Something old, something new….

The girls and I spent most of Passover at my mother’s house in Baltimore, where we also visited with a wonderful woman whom I met through this blog. (She was already friendly with my mother from shul — it wasn’t as if I just showed up at the door of someone who clicked “like” a few times on a homsehuling facebook post.) While we were there, I too had a visitor – that dreaded green eyed monster….envy. Was it her gorgeous house? Her top of the line kitchen appliances? The way my daughters instantly fell madly in love with her? No, none of things. She had a closet full of clothes that once belonged to her grandmother, as well as outfits that she and her children had worn on special occasions. A closet full of memories. As my daughters donned and modeled, Project Runway style, every single garment, I was so deeply wishing that I had such a closet. I’m not a saver, my mom is not a saver, and presumably, her mother and her mother’s mother were not savers. I have held on to my wedding dress for the last seven (almost 8!) years, but my high school graduation dress? My first birthday dress? They were long ago recycled into what my girls call “handy-downs” or shlepped away in giant plastic bags by one charity or another, and I’ve unfortunately done the same with my own daughters things. I do remember seeing my mother’s wedding dress, my grandfather’s tefillin, and a gown my father wore as a baby when I was much, much younger….how I regret that I didn’t seize them for the children I had not yet even dreamed of, before someone decided it was time to empty another closet or shelf.
Perhaps the lack of actual artifacts has something to do with why I cling so furiously to many parts of Jewish tradition. I may not anything that belonged to my grandfathers, but I say the same words they did when I raise a glass of wine each Friday night. I may not be able to show my girls my bat mitzvah dress, but I will stand beside each of them, God willing, when they read for the Torah for the first time. (Not that I got to read from the Torah, but that’s a different post altogether.)
Still, I like stuff. At their Simcaht Bat celebrations, my mother gave each of my daughters one of the few relics she has from her beloved Bubbe’s shabbat table. We use her silver ladle and her brass candlesticks almost every Friday night, and they may be my most prized posessions. And on this trip to Baltimore, my mother passed on my Nana’s china to me. It’s so, so, so not my taste. And I LOVE it. I think we will eat fleishigs every single Friday night forever, just so my table can always look like this (even down to the incorrectly positioned flatware). And someday, if I’m lucky, I’ll get to sit at a table with these dishes, and that ladle, and those candlesticks, and watch my own daughters and grandchildren make shabbat.


like the classy vase? it once held sauce.

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posted April 10, 2010 at 10:38 pm

I feel the same way. I hate clutter, but I love family keepsakes. I have started putting things in my mother’s hopechest, hoping it isn’t too little too late.
My brother just gave us my great grandfather’s US army siddur from 1921, with a note from Pres. Roosevelt in the front, and his name written in his own handwriting.
My boys call it “the family treasure.”. That’s what the china feels like, right?

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posted April 11, 2010 at 10:48 am

I’m a huge saver, but I am not sure if my kids will find my stuff sentimental… I saved editorials I wrote for my high school paper and boat loads of pictures of me at all ages and stages- not so much in the clothes department. You should see my attic. I think Mike would rather I burn it all! But my family treasure is a rolling pin that my great grandmother Rivkah (for whom I am named) brought to the US with her when she immigrated from Ukraine. My mom was going to get rid of it and only used it to push food through the garbage disposal… I’m so glad I grabbed it up!

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the Rebbetzin

posted April 11, 2010 at 11:33 am

those kinds of things are so special – glad you have those memories – your kids will too!

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posted April 11, 2010 at 12:25 pm

I am what some people refer to as Noachide. whatever you want to call it – I wasn’t raised jewish. My husband is Italian… but I am a mut. a little bit of watered down everything. I don’t have much of anything from my family line sans a few “artifacts”. a medicine bottle from my grandfather. a few dishes from my grandmother. some furniture from my great aunt and my paternal grandmother… I cherish those things!
My whole life I have wished for a family. a real tight knit family. the kind that spend time together, argues together, loves and laughs together. But I have never have that. I grew up in a broken home with a father from a broken home who also came from a broken home. (you can see where this is headin) we don’t have family reunions, we don’t have shabbat or Sunday dinners. we don’t pray together. we rarelt eat together. we have very few chidhood memories. heck I don’t even see my brother more than once a year if that. (my only sibling)…
I would trade every sentimental artifact I own for a real true tight family life. I would trade my beautiful cherry-wood bedroom furniture for cousins for my children. I’m exchange my cherished dining room buffet for get togethers and stories of along ago.
believe me, if you have love you are blessed. artifacts get broken, bruised and even lost! but the prayers you say at your shabbat meals, and the stories you have handed down from generations before are more precious than a closet full of handmedowns.
and if it make you feel any better, I am envious of you :)

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posted April 11, 2010 at 12:36 pm

thank you for the persepctive, Laura. That was so moving to read. I hope you can create what you are looking for, even if you can’t change what came before you.

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Judy Meltzer

posted April 13, 2010 at 1:44 pm

It’s interesting that you say your mom (that’s I) is not a saver. Now that I’m anticipating a move from the house in which I have lived and raised my family (over 40 years), I am amazed at the “stuff” I have clung to: golf trophies won by my older son when he was a little boy – he is now in his early fifties; artwork created by all three of my children; projects in wood shop made by both my sons; clay works of art by all three kids, and MILLLIONS of photographs. None of my children has expressed any interest in adopting any of these items. I fear that I will have to close my eyes and just toss my beloved “stuff,” all the time hoping I won’t regret my move.

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