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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Glass Table

On Monday, the day that most Americans had off from work, I was put through the paces at home. Not in my grown-up man home, but in my little boy/pained adolescent home. The home of my remembering.

It’s changed a bit, but not much. My childhood home isn’t a strip-mall now, like my father’s childhood home is in Israel, and it isn’t some other family’s home, like my mother's childhood home is in Northeast Philadelphia either, that I have to drive by, wondering who they are, what they are doing as they peter out their little lives in the rooms where we all laughed and cried together.

My parent’s house was built in 1955, and the contractor who built it lived there for two years until my grandparents came along and bought it. Those walls have ensconced fifty-three years worth of the same family’s bullshit and love.

My family, as full of love and bullshit as the next.

The interrogation room, some people call it the “living room” is exactly the same as it was when I went away to college, and when I came back four years later until I couldn’t take it anymore, moving out after a few months. The peach carpeting is still there, the gray leather couch is still there. The enormous Ben Shahn painting that my eldest sister was convinced would make us all rich and maybe even sane is still there, hanging on the wall, looking down on us with its own palpable Jewish austerity. Some new pictures have been added in the last ten years—notably among them are photographs from our wedding, and pictures of my nephew, undeniably the biggest, and smallest, force of good in the entire brood.

It is because of my nephew that the circular glass table has been removed from its unforgiving metal frame. The round circle of thick-beveled glass, easily four feet in diameter, sits inert against the wall, and a huge space in the middle of the room exists now, and, on Monday afternoon as I waited for my parents to arrive at the agreed-upon meeting time, for the first time ever I walked through the space where the glass table used to reside. The carpet was absurdly fluffy under my feet, for it had never been walked on before. We’d had that table longer than the peach carpet—it used to be white with yellow borders.

My middle sister almost blinded herself on that glass table when she was a child—doing handstands on the sofa, she fell backwards and smashed her face against either the glass or the metal supports that held it up, slicing a gaping hole above her eye, and the scar that interrupts her eyebrow is there for all to see. I don’t know how you clean blood out of a carpet, but my parents did it.

I stood, for a moment, in the center of the interrogation room, where I had never, ever stood before, and I checked my watch.


It was so… odd. It didn’t feel natural, or right—- it was like I was standing on the surface of the moon, or on somebody’s face, or their dog, or their country. It almost made me laugh because it was all so stupid. There I was, in my old house, in the room where I had done battle with my parents countless times, where I had cried out for help on so many occasions, where I had passionately defended my beliefs and my desires and my, well, my own particular, peculiar bullshit, and everything was the same except that the glass table had been upended and there were a couple of new pictures, and yet I felt like I was in a foreign place. My head started to spin as I saw my mother’s car pull in front of the house. Instinctively, I rolled my eyes inside my head and schlumped down into the sofa. My mother walked into the foyer first. She glanced down at her wristwatch.


“I’m sorry we’re late,” she said with a small smile.


  1. You are a beautiful writer. This story is witty, clever and so heartfelt. I’ve been following you for a while and your wise creaks about your family are very endearing. You’re lucky to have such a deep pool for material, aka your Jewish family and your sister (who I want to hear something positive about). Keep it up. I love reading your posts.

  2. Wow. Just when I'm convinced there's virtually nobody out there anymore, I'm happy to say,

    "Hi, Karla."

    And thank you.

  3. Glass tables. I swear they are only owned by Jews folks and rednecks, who, oddly, have more in common than you'd think.

    (So many of my friends are Jewish, people used to be shocked when they'd find out I'm not.

  4. My family never had a coffee table. They still don't. They've reappropriated a piano bench (oak, carved) in the living room. Yet I still managed to come into adulthood with the characteristic scar under my chin of someone who's split her chin open on something. Glass coffee tables or not.

    And don't forget about the white-trash and/or red-neck Jews. They do exist!


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