THE CONCEPT of a nuclear family has always been intriguing to me, mostly because I was raised by women all of my life. Holidays were always funny because all of my cousins had their mother and father with them, whereas I only had my Mom. Not that this was a bad thing; she would show up for every little school activity at the drop of a hat if I asked her to. She was especially excited about events where I would be required to dance, because it had been her dearest wish for me to have inherited that talent from her. Unfortunately, I was as coordinated as a chimpanzee on stilts.

One thing that I seem to have inherited from my Mom is that I, too, seem to have never dated people of the same religion. I have said this before, but when my parents were going to baptize me, they decided to do so in both ceremonies. I am a dual citizen of both faiths, in their hope that when I grew up, I would just “decide” between the two.

The irony of all of this is that my boyfriend is Jewish. I can just imagine my mother rolling her eyes at us, and my Dad looking frustrated at me. It’s not that they wouldn’t have liked David, because they do. We’ve known each other for ages, and my Mom in particular was really attached to the little boy who dressed up as a pirate at my fourth birthday. We’re twenty-one now, so you can imagine just how long it’s been.

Right now, we’ve just finished a series of High Holy Days. Rosh Hashanah, or the Jewish New Year, was at the beginning of the month. Yom Kippur was a little after a week. Sukkot started on Monday evening and lasts for a little over a week. It’s been my habit to remind David when the holidays are coming up so he can call his parents and brother, who live in Rome.

It hasn’t been easy for him to try and balance everything, though. His parents are very into keeping the tradition, as they keep kosher and don’t work on the Sabbath. For example, on Yom Kippur, you’re not supposed to work or eat or drink for twenty-five hours. This would make sense if he were actually in Rome, where it would be declared a public holiday, but here in the Philippines he’s left in a bind because we don’t really commemorate that here. He eventually fasted, but he didn’t skip school with the final exams coming up. It’s always been about compromising, for him, but he’s used to it.

I watch him very closely when it comes to his family, mostly because I don’t really live with family anymore and I haven’t had any sort of parental guidance in years. There’s a lot of guilt when I watch him, because he is still so ingrained in his faith (whether he likes it or not) and I know more about being Jewish than about being a Muslim, which I feel is really unfair to my parents. I think about them a lot whenever David talks about Friday night dinners or going to the Synagogue or vacationing in Israel.

Out of everything I’ve learned about Judaism, the one thing that gets to me is their sense of community. I feel very much like an outsider looking in, somehow like an anthropologist studying on location. David isn’t expecting me to convert anytime soon, and he’s been doing his best to help me understand a lot of what goes on, but it’s difficult. I won’t lie. When you’re around a belief system that places so much value on family, it’s not hard to think about feeling like you’re lacking something because you don’t have one.

Sure, we’ve never had to think about what to eat for Iftar and we’ve never been to Simbang Gabi, but my parents had always felt pride in their beliefs and they would have wanted me to do the same. I watch David struggle with being a Jew in a place where only a few people know what that is, and I feel for him. I really do. Maybe that’s why we get along so well, because we’ve always been different from everyone else.

It’s especially hard knowing that his parents are coming over for Christmas, or Hanukkah, depending on when they arrive in the country. The holidays are supposed to make you feel happy and you should celebrate with the ones you love, but I can’t help but imagine what it would be like if my parents were around and we were all learning from each other. The conversations would be interesting, for sure. I wish I could bring something more to the table, but until I can, I will keep listening. Knowledge is power, after all.

Posted in Opinion