Candles

Monday Morning Musings:

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”

—Attributed to Anne Frank all over the Internet, but without any source that I can find

 

A single candle

(for miracles)

flickers in the night

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joined by others

till eight in a row

they burn, and then they go

leaving only melted wax behind

and yet, perhaps I find

something, a sense of peace

in watching them increase

and we remember how our daughters

bet on which candle would stand last

one that burned not quite as fast—

lovely memories from the past.

 

 

A single candle

(for wishes)

flickers on a cupcake

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baked with love

and so sweet, delivered as surprise treat.

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It’s a strange birthday,

things don’t quite go my way

I lose a filling, and due to the snow

we stay and home, and don’t go

to dinner and a show,

but we eat pizza and drink some wine

and it’s fine, I say,

we’ll do something another day.

 

Everything a bit off this week,

small victories tinged with apprehension

tension over what might come, or be

a tax bill to help the rich–

oh, if only I could flip a switch

to eradicate ignorance and greed

wish on candles and stars that people would read

would help those in need

and instead of hindering, would keep freed

thought and scientific inquiry.

 

The CDC, an agency, supposed to be science-based

is not supposed to use the word

it’s not to the taste

of the current administration

who would like to see a nation

without education based on facts

but the monster simply reacts

without nuance or tact, but snaps,

just twitter taps and taps and taps

 

We fry latkes

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and when we’re through

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we eat them–and donuts, too

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because it’s a holiday of oil and sweets

and it’s a treat to share them with love

we eat the food and laugh and talk of–

oh this and that–

we watch their dog and see their cat

climb in search of treasure—food!

Yes, we’re in a holiday mood

as candles flicker and lights glow

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but soon it’s time to go.

 

I spend the next day working

(cats around me lurking)

I have too much work to do

I sit at my computer

in a bit of stupor

but as night falls

we light the candles

and watch the shadows on the walls

from the flickering glow

I think of miracles past

(wonder if our country will last)

but let those thoughts slide

subside for a more festive mood

as we eat our Chinese food

and watch the Christmas shows

I might doze. . .

 

 

In the morning, before the dawn

I yawn and look up at the sky

and know that hope like a feather flies

and though the clouds block the stars

I know exactly where they are

I close my eyes and make a wish

I hope it flies and travels far.

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Songs of Squirrels, Beauty, and Tradition

Monday Morning Musings:

“I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,. . .”

Walt Whitman, “I Hear America Singing”

 

“The human soul can always use a new tradition. Sometimes we require them.”

–Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline

 

“Perhaps this piece of evolution makes no sense—our hunger for everyday sorts of visual pleasure—but I don’t think so, I think we have survived because we love beauty and because we find each other beautiful. I think it may be our strongest quality.”

–Louise Erdrich, Future Home of the Living God

 

The long holiday weekend is filled with family, food, love, and traditions

my younger daughter and I break bread for stuffing

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it’s a calling, a mission, with certain conditions

some fluid, others unchanging

though life does some rearranging

through time and space

and so, I flashback in my mind  to my sister and me

watching Thanksgiving parades and tearing pieces from loaves

while our mother is at the stove

producing the magic of holiday meals

(then not appreciated, but now, oh the feels)

Now daughter and I, we break the bread

and watch The Gilmore Girls instead

done the day before,

crossing off this chore,

from the to-do list

and while the old, might be missed

a new holiday tradition it seems is born

taking place while the bread is torn

because sometimes we require them

even when the holiday is filled with so many.

 

On the big day—what to do

when our designated squirrel un-molder is not here?*

Another one is drafted and a crowd gathers

Offering advice on this and sundry matters

as the cranberry sauce does not want to leave the mold:

more hot water

use a spatula

A compliment:

Not only is she smooth on the dance floor,

she’s smooth on the squirrel, too.

Critique:

She can’t bang it, it’s a hundred-year old thing.

There will be no banging!

Encouragement:

Come on little squirrel we love you.

do it do it do it

Oh my gosh I think it’s happening

The crowd goes wild:

Yaaaaayy!

Another year with the squirrel!

and so, we talk and laugh and eat and drink

discuss scuba diving and money laundering

the possibility of my mom having off-shore accounts

(she doesn’t, but the thought produces much laughter).

We discover how many people it takes to get

a ninety-five-year-old woman up the stairs to the bathroom

wonder if we’re doomed,

but at least three, it seems,

still, we enjoy the holiday and dreams

watched by the spirits of those no longer with us

it is ever thus,

the ghosts of holidays past,

“remember when,” the common refrain

joining in a train

the days from before

to what will come hence

past and future tense

blended together,

a holiday casserole of memories and dreams,

like the dish of leftovers my sister tells me she made

layers laid atop one another,

savory, tart, and just a little sweet

the art of distinct layers that together seep

to form when mixed through

something entirely new.

 

The next day, we take our older daughter and her wife

on a journey to see visual pleasures

in nature and art, such treasures

a visit with the boating party

scream at monsters

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or just scream

dine by the water

and dance in the woods

we hear America sing

its varied songs

and glory in Impressionistic delight

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Later, we eat leftovers

and watch The Blair Witch Project–

because nothing says family coziness like horror movies–

with food

America singing its varied carols

 

We do a holiday wine tasting in the barrel room

Scott, assists us, keeping up a lively patter

as he describes the wine and other matters

it is a beautiful fall day

and so, we decide to stay

to sit outside

while we imbibe

watching the soaring hawks

and listening to others talk

looking at the daytime moon

enjoying this weather, thinking winter will be here soon.

We eat Pakistani food

and meet out daughter and son-in-law’s neighbors

who have become friends–the kind of whom you can ask favors,

we discuss how our daughters sound alike,

one tells how she used to sneak about at night,

and we counter with embarrassing childhood stories

(the glory of parental territory)

perhaps the start of a new tradition,

of perhaps it is sufficient

to see and relish the present and the everyday.

 

Now, it’s four o’clock Monday morning,

we’re awake for the sake

of our daughter and her wife

who have to catch their flight

though it seems the middle of the night,

yet I’m strangely alert

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear

of parents and children saying goodbye

of politicians trying to tear apart, like stuffing bread,

when they could be constructing something good instead

of children going off to school

hoping they will learn some tools

to navigate this brave new world

that has such people in’t

both good and bad

some sad, hungering for traditions, or new conditions,

for truth and beauty to negate the hate

I see a squirrel scamper from a tree,

and over us, the moon hums her tune

I watch for the sun to rise in autumn beauty–soon

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We visited Grounds for Sculpture again and did a Holiday Wine Trails tasting in the barrel room at Sharrott Winery.

 

*I explained the tradition of the cranberry squirrel in this post.

 

I Close My Eyes and Dream

Monday Morning Musings:

“For myself, I declare I don’t know anything about it. But the sight of the stars always makes me dream.”

Vincent van Gogh, letter to his brother Theo, July 1888

“I think about our ancestors. Thousands of years, wondering if they were alone in the universe. Finally discovering they weren’t. You can’t blame them for wanting to reach out, see how many other species were out there, asking the same questions.”

–Captain Kathryn Janeway, Star Trek Voyager, Episode, “Friendship One”

 

At night

ghosts sail to stars

dazzling the universe

with wild poetry,

that thing there—

see it?

the liquid blush of desire

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Earth spins and orbits our Sun

but all is not right

(in day or night)

the heavens rage

the surface heaves

the forests burn

the oceans churn

(do you hear them sigh)

and creatures die

on the stars I make a wish

for planet, us, for birds and fish

and then under the glowing stream

I close my eyes and then I dream

 

I wake to see bright Venus,

high above

she sings of love

there in the eastern sky

she dances and she wonders why

(as do I, oh, as do I)

we are not swayed from the hate

and do not counter or negate

the dotard’s words of folly

but instead sink into a melancholy—

(as do I, oh, as do I)

under starlight’s beam

once again

I close my eyes and then I dream

 

We watch Star Trek Voyager

Earth’s greeting of friendship gone wrong

a civilization pushed headlong

into nuclear winter,

the next day—synchronicity

a radio story of the real Voyager

the golden record as it would sound to aliens

Simplicity? Specificity?

We want to reach out,

to know we’re not alone

the moon smiles and gleams

I close my eyes and then I dream

 

We have a holiday dinner

missing daughters, sister, and niece

still I present the soup and loaf

(a masterpiece!)

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with apples, honey, and some wine

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we drink and eat and we are fine

(we pour more wine)

talk of movies and van Gogh

(there’s a new movie out, you know)

wonder about Ben Franklin’s diet and life

then matter-of-factly my mother’s zinger

that he did not sleep alone

at ninety-five, she was so in the zone!

and with that, the laughter lingers

sweet

like the honeyed fingers

from the baklava and apple cake

she mangles the middle

and picks at the pieces

but sister laughter

follows after

and after

 

We drink more wine, again we’re fine

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under moonlight sky and starry stream

I close my eyes and then I dream. . .

 

of the universe’s wild poetry

of singing stars and humming moons

of spirits soaring and swaying to the tunes

before dawn’s blush of desire

turns the sky to fire

I wake and look up to the sky

to see Venus shining bright

I gaze and wish

for us, for cats, and fish

for dogs, and horses, and for birds

(and yes, even for the dotard)

for the planet, earth, and trees

and for the seas

under Venus’s beaming gleam

I close my eyes and wish and dream

 

So, we watched Star Trek Voyager and saw an episode about the result of a probe that was sent out from Earth that was very similar to the real Voyager and its golden record. Then the next day, I heard this story on NPR’s Weekend Morning Edition and the Oracle gave me that poem. Synchronicity?

 

Some of you may know because I’ve ranted about it   that I’ve been working on two reference books about rape. I am happy to report that both manuscripts have now been sent in. I also finished another project over the weekend, so I should now have time to answer e-mails and respond to comments and prompts. At least until, I receive copyedited manuscript (first one is coming next month).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day and Night, Hope 2017: NaPoWriMo

Monday Morning Musings:

“They lived in narrow streets and lanes obscure,

Ghetto and Judenstrass, in mirk and mire;

Taught in the school of patience to endure

The life of anguish and the death of fire.

 

All their lives long, with the unleavened bread

And bitter herbs of exile and its fears,

The wasting famine of the heart they fed,

And slaked its thirst with marah of their tears.”

From, “The Jewish Cemetery at Newport,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, full text with annotations here.

 

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,

Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,

Here once the embattled farmers stood

And fired the shot heard round the world.

–from “Concord Hymn” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

April came in with showers, dreary and cold

seemingly, spring was stopped, would not unfold

with flowers and green

then, suddenly, it took hold.

 

We took my mother out to lunch

sat on the porch to enjoy the air

watched dogs pull the owners, sniff,

noses in the air, aware

of scents in the air, of food, and treats

of magic there

 

It was a day she thanked us for

to enjoy the sights

(what she can still see)

to have the food

(not her typical fare)

to feel the air

and hear the ducks quack

and the geese honk,

in her ninety-fourth spring,

another voyage around the sun.

 

 

Passover began that night

but in our crazy way,

the family celebration,

(our celebration of family)

was not until five nights later.

Was it just me thinking about freedom

and how Passover seems more relevant this year?

 

My family arrived,

we missed a few,

sisters, a daughter and her wife,

we hug and kissed,

poured the wine, and began,

taking turns reading from a Haggadah

I put together several years ago,

it probably needs to be updated,

but still, one grand-nephew laughed at the jokes,

“Tonight we drink of four glasses of wine—unless you’re driving”

and all took part in the reading of the Passover Play,

 

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rewritten every Passover,

one daughter’s work this year,

with Trump jokes, Hamilton references, and lines about family quirks and neuroses,

 

 

We said,“Dayenu,” and attempted to sing “Go Down Moses”

(not very successfully)

then we ate,

and ate,

and ate some more,

 

 

my great-niece, played her ukulele,

and my daughter sang

(I miss hearing that voice)

and then it was time for dessert,

we took pictures,

 

wrapped up leftovers,

and forgot the Afikomen,

after everyone left,

the cats came out to sniff

noses in the air,

aware of scents in the air,

on the tables

and through the windows,

Was Elijah there?

 

The next morning,

I saw the moon,

her dark half

not quite hidden

darkness and light

opposites,

black and white

good and evil,

April’s changeable moods

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Moon at dawn

In the newspaper,

I read about the new Museum of the American Revolution

to open on April 19th,

the anniversary of the Battles at Lexington and Concord

the shots heard round the world,

it’s the anniversary, too, of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising,

1943,

lasting for almost a month

captive Jews,

desperate,

fighting for their lives

fighting for freedom

 

The first American president,

a slaveholder,

led an army,

fighting for freedom,

he met with the enslaved poet

while he was still a general,

after she had written poetry in his honor,

as president, he met with leaders of the Touro synagogue

in Rhode Island, championing the Bill of Rights

and freedom of religion

 

Another poet would visit that same synagogue in the next century,

he’d write strangely prescient lines of ghettos, starving, and fire,

would write of the Passover meal with its bitter herbs and salty tears

in the twenty-first century,

we would still think of that time,

of all those times,

we thought war would be over

dip spring greens into salty water,

oh brave, new world—

 

We laugh, eat, drink, and sing at Passover,

holding evil at bay,

the table,

charmed circle,

is filled with more non-Jews than Jews,

and more non-believers

than believers,

 

Around us

(Do you hear them?

Do you see them in the shadows?)

ghosts from the past,

echoes,

ghosts of memories,

memories held like ghosts,

flitting at the edge of consciousness

dancing in a ring,

(they all fall down)

ancestors, known and unknown,

the blood of slaves,

the blood of the lamb,

the blood of men, women, and children who cry

who die,

even now

 

My family,

crazy like the April weather,

how I love you,

and love is love is love is love is love

and so, we love,

even as the ghosts hover,

just beyond us

hidden,

the dark side of the moon,

and we laugh,

and we eat,

and we hope

 

 

This is Day 17 of NaPoWriMo. Today’s prompt is to write a nocturne. Perhaps I’ve written half a nocturne.

I am honored to be today’s featured poet for the poem I posted yesterday, “If Only.”

 

 

Singing an American Tune

Monday Morning Musings:

 

“Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower

We come on the ship that sailed the moon

We come in the age’s most uncertain hour

And sing an American tune

Oh, it’s all right, it’s all right

It’s all right, it’s all right

You can’t be forever blessed

Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day

And I’m trying to get some rest

That’s all I’m trying to get some rest.”

–Paul Simon, “An American Tune”

 

“In folks nearest to you finding the sweetest, strongest, lovingest;

Happiness, knowledge, not in another place, but this place—not for another hour, but this hour.”

–Walt Whitman, “Carol of Occupations,” Leaves of GrassPreparation, Anticipation

  1. Preparation, Anticipation:

I don’t feel as organized this year,

distracted by the election, by the news, by work

and this and that,

still, I cook applesauce, bake challah and pumpkin bread,

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placing them in the freezer to wait for the holiday,

I make mushroom gravy,

(which, by the way, is delicious)

while listening to “Hamilton,”

dancing around the kitchen,

grandchild of immigrants,

I sing an American tune,

preparing for this holiday of food and gratefulness.

 

Two days before Thanksgiving

younger daughter comes over to break bread for stuffing,

packages of sliced white bread

(stuff I would never buy to eat),

it’s what we have always used for stuffing

a family tradition for this family holiday.

My sister and I used to break bread while watching

Thanksgiving parades,

then–long ago–my mother made the stuffing,

but time passes the tradition baton to the next generation,

or, perhaps a different metaphor,

a page turned in a book,

the story continues, characters die, new ones appear,

the plot changes, and who knows how it will end?

But we are here in this hour, in this story, happy and grateful.

 

We watch an old episode of Gilmore Girls,

It is Thanksgiving in Stars Hollow,

mother and daughter—them, not us—

eat four Thanksgiving dinners in one day.

We laugh, as we break the bread into small pieces,

letting them fall, filling my huge stock pot

(did I mention we like stuffing?)

and try to imagine eating four Thanksgiving meals.

H. calls later that night,

Did the cranberry sauce jell last year? I’m trying to figure out how long it needs to cook?

Cooking is not an exact science with us,

it’s done by taste and feel,

with sometimes a ghost or two hovering nearby

they whisper in our heads,

You do it like that.

Remember that time?

 

At H’s house, on Thanksgiving Eve, there is a family cranberry sauce making activity.

I have given her the cherished squirrel mold,

and with my 94-year-old mother in attendance,

they cook, strain, and pour the mixture in the mold.

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  1. The Holiday Meal

On Thanksgiving, here at my house,

my sister-in-law unmolds the sauce.

“You do it once, and it becomes your job,” she says,

 

It takes three of us to wrangle the cooked turkey onto the board to carve it.

Wine opening, similarly becomes a joint effort

after the corkscrew breaks and the cork is shredded on two bottles.

But we need wine at Thanksgiving,

and where there’s a will, there’s a way–

with a new corkscrew and bit of muscle.

 

To my mom:”Are you okay, do you need anything?”

Reply, “Life is good, I just finished my wine.”

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Food and conversation flow around the table

(like the wine)

tidbits of both, chewed, swallowed, or scattered like crumbs,

we all say we miss our older daughter and her wife,

but they will be with us next year,

we tease my great-niece about her boyfriend

We’re only in seventh grade!

We laugh when my great nephew exclaims,

“That’s why we’re sisters!”

(and then realizes what he said).

We have discussions about other Thanksgiving meals,

younger daughter has made mashed rutabaga

for her daddy because his grandmother used to make it,

there is mention of carb-free Thanksgivings–

a group shudder, unthinkable.

 

We discuss my mother’s mother’s cooking.

she koshered the meat, salting it till it was too dry to eat,

my older sister says,

but she was a good baker, my sister says,

“She excelled at carbs!”

We eat, we drink, we are more stuffed than the Thanksgiving turkey,

and there is still dessert–

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But it’s all right, it’s all right,

it’s part of the American tune,

songs of many cultures,

songs of immigrants,

songs of many types of love,

because love is love–

I am so grateful for this family.

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Then it’s over, everyone leaves,

the hiding cat reappears

My husband, designated driver and dishwasher, texts me that he’s stuck in traffic

I put “Hamilton” on again

dance around the kitchen while I take care of dishes

And then it’s time to get some rest.

 

  1. The Day After

Younger daughter comes over to watch the NEW Gilmore Girls series.

We are so excited,

we eat Thanksgiving leftovers–and watch the entire series,

Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall.

Gilmore Girls practically demands binge watching and binge eating,

we do our part.

Happiness in this hour,

and the next

and the next

(stopping to make coffee and get some pie)

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Ghosts from the past on the TV screen,

ghosts from our past, too,

before daughters were grown and married.

Time has marched on for both our families—the Gilmore’s and my own,

people lost, and people added to the family,

traditions continue,

traditions evolve,

life comes full circle,

but still

there is happiness in this time,

in this place,

it’s an American tune

and after the holiday is over

it’s time to get some rest.

 

 

 

For Beauty to Happen

Monday Morning Musings:

 

Warren:

For beautiful to happen, the beautiful has got to be seen

Deb:

Okay. I like that shade of red right there

The spot where the apple is peeling

It’s deep as an ocean but lighter than air

Warren:

It’s simple, familiar, and full of feeling

Deb:

The color of Saturdays here at the Met

Warren:

The color of shouting from rooftops

Deb:

You bet!

Warren:

The color of feeling that life is okay

Deb:

The color of an ordinary day

Adam Gwon, “Beautiful” from the musical Ordinary Days

 

“What we call the beginning is often the end

And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

–T.S. Eliot, “Little Giddings”

 

We planned for seventeen

but expected sixteen

I bake challahs,

a freezer full,

enough to give some away.

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I buy brisket,

take the plastic-wrapped tray from the butcher’s hands,

I look at the package–

no, she has never seen my family eat brisket,

I pick up another package.

 

I cook,

we clean,

I buy myself flowers to decorate the table–

we never have flowers inside

because of the cats,

just this once I think.

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A series of texts and calls

and there are now fourteen coming to dinner

then thirteen

then eleven.

Final answer.

As guests start to arrive

(The soup is bubbling on the stove.)

one cat is vomiting.

I’m worried he’s eaten flowers that are toxic,

I confer with daughter on the phone.

It doesn’t look like any of the flowers were nibbled.

I decide he’s probably okay.

(I hope he’s okay.)

 

The sun did not come out,

but there is a beauty to the fall breeze,

an ordinary day, beautiful.

The birds and squirrels chatter to one another,

“Fall is coming.”

 

In this year of bullets and bombs,

of hate-filled speech and lurid lies,

I welcome thoughts of a sweet new year,

old traditions that bring comfort,

even without belief

I don’t need god to believe

in man and woman,

and love.

 

We pour the wine,

my niece makes a toast

she reminds us of the importance of family

of love

of gathering together

of being there when others are in need.

 

We dip our apples in honey,

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We’re eating challah and drinking wine

talking with loved ones

and loving the talk.

(We love to talk.)

 

Dinner is full of symbols for the new year–

cycles, sweetness, prosperity–

in the round shape of the challah

full circles of life,

the ordinary made beautiful on reflection,

the golden pumpkin-yellow split pea soup

the burst of red pomegranate in the salad

the apples

tart and sweet—like life.

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My mom starts to mention traveling to Boston

I catch my niece’s eye–

pour more wine—

oh, family!

 

We talk about TV shows,

we talk about school,

there’s a discussion on teachers and parenting,

middle school kids,

Axe body spray and middle school boys

“It smells like BO,” says my niece

“I’d rather smell a room full of Axe than the smell of boys after gym class,”

says my daughter, who teaches 8th grade.

“I keep air freshener to spray in the room at the end of the day.”

(Perhaps sometimes the ordinary does not smell beautiful. But those kids–bursting with life!)

 

We’ve eaten our fill–

plenty of food–

because what if there isn’t enough!

Food for meat eaters and vegetarians

Brisket

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Turkey

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Noodle Kugel

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and enough for all to take some home

 

And then dessert. We want a very sweet year.

Apple Cake

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Baklava

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And brownies with sea salt, too.

(because chocolate)

 

We missed those who could not join us.

I send the flowers home with my mom.

The beginning and end come full circle.

We clean the house.

My cat is fine.

See the beauty.

It is all around,

in the red of an apple

in the golden flow of honey,

in the eye of your child

in the touch of love,

and in the purr of a cat, too.

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L’Shana Tova

A sweet year!

L’Chaim

To life!

Peace to all

Shalom

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Passover Dessert Recipes

I had a request for recipes for the desserts I mentioned in the post about our Passover dinner. I’ve provided links to all of the recipes, since I did not create any of them. I also mentioned what I did with each one.

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Flourless Chocolate Cake: This is David Lebovitz’s Chocolate Idiot Cake.  I can’t take credit for it at all. It is super easy and delicious. The only thing I do differently is to add 1 Tbsp. espresso powder and 1 tsp. vanilla. I bake it at 325 for 1 hour, but maybe that is my oven.

 

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Coffee Meringues

Coffee Meringues from Amy Kritzer’s What Jew Wanna Eat

I follow her recipe, but add chocolate chips. I used mini-chips this time.  This time I also doubled the recipe. It does take quite a while to beat the egg whites—they must be very stiff. Follow her instructions.

 

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Almond-Lemon Macaroons

Almond-Lemon Macaroons  I used Joan Nathan’s recipe here.

I added the juice from half a lemon, and increased the sugar to 1 cup. You definitely have to refrigerate this for several hours. I rolled the balls in sugar, but I did not add the additional almond on top. I used a mixture of slivered and whole almonds, did not blanch.

I don’t have my younger daughter’s cheesecake or stewed dried fruit recipes. I know she made the cheesecake crust from packaged chocolate almond macaroons, to which she added a bit of butter. She has always liked d-e-s-s-e-r-t. 🙂

 

 

 

A Holiday Dinner

Monday Morning Musings:

I often wonder what I would do to survive, to escape

it’s the story of Passover, after all.

the story of a group of enslaved people who escape

(with the help of a few miracles)

and of people all over the world in the past and present.

My grandparents left a repressive land,

pogroms and restrictions,

coming here where they could prosper

they met and married.

Both sets of grandparents—love matches.

They worked hard through the Great Depression

and WWII

making certain that their children were educated.

Some people don’t want to think about

slavery in this country.

They want to visit historic sites

without a reminder that slave labor kept the homes and farms running.

But we can acknowledge the achievements

and the faults of historic figures.

I listen to Annette Gordon-Reed and

Peter S. Onuf discuss Jefferson’s complicated

moral geography—

people and situations are seldom simple

black or white–

and still the world has slavery,

people forced to work with little sleep or food,

beaten if they disobey,

women kept as sex slaves,

a young woman, now a college student here,

who escaped from the

Boko Haram:

“And I say to one of my friends that I’m going to jump out of the truck. I would rather die and my parents will see my body and bury it than to go with the Boko Haram.”

I wonder if I would have had the courage to jump from a truck and run.

I read Those Who Save Us, a novel by Jenna Blum,

and I wonder—

what I would do in war time to survive?

It’s easy to judge others.

And so on Passover,

I think about slavery and escape,

of generations of people celebrating this story with words and foods,

celebrating in basements,

in wealthy homes,

in concentration camps,

We sit around the table(s)—reading from our homemade “Haggadah,”

going through some of the Seder steps, mixed with family lore,

“the spirit of roast beef.”

We read our parts in our Passover play,

and laugh,

this year, the play includes “Pharaoh Trump,

and rap songs.

We eat the food that I spent days cooking–

chicken soup, vegetable broth, knaidlach made the way my mom taught me

with separated eggs,

no recipe of course,

done by feel,

done with love,

but they are light. No sinkers here!

Matzo balls that float,

and don’t land with a heavy thud in your stomach.

Gefilte fish with horseradish

to clear away those spring allergy symptoms

Oh—that’s not what it symbolizes?

We eat my sister’s charoset,

the mixture of fruit and nuts that symbolizes the mortar or mud used to make the bricks in

the Exodus story.

The meat eaters consume brisket and turkey breast with delight.

Those who don’t eat meat, enjoy the roasted sweet potatoes and salad of spring greens.

Many glasses of wine. No Manischewitz!

For dessert, flourless chocolate cake,

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And my daughter’s cheesecake, made with a crust of chocolate almond macaroons.

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And coffee meringues with chocolate chips

And lemon-almond macaroons

My daughter, believing she is addressing a lack in my education,

brings Fireball whiskey for me to do my first shot ever-

It’s a group activity—with dancing.

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I really do dance in my kitchen.

 

I realize suddenly that this is the first holiday in years

where all of my siblings

are here together,

and both of my daughters with their spouses.

My mom is still here, too.

I feel love.

I feel content.

OK. I feel a bit tired

by the time it ends.

But happiness, too.

And love.

 

Recipes for the Flourless Chocolate Cake (to which I add 1 Tbsp. espresso powder and 1 tsp. vanilla, and bake for one hour at 325 degrees) and the recipe for the coffee meringues were in this post from last year. https://merrildsmith.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/a-passover-legacy/

The First Night of Hanukkah

Monday Morning Musings:

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”

–Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

“How far that little candle throws his beams!

So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”

–William Shakespeare, Portia, The Merchant of Venice (Act 5, Scene 1)

Season of miracles, season of light

A single candle glows bright

It’s the first night of Hanukkah.

 

I think of a candle shining in a window

And of the light traveling out into space.

The light of stars takes billions of years to reach us,

Traveling at 186,000 miles per second

But still I wonder if someone out there

Out there

Somewhere

Might see it.

 

 

As I fry latkes—

Lots and lots of latkes—

I listen to a Hanukkah CD.*

I listen to it every year,

But this year

I really listen

As the young girl asks her Uncle Joe

If miracles really happen?

He says it was a miracle when someone

Who was very sick got well

Or if a long war ends.

The child then says,

“What if there were no more wars.”

And Uncle Joe

Replies, “Yes, that would be a miracle.”

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Two pans; one spatula

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Season of violence, season of fear

A single candle brings cheer

It’s the first night of Hanukkah.

 

 

Rituals of thousands of years

The miracle of the oil

Burning for eight nights.

And we celebrate with latkes

And other delights.

Though of course

Long ago,

In lands torn by war,

As they were then

And are now,

There were no potatoes

Or candles packaged

Neatly in box.

 

But Hanukkah reminds us

Of rededication

And hope.

So at the darkest time of the year

We light a candle.

And then we light

Some more.

We celebrate

With family and friends

We eat too much

And we drink some wine.

We talk.

We laugh.

We sing and dance.

And rejoice–

Because in the face of darkness

We need to find the light.

 

And it doesn’t even matter

That my house and clothing

Smell of oil.

Because we have love

And laughter

And good food to eat.

Season of brightness, season of yearning

Lighting the candles till all of them are burning,

It’s the eight nights of Hanukkah.

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*A Child’s Hanukkah, The Jewish Wedding Band

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time Bubbles

Monday Morning Musings:

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”

–Thornton Wilder, The Woman of Andros

When I was child

My little sister and I broke bread

For stuffing

On Thanksgiving morning

As we watched the parade

On TV.

One Thanksgiving morning,

My father took us out

So my mom could cook

Without interruptions.

We were dressed as pilgrims

Or Indians perhaps,

Me with my hair in two long braids,

And the waitress fawned over us,

Or perhaps she was flirting with my dad.

I can’t be sure now.

The restaurant,

I seem to recall,

Was empty,

Which seems strange

On Thanksgiving, doesn’t it?

And perhaps the whole event

Happened in some other way,

But this is what I remember

On that Thanksgiving Day.

Thanksgiving dinners

For me

As a child,

Meant crumbling slices of white bread

Into a large pot

While watching the televised parade.

I don’t even remember the meals.

And I certainly didn’t appreciate

All of the work

My mother did to prepare them.

Later,

When I was a bit older,

It was my mom making cranberry sauce

In the squirrel mold

That stood out.

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We never understood why

After turning the mold

Onto the platter,

She then raised them together

High in the air

And rested them on her head—

Strange,

But dramatic.

And we looked forward to it

Every year.

My daughters took over

The bread-breaking chore

When they were young.

Crumbling the bread

And

Eating pieces,

Thinking I didn’t see them.

We’d place their hand turkey placemats

On the table,

But as their hands grew larger

The placements no longer appeared.

Where are those placemats now

I wonder?

This year,

My younger daughter,

Hands woman-grown and

With a wedding ring

On one long, slender finger

Tore the bread with me,

Loaves and loaves

Crumbled

Into a large soup kettle,

As we spent the afternoon together,

The day before Thanksgiving,

Watching Netflix

And enjoying tea, cookies,

And companionship.

After she left,

I waited for my

Older daughter and her wife

To arrive.

And I sat with them while they ate

The Wawa hoagies

My husband had bought for them.

(No Wawa stores in Boston!)

And we talked

And I was so happy to have them here

And willing to sleep

On an uncomfortable bed

In my daughter’s childhood room.

I’m profoundly aware

That many throughout the world

Are suffering,

In pain,

Missing loved ones,

Perhaps without a home,

Food, or water.

And I am deeply grateful

For what I have,

Our traditions

And crazy family.

I think of our Thanksgiving dinner—

The ritual unmolding

Of the cranberry squirrel,

Now done by my sister-in-law,

With encouraging advice,

Laughter,

And glasses of wine.

The scurry to get everything to the table,

The fifteen minutes it takes to get everyone

To actually sit down.

(Why does it take so long?

Another mystery.)

What do you want to drink?

Wait, where’s the corkscrew?

Oh, I’m sitting over there.

But the food,

Of course,

Worth the days of cooking.

The Thanksgiving favorites

Prepared every year.

My daughter and I discussing how much

We love stuffing.

“It’s good we don’t have it all the time,”

She says.

“Then it wouldn’t be special,”

I say.

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The various conversations going on

Across the table,

Whispers and glances between couples,

The newlyweds smiling and hugging,

The children restless,

Holding two fingers up behind heads

Preserved forever in photographs

Of this night.

Secrets and stories.

Talk of jobs,

Family,

Gossip.

The under-the-table pokes.

Yes,

More wine–

Please!

And then dessert—

Pies and pumpkin cheesecake

And chocolate port, too.

You know,

In case the wine was not enough.

My mind hovers

Seeing each moment

Frozen,

Stilled

And replayed,

But connected to all the Thanksgivings

Of my life.

Each memory

A little bubble of time

That floats to the surface

To be tasted

And savored.

Sparkling water of the mind.

This holiday is special to me.

Not because it commemorates

A feast shared by

Pilgrim refugees

Who called themselves

Saints

And the Wampanoag

Who lived there.

(Well, those who had survived

Earlier exposure to diseases brought by

Europeans).

And they didn’t have pumpkin pie

And they probably ate venison and shellfish,

And they did not have our cranberry squirrel,

But no matter

No,

For me,

Thanksgiving is beautiful

Because it evokes my past,

The scents,

The taste,

The history,

The love,

And connects it

To the present

And the future.

Each bubble of time

Sparkling,

Glimmering,

Floating

And popping

To make way for the next.

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I am grateful, too, for all of you who read my blog and for the comments you leave. Thank you for your encouragement!

This may interest some who want to give and provide hope to others.