I’m Once Again Living With My Jewish Parents. Some Things Never Change.

Yes, my mom is still playing mah jongg and no, we can never decide on what we want to eat.

It’s been six years since I’ve lived with my parents. From college to post-grad, I’ve lived all over the world with my own set of rules. However, as much as I pride myself on being away from family, my parents insisted I come home to be with them during this crisis.

I’ve learned that while my parents are proving to be adaptable in these uncertain times, some things have not changed.

1. Meal Planning 

Before COVID-19 and panic buying, my family has been big believers in planning out meals during other meals. After breakfast, we’re already brainstorming what will be for dinner. We’ll end up going back and forth throughout the day and reach a decision by peak time: 4:00 p.m.

When we finally reach a decision to order take-out, all hell breaks loose. Sadly, what was once easy to do has now become an art form. We’ve learned you have to time it precisely right, otherwise you’re left with a busy signal and no answer. In the beginning, I encouraged my parents to order earlier in the day, giving restaurants time to prepare our meals. They brushed it off, but were left with the consequences of being hangry even longer, as we scrambled to find another place to order from. Thus, the cycle of wondering where we will eat repeats.

A couple of weeks later, and I’m happy to report that they have now agreed with me to order early. Reaching a decision for where to order is still a struggle.

2. Watching TV 

In a quest to find something good on Netflix to binge, I suggested that my parents watch Love is Blind. While my mom and I can talk about the Bachelor/Bachelorette for hours, my father cannot. His first comment when watching Love is Blind was “At least this is better than the news.” What was once skepticism turned out to be an appreciation, and dare I say, love, of the show. In a matter of episodes, I watched my father have a breakthrough. I know now that it is possible to watch reality TV with my father.

For those curious, his favorite moment was when Cameron met Lauren’s dad.

3. Mah Jongg Via Facetime

COVID-19 will not stop my mother from playing mah jongg. Every day from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., my mom and her friends (virtually) play mah jongg together. Instead of Zoom, they’ve opted to use FaceTime. About every 10 minutes, I hear cries of, “Wait! Erica dropped! Where’d she go? Not outside!” (It took them a few tries to figure out how to do a group FaceTime.)

Through their technological struggles, they’ve managed to stick together and commit to play every single day. When they don’t use FaceTime, they chat in a group call (think of that Mean Girls scene with the four-way call except with Jewish mothers). Their conversations range from talking about dinner, matchmaking their kids, and gossip. So, the usual. They even take a break to do the push-up challenge!

To the creators of realmahjongg.com, on behalf of my mother and her friends, thank you. Without you, my mother would center her focus on telling me and my sisters to join JDate.

 4. Grocery Store Runs 

Let’s face it: Nobody wants to go to the store right now. Out of necessity, I’ve gone to the store with my mom at least twice since I’ve been home. My mindset is: get in and get out as fast as we can. My mother, on the other hand, does not share the same sentiment. What could be 10 minutes in the store, stretches to almost 45 minutes.

While practicing social distancing from other customers, we go aisle by aisle and argue on what we need. She will look at an item and say, “Do we really need this? Will you eat it? Don’t we already have this? What can we cook with this? I can’t remember what day it is.” These pressing questions have shifted grocery shopping into an existential crisis.

There are a lot of things I miss about my old life. At my apartment, I had the ability to cook whatever I wanted without someone (let’s face it, just my mother) over my shoulder. While I do love cooking for my parents, a worried mother wondering if the chicken is actually done can make it difficult. I also miss my simple security system: a lock on my front door. I forgot what it was like to have a doorbell, until I came home. My parents have a fancy “smart” doorbell, and the sound it makes its way into my head almost every day, multiple times a day.

Kvetching aside, I am thankful and fortunate to be with my family right now. Spending this much time at home has allowed me to enjoy the small things in life: explaining curb-side pick-up to my dad, listening to my mom’s daily mah jongg sessions, and finding another TV show to watch with my parents.

Header image design by Grace Yagel; background image by Serge Krouglikoff / Getty Images.

Amy Yoelin

Amy Yoelin is a 20-something currently living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When she's not doing yoga or rock climbing, she's either gossiping with her mother, watching 90 Day Fiance, or wondering what to eat next.

Read More