May 20, 2021

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One day out of the blue, my mom said “I need a new canoe-something smaller that I can schlep around without bothering anyone for help.” It wasn’t the first time I had heard that term of course, it was a common word bounced around in Jewish households used to describe the act of lugging something heavy, usually while muttering grudging dissent and the occasional Yiddish swear word under one’s breath, from here to there with an occasional “oy” thrown in to further bemoan the burden. I remember thinking how thankful I was that somewhere in a faraway place a long time ago, a Jewish guy and a French guy stood on the shore of a lake (it had to be guys because even way back then women rolled their eyes in pity when silly men were standing in a swarm of mosquitoes wasting time arguing about meaningless stuff) and debated which word should be used to describe carrying a canoe from that lake, through the woods, to another a mile away. As the story goes it was a contentious argument and they ended up having to rock-paper-scissor it which is how we now call these trails portages instead of schleps. True story.