I was raised in the kind of kosher household that would regularly order pork fried rice from the Chinese place. No one in my family particularly cared for the laws of it all—we kept kosher for the sake of tradition, and so my grandpa wouldn’t be mad when he came over. Cutlery was separated into two drawers: the sharper silvery ones went in the meat drawer, and the art deco set with white handles went in the “milk,” or dairy, drawer. In the 12 years we lived in that house on Staten Island, the dairy drawer never worked completely right—it was either locked shut or falling in on itself.
The second light in the living room never turned on; the laundry room was always lit by flashlight. One part of the kitchen ceiling always seemed be one inch from falling down. A light switch in my parents’ bedroom could shut off the whole room’s power. A lot of the blinds were cracked, if they weren’t missing. One of the doors to my closet really didn’t fit the track all that well and would shriek when it was pulled the wrong way. Over the course of three years, my brother completely tore up the carpet in his bedroom by treating it as a chipping green. No one seemed to notice.
I would experience mild to strong embarrassment when I would head to my camp friends’ larger and much nicer houses in Long Island. [...]