(Seated around a table are a father, a mother, the father’s father, the parents eldest son, an uncle, and an aunt. They say the Friday night Kiddush, the whole thing.)
Mom: So I wanted to wait to tell you this until after we made Kiddush, but it turns out the oven wasn’t on (general laughter onstage), so it’ll be a little while. I’ve gotta tend to a lot of stuff.
Aunt: Here, let me help you in there.
Son 1: Can I go upstairs until you’re ready.
Dad: Y’know, you could ask if you could help.
Son 1: (gets up to leave, not waiting for permission) So could you...
(Mom and Aunt leave for the kitchen)
Uncle: So your daughter’s not gonna be here at all?
Dad: I dunno. She’s busy tonight tending to her podiatrist’s family.
Uncle: (shrugs) Nice fellow.
Dad: Would it be too much to ask for a college sophomore to find a nice fellow who isn’t 35 and divorced?
Uncle: He certainly makes a nice living.
Dad: If only she would spend his money rather than mine.
Uncle: She wants to look nice for him.
Dad: She doesn’t need to look nice, she’s 19! No kid should spend more money on clothes as they do on college tuition.
Uncle: That’s gotta be an exaggeration.
Dad: You should see her credit card bills.
Uncle: But she’s such a nice girl.
Dad: A nice girl. (shrugs) A nice girl who I had to chase away from every jock in Pikesville.
Uncle: Alright, so she’s found a nice guy, get them married and there won’t be any problem.
Dad: No problem, in ten years they’ll be divorced when he finds a newer model and I’ll have to shill out for a good lawyer.
Uncle: Well, at least you have a son.
Dad: I have a son. I have a son! Ochen vey! I have a son!!
Uncle: You have two sons.
(Enter Aunt, bringing in salad, goes up to her husband to put some on his plate)
Aunt: What’s he kvetching about?
Uncle: Just the podiatrist.
Aunt: Oh. He’s a nice guy, not very bright though.
Dad: That’s ok, neither is she. (beat, Aunt puts the salad on Dad’s plate) Y’know, I really should have followed my Mom’s advice and been a doctor. Once I was over my parents house. You weren’t there Dad, but Mom was sitting there with Mrs. Seidman and Mrs. Indyk, and they were arguing about whose son gets more pride out of being a doctor. So Mrs. Indyk says, ‘My son’s a podiatrist, I get the most naches,’ and Mrs. Seidman says ‘My son’s a dentist, I get the most naches!’
Aunt: But neither of those are real doctors!
Dad: That’s not the point. The point is that when they left, my mother says to me: ‘Can you imagine them arguing over dinner about who gets more naches? One goes around all day smelling people’s feet, the other goes around all day smelling everybody’s halitosis. No real doctor goes around having to smell people like that. Your brother, he’s a real doctor.’ Actually Mom, my brother’s a proctologist.
Uncle: Your brother was just listed as one of the top doctors in Baltimore.
Dad: And don’t think I’ll ever forgive him for that. I’d have been a great doctor and Mom would have loved me for it. But Mom always loved him best. (points to his father) Dad always loved me best, but that just meant he yelled at me more. Last year, (small beat) a couple weeks before she died, Mom asked me to help Mrs. Warshavsky with moving some boxes because her son the cardiologist was too busy to help her, so I asked Mom “why do you have to always say ‘her son the cardiologist?’ But then I went to help Mrs. Warshavsky, and she kept referring to “My son, the cardiologist, who makes six-hundred thousand dollars a year.” But I didn’t want to be a doctor. So when she asked me where I was going to apply to medical school, I told her I didn’t take the pre-med credits, and you should have seen how I almost killed her. But I never told my kids that they had to be anything at all long as they worked hard, and look at them now.
Uncle: I’m sure they’ll find something that works for them.
Dad: I have to help one son in New York with an apartment he doesn’t work hard enough to afford and another son who’s too depressed to live anywhere but upstairs.
Uncle: Give him time, he’ll figure something out.
Dad: Time is running out. The months are becoming years. Before he knows it he’ll be fifty. I’ll have long been dead but he’ll still be living with his Mom.
Uncle: It could be worse.
Dad: There’s worse.
Dad: Remember that friend of son #2 (always a bit of irony in naming the sons after numbers) who came down over Rosh Hashana?
Uncle: Yeah. I really liked him.
Dad: (deadpan) Turns out that for six months, that’s been his boyfriend.
Uncle: (laughs a bit shocked, but also amused) He’s a faygeleh?!?
Dad: I guess so. I just heard about this this week.
Uncle: But…... he had all those girlfriends in high school! Every time you visited him in college he was with a different girl.
Dad: I don’t know, he certainly seemed like he loved women when he was with them. But I’ve stopped thinking I can understand him. Maybe he’s just doing this to be innn-teresting.
Uncle: (shocked for a few seconds, then recovers) Well, good for him. If he’s gay he should feel comfortable letting us know and no matter what he does, he’s still an amazing kid. You should be proud of him and everything he’s accomplished.
Dad: What’s he accomplished?
Uncle: You don’t ask what a kid’s accomplished when he just graduated magna cum laude at an Ivy League school.
Dad: That was more than a year ago, and he still doesn’t have a full-time job! Now he just plotzes around New York, tells me he’s going to be a filmmaker, and takes these pischer jobs at Bar Mitzvahs. All that money spent on his education just so he can run up his credit card bills at every bar in Manhattan. (remembers something…) Y’know, last month when I got his credit card bill, I found that he spent 50 dollars at a Chinese restaurant. Fifty Dollars! When he walked through the door of the restaurant, he must have shouted out ‘MOO GOO GAI PAN FOR EVERYBODY!’
Uncle: So he’s taking a little time off. He’s finding himself.
Dad: Not finding yourself at the age of 24 is a disgrace!
Uncle: Oh, and where were you at 24?
Dad: I was in Canada dodging the Vietnam draft, but it’s different now. This is 1995, this is America, we just won the Cold War! There are no end of jobs for a promising young man and there never will be.
Uncle: I think you’re being too hard on him. A liberal like you, you can’t possibly be mad that your son is gay.
Dad: (resignedly, getting to the heart of the matter) No, of course I’m not, I’m proud of him for coming out. But there’s something else.
Dad: The boy, you remember his name?
Uncle: Yeah, Robert Gold.
Dad: It turns out that his name is Robert GOULD!
Uncle: (beat, taking in what this means, exaggerated but very sincere horror, almost shouting) He’s a goy?!...... How can he do that to us!? (puts his head in his hands) How can you ever forgive him for that?!?
Dad: It’s my worst nightmare come true.
Uncle: You put all that effort into your children, you raise them with the right education, the right values, you teach them to Jewish Day School so they learn Hebrew, you speak to them sometimes in Yiddish so they don't forget what used to be, you never raise a hand to them, you always are there to help them when they need it and respect their privacy when they don’t want you around. And then they take everything you value and spit it back into your face. (beat) If one of my kids did that to me I’m not sure I could go to the wedding.
Dad: Well, gays can’t get married. So at least we don’t have to worry about that.
Uncle: He was so swarthy. He was balding! We quoted Seinfeld to each other for half an hour! (beat) I don’t know what to say.
Dad: There’s gotta be a couple gay Jewish boys I can introduce him to.
Uncle: At least your other son hasn’t turned his back on anything.
Dad: He wouldn’t know how to. He just sits on his bed all day like a bump on a pickle. Never had a girlfriend, never had a job, never even went to college. He’s just sat around for five years, getting fat and listening to his music, reading his books and feeling sorry for himself.
Uncle: I guarantee you he’s read five times as much as your younger one did in school. You gotta be a little nicer to him. He’s had it rough.
Dad: We all have it rough. What makes him so special?
Uncle: What makes him special is that you have him around.
Dad: I have him around and we do nothing but yell at each other all day.
Uncle: You resent your son for yelling? (as if to imply ‘you of all people’)
Dad: Oy. (sighs very loudly) Even you’re against me.
Uncle: I’m not against you, I just don’t understand how you can hold that against him when he’s clearly so much like you.
Dad: He’s not like me. I found a wife, I could hold a job, I had a family.
Uncle: He’s twenty-six years old. When you were twenty-six your biggest accomplishment was having broken up with my sister five times.
Dad: Alright, so I’m a loser. At least I want my kids to do better than I did.
Uncle: Look. You’re were always jealous of my family and compared your kids to mine. But my oldest has barely been back to Baltimore for fifteen years. She goes to practice international law in South America, then comes back with a nice Jewish boy from Argentina. In a couple years she’s such a high power attorney that she makes millions of dollars and has two houses in Seattle, and it’s a lucky year if we see her three times. One day the phone rings and she tells us that she’s getting divorced and marrying an old high school boyfriend. For months, we get no explanation for why or what happened, we just had to accept that it is what it is. My second announces after freshman year that she’s dropping out of her prestigious expensive college to enlist in the Israeli army, what can we do to stop her? Now she’s been there for ten years and we see her twice a year. My twins, they’re both nice guys, they work very hard and they’ll do very well for themselves, and I hope they’ll decide to move back to Baltimore, but if they could they’d just watch sports all day. Sports is their religion, not Hashem.
Dad: What did they call themselves growing up?
Uncle: Kodak and Magic. But you can’t be Larry Bird and Magic Johnson when you’re five foot five.
Dad: Jews don’t play for basketball teams, they own them. (beat) And with your kids’ head for business, they just might.
Uncle: And just look at my youngest (motioning offstage)? She’s so Orthodox that this whole time she’s been sitting with a book in your living room rather than eat or pray with us because to her, we’re goyim too. You can’t stand your family, but at least you have one.
Dad: (throws hands up in the air) Where did we go wrong? At least your kids seemed with the program for a while. My kids were screwups from the time they knocked over their first lamp.
Uncle: (quietly and pointing to the door) Well one of them’s about to come through the door.
Father: (gets up with extravagant display of love) Oh my son, my son! (hugs and kisses him) I love you so much!
Son 1: (half-heartedly hugs him, says a bit begrudgingly) I love you too Dad.
Father: Yeah, but I mean it.
Son 1: No you don’t.
Uncle: (laughs) Be nicer to your father.
Son 1: Did you tell him to be nicer to me?
Father: He did actually.
Son 1: Well, I’m glad somebody pretends to be on my side.
Father: We’re all on your side!
Son 1: Yeah, well a flea is on the side of a dog, and the dog might actually miss the flea when the flea dies, but that doesn’t mean the flea wasn’t a nuisance.
Father: (combination of faux shocked and real shocked) Can you believe this?!
Uncle: Y’know, your father might be nicer to you if…
Son 1: (interrupts) Oh c’mon, you know he’ll never be nicer to me.
Uncle: That’s probably true, but there’s still hope for you.
Son 1: Well, you’re very kind to say that.
Dad: Your uncle believes in you. You should be grateful for him.
Son 1: I am. Do you believe in me?
Dad: Well did you accomplish anything today?
Son 1: Of course not. Did you?
Dad: The market went up.
Son 1: I’m sure you had plenty to do with that.
Dad: Why don’t you have some salad while you’re telling me what a horrible role model I am.
Son 1: Sure. I never said that you’re a horrible role model.
Dad: Well, I am a horrible role model. I sold the business, retired when you were still in high school, and you kids now think it’s OK not to work because you see me loafing around the house.
Son 1: Yes dad, it’s your fault that all your children are screwups.
Dad: Well, isn’t that what your therapist tells you?
Son 1: Sometimes. Y’know, therapy might do you a world of good.
Dad: I don’t need therapy, I know I had bad parents.
Son 1: (points to his grandfather) Your father’s right there!
Dad: Don’t worry, he can’t hear us.