A Christian Jew and a Jewish Christian

By Alissa Herbaly Coons

menorahSummer is here in Australia, a string of perfectly forgettable sunny days lulling us along until the sudden arrival of the holidays. Three years since leaving Canada, my husband, Michael, and I are still bewildered by Christmas tunes wavering mirage-like over the sunbaked pavement at the grocery store.

As we drive past the neighbor’s inflatable Santa bloating in the heat, our five-year-old, Ingrid, asks in ecstasy, “Is it almost Hanukkah, too?” and we arrive again at our awkward attempts to inhabit our Judeo-Christian traditions. It’s a perpetual conflict.

The sunshine doesn’t help either.

Among our grandparents we count three Jews and one Anglican (his), three Catholics, and one Lutheran turned Catholic (mine). Among our parents, two Catholics turned Evangelical Protestants (mine), and one nonobservant Jew, one New Age Universalist and one Scotch-Presbyterian atheist ex-stepfather (his).

Together for fourteen years, we’ve lived in five countries and stumbled in and out of at least as many churches. Michael says he’s a Christmas and Easter Jew, kidding/not kidding depending on his audience. He’d rather go to the beach on a Sunday. I miss the liturgy and friendships from my old Lutheran summer camp and keep wandering back to church. [Read more…]

Above Calcutta

Kalkata sun

By Laura Bramon

The summer before you died, I hid on the roof in Tollygunge. I walked part of the way home from Sudder Street and by the time I got to the apartment building where I was staying, the sooty red sunset had spent itself. Dusk sifted in the quarter’s dim air, and from the park by the main road a wedding feast’s smoke, incense, and music rose up from beneath a red lit tent. I had lost my keys; I couldn’t get into the little apartment. But I could get into the stairwell, so I went up to the roof.

I thought I was alone above Calcutta.

The trip to this city had been planned quickly. I was offered a task and an adventure, a chance to do new work; I would stay with three young American men in their makeshift office-cum-apartment, which amused me. But you were sick and I didn’t know if I should go.

“When would you come back?” you asked when we talked on the phone.

“I’d only be gone a month or so,” I said. [Read more…]

Hamster Hospice: Caring for God’s Tiny Creatures

HamsterFor my son, Alex

In the final months before our hamster died, I would lie in bed late at night, wondering if he was still alive. In the quiet of the house, after my husband had left for work at 3:00 a.m. and my children were asleep in their beds, I would strain my ears to hear if there was any sound of movement from his cage.

Lying there in the dark, I would find myself holding my breath, straining to listen to whether—just one more time—I might hear the sound of him running on his wheel. But for the last several months that Fluff was alive, there was no sound from the cage at all, aside from the slow occasional rasp of his claws on the cage’s bedding as he painfully turned and the bubble of the water tank as he sucked a few pitiful drops down.

Hamsters, you remember, are nocturnal creatures. When Captain Von Flufficus arrived in our family in August 2013—the result of our nine-year-old’s persistent begging, I, for one, did not want to own a rodent—that was our family’s instantly rueful realization, as we all lay in our beds on our small second floor, unable to sleep, while he ran on the wheel all night long. [Read more…]

The Way of Saint James

Jan ValloneMy Uncle Jimmy died in September at the age of ninety. Born in Sicily, he immigrated to New York when young and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was the husband of my aunt for sixty-one years, the frolicsome father of my two cousins, a regular part of my life until I married and moved away.

I can still see my uncle clearly as he was in January 1994. The way his brown eyes sparkled. The way his thick hair swept back from his forehead. The way he arm-wrestled my four-year-old son to laughter, easing tears caused by my father’s death.

That was the last time I saw my Uncle Jimmy. Almost twenty years ago.

On the day my Uncle Jimmy died, I didn’t even know that he was ill. He’d lived in Florida for two decades and I in Seattle for three. Through those years our correspondence was limited, consisting only of Christmas and Easter cards with a few scribbled pleasantries. Some years, even cards were lacking.

No, on the day my uncle died, I wasn’t at his bedside hugging him. Instead, I was in a Spanish cathedral embracing a very different Jimmy, not one of flesh and bones, but of gold-plate and jewels, the bust of Saint James, apostle of Jesus, whom Spaniards call Santiago. [Read more…]

Our Lady’s Football Team

Shadow_Football_PlayerEvery Saturday morning in fall I wake up and feel a tinge of disappointment that I have not woken up in a dorm room in South Bend, Indiana; that my Notre Dame marching band uniform does not hang in the closet at the foot of my bed.

I’m disappointed because I’m not eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one years old. And I’m disappointed that instead of spending the entire day wrapped up in the tradition and pageantry that is college football, I will instead mow the lawn, sort the recycling, and grade freshman composition essays.

Notre Dame football is deeply engrained in my being. Put it this way, if something cataclysmic happened and we were all reduced to cannibalism, I like to think that I would taste like a crisp fall day, a hint of charcoal smoke, a whiff of beer breath, and the tang of the kelly green turf in the House that Rockne built. I like to think that you would hear strains of the Notre Dame Victory march as you roasted me.

Sorry, I know that’s really creepy, but that’s the best way I can describe the zeal that I have for Notre Dame and its football team. It’s more than addiction, it’s as though my very genetic structure has been altered. This makes losing very, very difficult. [Read more…]


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