‘We have enough to talk about’

Politics. The “purple marriage” series continues with insight from the matriarch of a politically-mixed family. To share your story with us, email: comm.engage@strausnews.com

| 17 Nov 2020 | 04:17

“I read the story about Katie Myrick and Chris Watkins, and thought I was reading about my family,” 84-year-old West Milford, N.J. resident Roberta Gross wrote in an email to the newspaper. “I grew up in a Democratic household, as did my husband. But our two sons became Republicans. Their wives and my grandchildren are also Republicans. But I am used to living in a divided household.”

We gave Roberta a call to hear her story.

Growing up in Brooklyn, her family was incredibly close — but a little non-traditional. Her mother was Jewish. Her father was Italian, and his family switched from Catholicism to Protestantism while he was growing up. When he married Roberta’s mother, he converted a second time to Judaism.

“So my father was covered: he was all 3 religions,” chuckled Roberta. “I had a very interesting, and wonderful childhood growing up.”

Roberta described celebrating Passover, Christmas, and Easter as a child. She said her mother was her paternal grandmother’s favorite daughter-in-law. She recalled her father’s family coming to the house to for Passover.

“I always said I had the best of both worlds, because I got all the holidays — and I got to understand everything,” said Roberta.

“I think because of that, I grew up without prejudice for anybody. It bothers me when people talk about disliking this group or another group. It just aggravates me...you can’t dislike a whole group like that. You can dislike a person but not a whole group.

“I really have no patience for that because of the way I was brought up...we were very accepting of everybody. There were never any arguments about religion or anything. I was very lucky.”

In today’s politically-divided world, Roberta’s continuing to keep the peace, despite having family members whose views that clash with her own.

If the kids start talking politics, “I just tell them to change the subject,” and they respect the request, said Roberta.

“We keep that out. We have enough to talk about.”

Like what?

“Family. What’s going on in their lives. What the kids are doing,” she said. “We just talk about family things.”