Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

3 Adar I 5763 - February 5, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

A Stitch in Time
by Rifca Goldberg

Feeling my eight-year-old's forehead, I realize she's now only warm, sitting up with the blanket tucked around her legs. She's been in bed for three days with the flu.

"Are you feeling any better, Surale?"

She looks at me, her eyes still slightly glassy. "Just a centimeter better."

I chuckle. Boruch Hashem, she's beginning to get better. She's not as achy nor as listless. The only problem is that she's bored.

The other four children, ages 5 to 12, come in to Surale's room. Outside it's windy and cold. Definitely an `indoor' afternoon this afternoon!

I check my watch. Two more hours until dinner and then bedtime. Two more hours! Sometimes two hours can seem like forever...

Various games skip through my mind but each one is suited for a specific age group. Hmmm...

"I've got it!" I say.

The four children look at each other quizically as they follow me into my room where I rummage through the stacks of clothing at the back of my closet. I pull out a large grey bag and from within that, I pull out a large partially embroidered white tablecloth.

Back in Surale's room, the children gather around me as I sit on a chair, tablecloth draped around my legs until the floor.

"Bubbie gave this to me when Naftali was a baby."

"But Naftali's almost fourteen years old!" Feigy pipes up.

"Yes," I smile, thinking of my oldest in yeshiva. "I started embroidering this tablecloth more than thirteen years ago! But," I look at the beautiful, intense faces around me, "I haven't had a lot of time to embroider the last several years." I remember thinking that it wasn't worth it to work on the tablecloth with cookie- covered toddlers around or cereal-smeared babies wiping their perpetually smudged hands on it. I figured I'd get to it `someday.' With no little babies in the house, it looks like `someday' is now.

I find the needle, still threaded with an emerald green thread, and start where I stopped, how long ago?

"I remember thinking that it was so huge," I say aloud.

"It should be the perfect size for our table now," Rachel says.

I nod, do a few more stitches, remembering how way back then, a large family was such a distant dream. Now I feel the satisfaction, the richness, of that dream having become a reality.

"Ima -- it's so beautiful," Eli says, in his high five- year- old voice.

I finish stitching with the emerald-colored thread and make a knot at the back side of the tablecloth. Rummaging through the large grey bag, I find a smaller bag filled with threads. I let its contents spill onto Surale's bedspread amongst the ahhhs and ooohs of the children.

"Look at this blue!" Motti whispers in amazement.

"This is a neat shade of orange," Faigy says, holding the thread between her fingers. "It reminds me of summer."

"Well, maybe thinking of summer will help keep us warm! Would you like to thread the needle?" She takes the needle and hands it back to me threaded.

"Children, we'll take turns, starting with Faigy. Each of you can pick a color and even help me to pull the needle through the cloth but we have to wait our turn quietly, Okay?"

Five heads nod. This is a special kind of nachas for me. The cooperation. The interest. The silence!

"This is a running stitch. Can you all see? I push the needle up almost through the center of the previous stitch." I manage a pretty straight row, considering how many years it's been!

Faigy tries it. The stitches are a little too tight but I don't say a word. Let a stitch or two be too tight or too loose but let's not lose this moment of closeness.

The children watch, fascinated.

"Now Rachel, what color would you like?"

"The beige will match the curtains nicely."

"Go ahead and thread it, sweetheart." I hand her the thread and the needle.

She does it quickly and easily.

"Will we finish tonight?" Surale asks.

I shake my head, `No.'

She sticks her bottom lip out.

Cupping her chin in the palm of my hand, I say, "Don't worry. There's always tomorrow."

She pouts even more. "How many tomorrows do you think it will take?"

"Maybe a few weeks worth." I smile.

She's so sweet. They all are.

Outside the rain and wind are growing in intensity. A bolt of lightning flashes across the blackness of the sky. Eli and Surale begin to fidget.

"You know, when you were little, Surale," I begin, partially as a distraction to keep the children from being nervous about the weather and partly to relive so many precious memories, "you once asked me for Scotch tape to tape your first wiggly tooth into place."

Everyone giggles.

"You even said `please.' "

Surale grins.

One by one, each child gets a turn pulling the thread and a turn hearing about their babyhood.

"A little more gently, Eli." I look over his shoulder. "That's right. That's terrific!" I say it and I mean it, too.

"Eli, do you remember last winter how you came in from school completely drenched and told me how you fell into a pile of water?"

The giggles become laughter.

Eli's doing such a good job. I tell them that I'll be right back and go to my sewing box in a different room. I remember a few pieces of leftover material.

"Children," I say on my return, "how about if you each make a small challa cover for yourselves? I could buy you each your own challa roll for Shabbos."

The excitement is getting noisy.

"Here's paper. Draw a picture of what you'd like to embroider so you'll have an idea of what will work."

I'm surprised at how patient I've been. I wish I could be like this always.

Rachel's making X shapes around the outline of a butterfly. Eli's still working on the tablecloth. I can't get over with what ease he pulls the thread -- not too loose, not too taut.

Motti's hunched over a small challa shape, the brown stitches every which way, which makes it look a lot like a real challa. I watch his face, his cheekbones tense in thought.

"Angle the needle like this, sweetheart."

A minute later he looks up. "Ima, look! I finished this whole row!"

"Excellent, Motti, really excellent!"

He beams and starts the next row.

"Ima, I have a knot." With tears in her eyes, Rachel hands me her half-finished butterfly.

"Don't worry. It's not difficult to fix." It takes some concentration to untangle but soon I hand it back to her, smiling. She smiles as well, not yet finished, yet proud of her accomplishment.

I'm proud too. Of all of them.

Eli starts quietly to sing `Ani Maamin' and without any thought, we've all joined in, harmony humming. I stroke a cheek here, put an arm around a shoulder there...

I wish this moment would go on forever. At least I have it right now and now has an aspect of forever, doesn't it?


* E * M * B * R * O * I * D * E * R * Y *


1) We, as parents, always do each stitch as best as we can at the moment.

2) When we pull a thread too tight, or not tight enough, we must put considerable thought into how to rectify the problem, often having to redo stitches even though it's time- consuming and a lot of work. But we do want this piece of art to be as lovely as possible.

3) The finished product has all the colors and stitches unifying into a oneness of beauty that will be handed down throughout the generations, perfect within its imperfections.

4) Knowing that it's our task to find the right hue, the right angle, for each child's particular pattern on his/her background of white purity that we've been entrusted with.


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