My mother’s house is the cleanest house I’ve ever been inside. Even rich people don’t have houses as clean as my mother’s house. You really could eat off the floors. It’s that clean.
It is also oddly decorated.
Among other things, she has a shrine to FDR and John F. Kennedy (first Catholic president). And a shrine to Elvis. And her dog (which is growing alarmingly fat) has a St. Francis medal on her collar and her dog bed. She took the dog to church to be blessed by the priest before she brought it home as a puppy.
Last year, when I went home for Christmas, I walked into the kitchen and found a huge honkin silver Menorah on the kitchen table.
It was huge. I do not exaggerate. It overwhelmed the table. It looked like it was looted from Solomon’s palace or something.
“What the hell is this? Are we Jewish now?” I asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Why do we have a menorah?”
“What’s a menorah?”
“That thing on the table.”
“What? The candalabra?”
“That’s not a regular candalabra. It’s a menorah. It’s Jewish.”
“Jewish?” My mother’s voice was bewildered, as if I’d said it was Martian.
“Jewish! They use it in Church!”
“I think you’re confused,” said my mother. That’s what she says when she thinks I’m wrong about something.
I went to the bookcase and took down one of the encyclopedias that I used to write papers back in 8th grade. I opened the page to the entry on menorahs. Sure enough, there was a big photo of a menorah.
I showed it to my Mom.
“Oh,” she said. Then: “Well, I like it anyway. It’s pretty.”
“Where’d you get it?”
“A garage sale.”
“Mom, I don’t think that it’s very nice to appropriate people’s religious objects.”
“I paid $40 for it! I’m keeping it! How do you know about this stuff, anyway?”
“I saw it on TV,” I said, but in my mind I was thinking about the Surgeon, back in New York, and the expression on his face the time I asked him why he didn’t have a Christmas tree.
“Momma, how would you feel if some Hindus brought a statue of the Virgin Mary at a garage sale because they thought it was pretty, and planted it in their garden?”
“But I have a statue of the Virgin Mary in my yard!” (It’s true. She does.)
“That’s not the point,” I said.
“I’m keeping it. I like it,” she said.
And so the hugeass honkin silver menorah remains in my mother’s house.
I hope this story doesn’t offend anyone. She means well.