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One generation ago, the vast majority of the Kahn side of my family lived in Louisville. Nowadays, we’re a pretty far-flung group. There are Kahns in the Bay Area and Southern California, Kahns in Boston and Chicago, in NYC and Colorado, in St. Louis and New Hampshire, in Atlanta and Vegas and points in-between, and a few Kahns still hanging about in Louisville. That makes get-togethers rare, occurring only at life events such as bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings, and (unfortunately) funerals.*

When they do happen, I’m always warmed by the ties that bind, many of which traverse distances measured in both miles and years. This past weekend, when we convened at my cousin Monica’s wedding in New Hampshire, was no different. I sat at a dinner table with cousins from California and Boston, all of whom are my mom’s generation, only to discover that we listen to the same NPR news shows, avoid the same NPR news shows, share favorite authors, and will be voting in a uniform block this November. We even ordered the same meal for the reception!**

It was the kind of evening that makes you feel connected and warm—that solidifies your sense of person and place in the world.

It was also the kind of weekend that left me doubled over in laughter at one unexpected commonality. At breakfast the morning of the wedding I sat with my mom, my Uncle Stewart (mom’s brother), and my cousin (Stewart’s son) Sean. The four of us are, respectively, a semi-retired banker, a former technology editor, a retired pathologist, and a neuroscience lab worker and aspiring screenwriter. Early on in our meal, someone at the table inquired about theĀ  weather or directions to somewhere with the expectation that one or all of us would pull out our smart phones and look up the information.

Instead, all of us sheepishly dragged out un-smart phones of varying antiquity. United by Ludditery! We all had the same reasons for carrying dinosaur phones as well: we don’t want the constant distractions, we’re concerned about the addictive qualities of being tethered, we’re worried about the effects of constant connectivity on our memory and attention spans, and we don’t want to plop down the $65+ per month for something that might just ruin our brains. Three of us are also the lone hold-outs in our peer groups, teetering on the line between adorably eccentric and annoyingly hard to communicate with.

How can this be? Our social groups and situations could not be more different, but we’ve all defiantly put our stake in the dumb-phone ground. I can only think that somewhere deep in our DNA is a stubborn practical and suspicious streak. Having thought about it for two days now, I think I can identify the source. I’d bet the rent that were my grandparents alive today, Pearl Kahn Wolfson would be showing off pics of the great-grandkids on her Android phone (and it would be an Android phone; she’d never shell out the cash for an iPhone) to her Kahn siblings, nieces, and nephews. But Lester Wolfson? The father and grandfather of the ancient phone wielders? He’d wave off all the fuss with a dismissive hand-wave and an “Eh, who needs it?”

It’s not for nothing that I changed my middle name to Wolfson some 21 years ago.

Pictured in the decidedly un-Simon related header picture above is from L to R: Jane Carey Kahn, Arnold Kahn, Leona Wolfson (mother of bride), Rita Goldstein (my mom and aunt of the bride), me, and C. Ronald Kahn.

*Ten years hence, I plan to remedy this by calling all Kahn descendents to convene at Ellis Island on July 3, 2022, to mark the 100th anniversary of our arriving. It’s a long way out, but I think it would be simultaneously fun and meaningful.

**Get-togethers on the Goldstein side of my family are different animals entirely. With one or two exceptions, I have relatively little in common with that side of my family in terms of what I eat, think, or read. Then again, this is the side from which I derive nearly all my physical traits. From my hair and skin color to the shape of my jaw and feet, I am Goldstein through and through. We even share the same slightly explosive laugh and terrible handwriting.

One Response to “The Outdated Ties That Bind”

  1. goldsteinrita says:

    That’s OK. I claim you as a Kahn/Wolfson in all the things that really matter.

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