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Story Archives

Filtering by Tag: 2015-08-14


Pauls Toutonghi

By Pauls Toutonghi


I’ve been staring at babies a lot, lately.  

My wife gave birth to twins. The house is full of howling and giggling at all hours of the day and night.  

The babies make noise, too.  

But since the noise they make is not English noise, I have to admit that I’ve started to wonder what they’re thinking. And they clearly are thinking. Here’s a list of what I’ve noticed that they perceive: Hunger, joy, panic, satisfaction, pain, excitement, sleepiness, wonder.  

These emotions are clear; there’s no doubt when they’re hungry, happy, or sleepy. They are not shy. As Woody Guthrie sang to little Arlo Guthrie so many years ago: “I want my milk and I want it now.”  

But there’s one thing that my children don’t yet seem to do. They don’t remember

I have no memories from when I was an infant. And I’m always suspicious of people who have them—no matter how stridently they insist that they can close their eyes and see, vividly see, the color of their nursery walls. I just don’t buy it. I think they’ve built that memory as adults. They’ve sneaked into the citadel and planted the seed of the memory, themselves. We learn to remember at about the same time we learn to speak, I think.


What’s something that happened this week you’d like to keep as a memory?


Pauls Toutonghi's next book is True North, the true story of a family's search for its lost dog. It will be published by Knopf in 2016.


Ben Greenman

By Ben Greenman


Eating Jewish wasn’t a religious issue. It was a cultural issue. That’s what my parents always told me, partly to explain my grandmother. We’d go over there, my two brothers and I, and within twenty minutes we’d vanish inside a welter of bread, butter, brisket, potatoes, soup, sugar soda (not allowed at home), cookies (allowed, but not at those levels), and ice cream. Who needs two desserts? We did.

Eating Jewish wasn’t a cultural issue. It was a historical one. That’s what my grandparents told me, partly to counter my parents. Here in America, not two decades after the family had arrived, stuffed full of hope, the Great Depression had descended, a period of severe privation that rivaled the problems my great-grandfather had faced in Russia, minus the Cossacks shooting at him in the apple orchard.

Eating Jewish wasn’t a historical issue. It was an ethical one. That’s what my great-grandfather told me, partly to amplify my grandparents. No one in the trunk of my family tree was in the Holocaust, but my grandfather had cousins. His father’s brothers had left Russia for France, certain they would have a better life. But they were heading into the teeth of time. Eating, and eating well, was proof that no one could keep us from life.

Eating Jewish was none of those things. It was a tactic. That’s what my brothers and I told each other. Eating with the family was a way of keeping you at the table, eating Jewish, talking about what it wasn’t, demonstrating what it was.


What’s a strong memory you have of eating with your family around a table?


Ben Greenman is a bestselling author of fiction and nonfiction. He lives in Brooklyn.