As a public school child in the 70’s, my Valentine’s Day often ended in tears. I remember digging into my optimistically large brown paper bag in first grade to find only three envelopes, even though my mother had insisted I fill out mass-produced cards for every child in my class. “No one likes me!” I […]
My mother came to visit this weekend so that she could be here for Grandparents Day at my five year old’s school. She lives six hours away, but I wish she lived around the corner so every shabbat could be like this one. In her honor, here’s a story I wrote a couple of years ago that I couldn’t convince anyone to publish.
Every Friday night, Sadie and her family went to Bubbe’s house for Shabbat dinner. Papa always put on a suit and tie. Mama wore her matching pearl earrings and necklace, and even her brother Sam combed his hair and tucked in his shirt. Sadie put on her best white dress and her fanciest hair ribbons. Everyone wanted to look perfect – just like Bubbe’s Shabbat table.
Just before sundown, the whole family gathered around the table to light the Shabbat candles. Sadie loved to rest her small hand on top of Bubbe’s big one as they lit the candles together.
Papa lifted up the shiny silver goblet. After Kiddush, he passed around a tray of small cups, filled with wine for the grownups and grape juice for the children. Everyone took a sweet sip and said “Amen.”
Mama lifted the pink satin challah cover with a “whoosh”. She always pretended to be surprised by the two braided loaves underneath, still warm from the oven.
Mama led the Motzi. When she finished the blessing, Sam carried the challah board around the table with slices of the delicious Shabbat bread for everyone. Everything was perfect.
One Friday night, as Sam walked by with the challah, Sadie reached her arm out for a piece. Her elbow bumped her cup, splashing purple grape juice all over the white tablecloth.
Sadie began to cry. She darted away from the table and buried her face in the pillows of Bubbe’s soft couch.
“Sadie,” called Bubbe. “Please come back to the table. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just a spill. Why are you so upset?
“Because,” she sobbed, “your table isn’t perfect anymore.”
“Perfect?” answered Bubbe. “Perfect?” Bubbe chuckled. “That’s very sweet of you to say, Sadie. But really, not one thing on my Shabbat table is perfect.”
Sadie stopped crying for a moment and looked at Bubbe in amazement. “What do you mean?” asked Sadie. “It looks perfect to me.”
“Thank you, my dear,” laughed Bubbe. “Come to the table, let’s wipe up this mess, and then I’ll show you ‘perfect’!”
After wiping up as much of the juice as they could, Bubbe lifted Sadie onto her lap.
“Sadie, take a look at this wine cup.” Bubbe pointed to a spot just above the Star of David. “What do you see?”
Sadie wiped her eyes. She examined the goblet carefully. “There’s …… a dent,” she answered.
“That’s right. When your Aunt Lisa was a little girl, she begged to hold the cup while your grandpa made Kiddush. Just as everyone sang “Amen” it slipped from her hand and dropped smack on the hard wood floor. Every time I see that dent I think about how determined your aunt is!
Next Bubbe reached over for the wooden challah board. “Sadie, would you please turn this over?”
Sadie carefully brushed off the crumbs and turned over the board. “Bubbe!” she exclaimed, “There’s a purple smiley face on the back! Who did that?”
Sam’s face turned bright red. “Do we really have to tell this story?”
“Oh Sadie, I’ll never forget that day. When your brother Sam was a little boy, Papa had to go out of town for a whole week. Your mama came over to help me get ready for Shabbat, and we gave Sam some crayons to keep him busy. A few minutes later, he came into the kitchen with this challah board, as pleased as punch. ‘Look what I made!’ he announced, beaming with pride. Your mama and I didn’t know whether to laugh or be angry. He thought the picture would make him feel as though Papa was sitting at the table with us!”
Sadie grinned. “What else, Bubbe?”
“How about my beautiful pink challah cover? Do you know that it used to be white as milk? Until……” Bubbe paused. For a moment, she looked lost in thought.
“Until what, Bubbe?”
“Until the day your grandpa accidentally put it in the wash with his red flannel pajamas. That rascal! He always meant well, but sometimes I had to beg him not to help me with the housework”
Sadie started to giggle. “Is there more?”
“Sadie,” said Bubbe, “I could go on and on. When grandpa and I first got married, everything on this table was brand new and perfect. But after serving Shabbat dinner here for over fifty years, to brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, grandchildren, friends, and strangers, nothing is perfect anymore.”
“But Bubbe, everything on your table has such a wonderful story!”
Bubbe smiled. She looked around the table. “It’s true Sadie. I do have dents and stains, scratches and spots. But I also have such sweet memories. I think you are right after all. My table is perfect. Now let’s go have a perfectly delicious Shabbat dinner!”