Font: Optima

Year created: 1954

Chapter: “The Odd One Out”

Book: And the Lark Arose from Sullen Earth

Written: Summer 2012 (didn’t make separate chapter files for this book, so I don’t have exact working dates)

Computer created on: 2008 15-inch MacBook Pro

File format: Word 2004

This is the 14th chapter of the second volume I wrote about Jakob DeJonghe and Rachel Roggenfelder. When I was expanding my long short story/piece of backstory about Jakob, I didn’t realize I’d use somewhat over 120,000 words for it. So I decided to use the rest of the material for a second volume about his first year in America, and his first real year of being married to Rachel, instead of writing yet another saga. A natural breaking point opened up at the most perfect moment, and I’m glad I made the call to do this story in two volumes, each with its own storyline, instead of forcing it to be a saga.

Rachel was roped into joining an insufferable new social club, Young Wives of Wildwood (to be covered on the Y day), by her quasi-friend and fellow Dutch immigrant Henriette (Jet) Vos. Rachel has absolutely nothing in common with these women, who are all written as parodies of conformist postwar housewives, but she continues going so Jet won’t be alone. She also goes somewhat to be entertained, and to try to expose them to an alternate point of view.

This is where you can write a character out of step with her time and still be historically accurate, since Rachel is the product of her liberal Dutch upbringing. Where she’s from, it’s normal to birth at home with a midwife, keep your name, get a higher education, and have intellectual thoughts. The culture clashes she and Jakob experience throughout the book are a big part of the storyline.

During the chapter, she and Jakob go on a winter vacation to their honeymoon cottage in Cape Cod, and experience more culture clashes at the grocery store. But they do have a wonderful first Chanukah together, without worrying about impressing these conformist drones.

Some highlights:

“Did you not understand when I said from beginning that I do not smoke and that I do not appreciate being forced to breathe in dangerous smoke when I am pregnant?  Jet is pregnant too, and doesn’t smoke either.” Rachel put her hand over her mouth and nose, coughing in a very exaggerated fashion.

“I’m not surprised your husband doesn’t smoke,” Mrs. Gilbert muttered. “We already know he’s not much of a man by how he let you keep your maiden name.”

“Are you really that abnormal?” a Mrs. Douglas gasped. “Only men are supposed to reach, you know, the height of ecstasy.  Believe me, I tried, and it never happened.  Not that I ever wanted it.  Only perverted, deviant women want or initiate that vulgar thing.”

“Well, I’m glad you think so.  All those bored housewives think I’m too fat for this point in pregnancy.  God forbid a woman gain a normal, healthy weight instead of starving herself to please some anti-woman doctor who got his training from a delusional sadist.”

Jakob took in his wife’s body eagerly when she shed her coat and boots in the bedroom. “I can’t wait to see how much more succulent your cantaloupes will be by the birth.  You were already nice and curvy before, but now you’ve got an even more womanly body.”

“Yes, a number of those insipid housewives still can’t believe I’m Jewish by birth, and that there was no intermarriage that I know of in my family.  They’re equally shocked by Jet’s blonde hair and blue eyes.  I didn’t want to waste my breath by trying to explain the concept of Diaspora to them, how it created people who look like all different things.  They’d probably just accuse me of reading too much for my own good.”

“Have you come back to Hyannis for the winter season?” Mrs. Taylor asked icily, not even attempting to disguise her disdain. “I suppose you’re like all normal Americans and have started celebrating Christmas.  I know many Mosaics who put up Christmas trees and hang stockings.”

“My parents taught me when I had four years and I asked where babies come from.  I never thought the word uterus was dirty or a difficult concept.  I can’t imagine how confused and scared I would’ve been as small child if I’d been told babies develop in the stomach.”

8 thoughts on “The Odd One Out (Optima)

    1. I know it was more common in the earlier 20th century for Jewish immigrants, or children of immigrants, to observe Christmas. They thought it made them more American. I’ve read some letters in A Bintel Brief that expressed this dilemma. My characters, however, don’t observe Christmas, since it’s not their holiday.

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    1. I’ve known plenty who do, which is why I was so surprised when I first heard the Ashkenazocentric stereotype of “looking Jewish.” The Diaspora did some amazing things with genetics.

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