All of us are still trying to settle into our new routines since the coronavirus pandemic has infected the foundations of our free society. Social distancing and stay-at-home orders have forced legions of grandparents to exercise distance-loving their grandchildren. What we once thought of as a never-in-our-lifetime scenario is indeed our scene. We are all vulnerable to disasters, regardless of our backgrounds, nationalities, and economic standing.
With all of these serious matters destabilizing our lives, one bright spot has been the constant connectivity with our loved ones through various online platforms. Ironically, that familiar mantra that teens spend too much time alienating themselves from the real world, has placed them at a vantage point. We are all humbled to learn that it’s the only way to remain connected and relevant in each other’s lives these days. The creativity behind recent online visits is proof positive of our ability to adapt to change overnight, and rules that we once thought of as unchangeable have been broken just like that, which will make for an interesting future moving forward.
A little levity is never out of season, and all you need to do is delve into the annals of American history to see how humor during the Civil War served to inspire at a time of great tragedy. Abraham Lincoln was at the forefront of jokesters, also criticized heavily by his opponents and cabinet members for his supposed lack of sensitivity. With this in mind, my hope is to entertain grandparents with a poem that has a Yiddish twist, but silly enough to capture the imagination of their grandchildren. The subject matter of my poem does not touch on the pandemic, but relies on a foolproof formula that comfort food, in this case Jewish food, is synonymous with happiness. When you can’t cook for your eyniklach, they could still be reminded of your culinary creations, which could be a good or bad memory for some . . . But does that matter when the place and setting of those meals are enough to evoke a warm feeling anyway? And with the aid of a poetic beat, any food you mention will lull them into a peaceful sleep during online bedtime.
My Sweet Little Pumpernickel
When it’s time to sleep but you don’t care
Do your bubba a favor, go to bed anyway,
No hedging or kvetching, olreyt?
It’s unfair, I know, you’re not tired, you feel great
But everyone needs to rest, farshteyn
Even the man in the moon snores by 8:00!
Tonight, go to bed without kamplaining,
Your dreams will taste like buffet dining
Without the lines, and I’m paying!
How about kugel or knish?
No? Then gefilte fish floating in brrrrrrine,
With a little orange kippa on top, what a dish, delish.
Oy-yoy-yoy, why the long face
Is sweet, creamy herring an acquired taste?
Perhaps more modern, so a bisle of quinoa
Sauteed tempeh with tomato paste
Olreyt, relax, u don’t have to, but it’s good for you!
Let’s see—aha! I know what to recommend
A savory bowl of chicken-noodle soup,
Well no need to plotz, you choose instead.
A sip of beet juice and ginger, or am I a fershtinker,
You have to drink something!
Does lemonade sound tastier?
And for dessert, a plateful of taglach
Dense and sticky pastry mmm,
What do mean “no”? Not even rogalach?
I’m kenfoozed, so what would you like in your buffet. Tell me.
Gevalt, you’re not hungry?
NOT HUNGRY! We can’t be from the same family tree.
Oy what tsuris, you must eat something,
So unhealthy to sleep on an empty stomach, trust me.
You don’t say—a pumpernickel sandwich—olreyt olreyt,
I’m not judging, no need to impugn
And in the morning don’t forget to brush your teeth and floss,
But wait—let me get my knife, fork, and spoon
I want a nosh from that tasty midnight feast of course.
—Ilana K. Levinsky