A Day That Is and Isn't
This year is a leap year on the Jewish calendar. That means that there are two of the month of Adar named appropriately, Adar I and Adar II. Judaism is a legalistic religion and like all matters of law there is more than one way to look at a legal question.
My mother died on the 10th of Adar last year, a year of only one Adars. I had to figure out which was the right day to mark my mother's yarhzeit. My sisters and I discussed the matter a bit and decided that we each needed to consult our own rabbi.
My sister's rabbi said that she needed to mark the yarhzeit on the first Adar. My rabbi had a different answer. He said that I should say kaddish, and light a candle on the second Adar but in some way mark the day on the first Adar.
Today is the day. My oldest sister went to shul last night and this morning and brought breakfast this morningfor the people who showed up at morning minyan to honor my mother. Her minyan is also making tomorrow's kiddush in honor of my mother.
I had to figure out a way to mark the day. Yesterday I bought one of my mother's favorite foods. I decided to buy something that I would otherwise never even think to bring into my house or even eat. During the last couple of years of my mother's life I used to do her grocery shopping via the internet. One item that was always on her shopping list was cottage cheese with pineapple chunks.
I ate some for lunch yesterday and thought about my mother.
Earlier this week I was supposed to meet my friend Carol for dinner. Carol had to cancel and re scheduled for breakfast this morning. As I walked to meet Carol I realized that taking Carol out for breakfast was exactly the right way to honor my mother's memory. We ate, we talked and we laughed for most of the morning. It was then time to get on with my day.
As I walked back home I thought about what else I should do to connect today with my mother. By the time I got to 96th street I knew I needed to buy both pastry and flowers. The flowers were easy.
My local fruit stand had wonderful bouquets of orange tea roses. My mother probably would have left the roses long and put them in her tall Waterford cylinder vase. I don't own that vase and I prefer to cut flowers low so they hug the vase. The vase was a gift to me from my parent's dear friend Father Blute. He gave each of us gifts at the dinner I made to celebrate my mother's last birthday. This vase was my gift that was really about the many years of friendship between Father Blute and my family.
Selecting the pastry bit was a bit more difficult. It needed to be store bought and not home made. Something like rugelach or strudel would be perfect. Something with lots of frosting was just the wrong thing. A big package served to the family for dessert was wrong as well. What we needed was a small something that would be eaten standing up in the kitchen and shared with my son. I went through the baked cake section of West Side Market, everything was too filled with frosting. There is a section of refrigerated desserts and there too, nothing was right. I finally checked out the fresh bread department and found teeny cinnamon rolls priced at 4 for $2. It was perfect.
I brought then home and shared them with my son who had already cooked most of Shabbat dinner while I was out gallivanting with my friend at breakfast.
Among the foods we are eating are
Roasted Brussels sprouts made mostly by my son. We stopped ourselves from munching on them all.
My son made chicken ( (Meyer lemon and Zaatar since you asked). Because I am my mother's daughter I was worried that there might not be enough chicken and made sweet and sour meatballs.
with lots of vegetables
I realized as I edited these images that I forgot to add eggs so the meatballs are falling apart more than usual. My mother taught me how to mix chopped meat for meat balls with my hands. I remember that first lesson and how much I hated the sensation of the cold meat. The cold meat made my bones feel cold up to my elbow. I couldn't believe that my parents made meatballs with such ease. It no longer bothers me to make meatballs.
I know it may seem a bit odd, sisters marking the date of their mother's death on different days. I have found the entire exercise sort of fascinating, marking the day sort of, while my sisters are doing it full on. And then next month the process will reverse and they will watch me fully mark a day while they mark it in less formal ways.
We are all three of us deeply connected to different synagogue communities. We, all three of us have do things slightly differently than one another. I have loved marking this day that both is and isn't my mother's yahrzeit.