Ear­li­er this week, Michelle Haimoff dis­cussed hav­ing immi­grant par­ents, baby boomers, and parental expec­ta­tions. She will be blog­ging here all week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

The hard­est thing about break­ing up with the Jew­ish guy I dat­ed six years ago was break­ing up with his par­ents. I loved his par­ents. His par­ents loved me. I knew that the guy and I would nev­er be hap­py togeth­er, but I also knew that I would nev­er find anoth­er set of par­ents who I con­nect­ed with as much as his.

That fact hit me even hard­er the first time I met my future in-laws. Self-pro­claimed dyed in the wool Catholics,” they told me that they had nev­er met a sin­gle Jew until their son (my now hus­band) went to col­lege in the North­east. They’re from Nebras­ka. A tiny lit­tle town called Bro­ken Bow. It’s smack in the mid­dle of the coun­try, about three hours from the clos­est synagogue.

When I first real­ized that Ben was the man I was going to mar­ry, I found myself mourn­ing the loss of the in-laws I had always want­ed. His par­ents didn’t effort­less­ly under­stand me. They didn’t appre­ci­ate that I could speak Hebrew and a few words of Yid­dish. That I had gone to a yeshi­va for ele­men­tary school and to Israel on my semes­ter abroad. They had always fan­ta­sized about a Mid­west­ern Catholic daugh­ter-in-law. And I got it. I want­ed my in-laws to be kvetch­ing Upper West Siders.

But now, on the oth­er side of the wed­ding, I find myself on the phone with Ben’s mom, lying on the quilt she hand­made for us, hap­py to hear her laugh. Some­times we make small talk (what we did that week, the joke she for­ward­ed me, the weath­er), but just as often we’ll con­fide in each oth­er about our bad days or trade fam­i­ly gos­sip. Like my con­nec­tion to Ben, what we have in com­mon goes beyond background.

It’s fun­ny how peo­ple influ­ence you in ways you don’t even real­ize. When we go shop­ping, Ben’s mom looks at the label of any item of cloth­ing she likes to make sure it’s made out of nat­ur­al fiber. This means no poly­ester, ray­on or acrylic. I do this now, com­pul­sive­ly. Ben’s dad often starts sen­tences with the word yes.” Like, Yes, I told him I’d be hap­py to help him out.” And yes, it seems I picked that one up too.

I’d like to think I’ve also rubbed off on them. Ben’s mom often ends emails with xo,” which Ben says she picked up from me, and dur­ing meals they order for the table,” which is some­thing my fam­i­ly always does but nev­er thought was fun­ny until Ben’s par­ents laughed at the expres­sion and start­ed using it themselves.

Falling in love is the eas­i­est way to make the world small­er. Nebras­ka used to be a mean­ing­less square on the map, as for­eign to me as a vil­lage in Africa. But I’ve been there a num­ber of times now and think of myself as some­one with Nebraskan roots. I’ve also learned about the quilt­ing process, how to make an alco­holic bev­er­age called Gilligan’s Island, and how to be trust­ing with­out being naive. These weren’t the in-laws I had visu­al­ized, but I can’t imag­ine a more won­der­ful pair of machatanim.

Michelle Haimoffs debut nov­el, These Days Are Ours, is now avail­able. She is is a writer and blog­ger whose writ­ing has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Ange­les Times, Psy​chol​o​gy​To​day​.com and The Huff­in­g­ton Post. She is a found­ing mem­ber of NOW New York State’s Young Fem­i­nist Task Force and blogs about fem­i­nist issues at gen​fem​.com.
Michelle Haimoff’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Ange­les Times, The Huff­in­g­ton Post and NPR​.com. She has appeared on Good Day New York, Deep­ak Chopra Well­ness Radio and The New York­er Fes­ti­val. She is the grand­daugh­ter of Holo­caust sur­vivors and a for­mer stu­dent at The Hebrew Uni­ver­si­ty of Jerusalem. She is also a found­ing mem­ber of NOW’s Young Fem­i­nist Task Force and blogs about fem­i­nist issues at gen​fem​.com