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I gulped. This wasn’t at all like my usually demure Susan. Must be the wine.

“I don’t understand,” Artie said.

“What I’m thinking of is your son and your daughter both married non-Jews, and your son’s two children are being raised Catholic, no? That’s not such a good father, or at least a good Jewish father, at least by most people’s lights.”

“Give me a break, Sue,” Artie said. “I can’t control whom my kids married. As for Josh’s girls being raised Catholic, he didn’t really have much of a choice. He’s agnostic, and Nicole, his wife, is a serious Catholic, devout even. What was my son supposed to do?”

I squeezed my wife’s wrist, signalling her to take it easy, go slow.

“I don’t know what your son or you were supposed to do,” Susan said. “All I know is I recently heard that you’re not Jewish unless your grandchildren are Jewish.”

“You saying I’m not Jewish, Sue?”
“Something like that, yeah, I guess I am,” Susan said.

Well, I thought, there goes our fifty-odd-year close friendship with the Axelrods.

“What about you, Sue?” Ellie said, attempting to relieve the tension. “What’s your great self-deception?”

“My greatest self-deception was that I was a great homemaker. Notice, please, the past tense.” I noticed it and I also noticed that my wife had poured herself a second full glass of the Zin, the bottle of which was just about empty.

“Only now, I just realized, I’m not longer deceived about it. I’ve had it with the whole homemaking, stay-at-home mother bit. Boring! While I’m at it, I may as well admit I’ve also lost my enthusiasm for cooking, too, especially ambitious cooking. You know, fancy things — complicated quiches, cassoulets — heavy on the presentation. Just not worth the effort.

“My deception is that I used to tell myself that staying home for my children was much more important than doing something dumb, like being an interior decorator or another unneeded female divorce lawyer. Now, my kids long gone, my grandchildren growing up on the west coast, I’m not so sure I made the right decision. I guess I’ll have to find another new self-deception to replace the old one about the ultimate significance of being a good mother, cook, and all that. I’m open to any suggestions.”

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