EDT
Zachary said on Facebook that you two are married. We need you to confirm that you are, in fact, married to Zachary.

To confirm this relationship request, follow the link below:
[Facebook link]

The Facebook Team
Of course, I confirmed the request.

And here's what Facebook had to say next:
You are now in a relationship with Zachary Knower.
Well, that's a relief.

It's only been 18 years, after all.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Why Was This Night Different from All Other Nights?

It's Passover, and I miss my dad.

He always led our seders from the head of the table, with me sitting right next to him—to keep him on track and to read the Hebrew he didn't know by heart. I was his co-pilot, I guess.

Every year, we stumbled through the service together.

Last night, we had a small seder—just my mom, my sister, my two young nieces, and me. And suddenly I was the one at the head of the table, leading the service.

It felt different for so many reasons. Zach wasn't there—he's in a new play and didn't finish rehearsal until we were well into dinner. My poor sister was on the tail end of a bout of food poisoning, so she commuted between the table and the couch, where she was able to rest as needed. And for the first time in memory, we didn't have any other guests.

Throughout my childhood, we always had company for our seders—relatives, neighbors, friends, boyfriends, and the occasional college roommate. And nearly every year, we had at least one visitor who wasn't Jewish and had never celebrated Passover before.

My dad made sure each guest felt welcome and found a way for everyone to participate in the service. He was a wonderful host, and it was always a very convivial event. (Most seders are convivial because the service calls for each person to drink four glasses of wine, but I hail from a family of teetotalers—we came by our festive atmosphere honestly, fueled mainly by grape juice.)

Tonight, we went to my cousin's house for the second seder. There were 19 of us in all, and a table overflowing with delicious food. Among the crowd was my cousin's husband's brother's fiancée, whom we were meeting for the first time—she had just converted to Judaism, and this was her very first seder. Because she wanted to have an authentic Passover experience, and because this side of the family has never really observed the holiday traditions, I was asked to lead the service.

I did the best I could, of course. But how I wish my dad had been there—to make her feel truly welcome and to show her how it's really done.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Always a Good Day in Our Family

I guess that for many (most?) people, April 14 is synonymous with tax-deadline dread—the last day to hunker down, crunch the numbers, collate the documents, and make some sense out of that stack/box/tangle of papers that gets no attention whatsoever on the other 364 days of the year.

I have a very different association, because April 14 is my dad's birthday.

He would have been 82 this year.

So if you're hunkered down, having a late night with your 1040 and cursing the IRS, maybe take a moment away from the figures and the formulas and a give a shout out to my dad.

I'm sure he's up there, smiling.

And probably hanging out with some very, very happy CPAs.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

There Once Was a Girl

The first time I lost my hair, it took a little more than six months for it to come back.

In the meantime, I met lots of other breast-cancer patients and veterans, several of whom had decided that once their hair grew back, they'd let it keep on growing.


Their reaction to spending time at one end of the hirsuteness spectrum led them to resolve—defiantly—to live the rest of their lives at the other.

Perhaps because I'd spent the bulk of my life at that other end—with lots and lots of curly hair, always thick and often long—I didn't feel the same way.

Walking around bald for six months imbued me with a kind of fearlessness, and I was reluctant to let go of it when things started sprouting again up top.

I didn't want to stay bald, but I kept my hair very short, à la Joan of Arc. It was my own sort of defiance, I guess.

Or maybe I was hedging my bets, so that if cancer and chemo ever came calling again—naaaah!—I would have, in one very tangible way, much less to lose.

Not surprisingly, I did the same thing the second time around, leaving my hair so short that it barely skirted the tops of my ears.

Both times I've had the slightly disorienting experience of running into long-lost friends who'd look at me in disbelief—"Your hair is so short!!!" they'd exclaim after finally putting the name to my less obscured face. Meanwhile everyone else in my life was saying the opposite—"Wow, your hair is coming in so nicely" or "Look how long it's getting"—with an equal number of exclamation points.

I had every intention of keeping it short this time, but then two things happened. First, Dave, our beloved hair stylist, started lobbying me to let it grow.

By then I'd become fairly attached to super-short hair—it was curl-free but far more manageable. I did have to get it trimmed more frequently, but other than that I didn't have to think about it. It always looked good, and I didn't even have to wash it every day. Added bonus: I could wear any earrings I wanted—nothing got lost amid the curls or waves.

Dave was unmoved by my arguments for short hair's convenience; he wanted all that curl and wave and body to reappear. Like a talented chef who'd rather cook for omnivores than vegans, he didn't want to be circumscribed by arbitrary restrictions.

I'd stared Dave down before—usually when I couldn't face "the awkward stage" or when summertime humidity turned every extra millimeter of hair into what felt like a tenfold increase in my core body temperature.

Late last summer, though, I fell behind on my regular haircut schedule. And just when I was getting fed up with how shaggy I'd become, just when I thought I would melt under the weight and heat of all that hair, my dad started taking Dave's side.

"I love your hair like that," he'd say. Or, "Your hair's coming in so beautifully."

He said it nearly every time I visited, no matter how unkempt I thought I looked. Maybe because he started losing his own hair at 18, he'd always—ever since I was a little girl—loved my hair long. And while last fall it was nowhere near my chin, let alone my shoulders, I guess those early buds of curl gave him hope that it might get there again someday.

I've been back to Dave's twice since then, just for trims. The first time was the day before my dad's memorial service, and I couldn't bring myself to have it cut any shorter.

Four months later, my hair is legitimately down to my chin. The curls are back in full flower. And my long-held defiance has given way.

I'm not going to let it grow forever.

But I won't be so quick to shear it off again.