Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

2 Tammuz 5766 - June 28, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Familiar Strains
by Shoshana

The old lady looked at her, vaguely grasping at elusive threads of memory, fragile as the wisps of gray hair that escaped her neat, paisley kerchief. Fragments of conversation echoed in her mind and she waved a hand as if to erase them so she could focus on the smiling woman before her. Was she meant to know her? Perhaps.

Visions of long ago danced in front of her like dust mites, a faux pointalist painting and she drifted into yesteryear.

"How are you feeling today?" The smiling woman asked kindly.

Today? What was today? How was it different from yesterday? Even as she thought this, she knew that if it wasn't different from yesterday, it was infinitely different from . . . when? It was kind of the smiling lady to remember her even as she was a stranger to her. The old lady sighed, grateful sometimes for the peaceful ignorance of what she didn't recall.

"Look," continued the warm smiler. "I brought you some flowers from my garden. "Roses, your favorite." How did she know what her favorite was when she herself, didn't?

The old lady smiled vaguely in response. Everything she did was vague, echoing her thoughts. A lucid thought playfully escaped the cobwebs that enclosed her mind. Since she wasn't sure who she was, she could be anybody. A queen perhaps. Hadn't the nurse call her Malka this morning?

The nice lady tugged her away from her reverie. "I brought you some cake. Yoel's bar mitzvah was on Shabbos. I'll say the blessing and you answer, Amen. Okay? It's very important to answer Amen, even more important than making the blessisng."

Why was this woman speaking to her as if she were a child. Was she a child? How old was she anyway? Did she have her whole life ahead of her? Could she regain the life she had lost by living it all again? Maybe if she slept a bit she'd be more alert, she'd remember more. Maybe she could reunite with her past in dreams. It all had evaporated like a dream exposed to harsh sunlight.

Her eyes started closing but opened again as the smell of cinnamon assailed her nostrils. She breathed it in, suddenly seeing her mother baking an apple cake at a hopelessly outdated oven. Not like the modern one in her home, or was it at the Home? She took a bite of her mother's cake, or was it the smiling lady's?

The smiling lady looked like her mother. Maybe they were related. But she looked older than she remembered her mother looking when she baked those apple cakes.

"The children will come to see you next week," she threw over her shoulder, fluffing cushions. "They're a bit worn out from the celebrations." Malka was worn out too. She wanted to sleep. The cake was still in her mouth and she swallowed.

A fly caught her attention. She had always wanted to catch a fly. Maybe she could catch it in the cobwebs. Did she have a spider in her brain who unspun and respun her history, crossing the threads so that she couldn't take them up again from where she had left off? She tried instead to pick up the thread of the one-sided conversation of the woman speaking to her. She was making a valiant effort to draw her in. What could she say? She wasn't even sure she knew the woman. She caught a whiff of her perfume. It mingled with the scent of the jasmine floating in through the open window and the roses sitting in a vase on the table.

How did they get there?

She smiled. They were lovely though. Her favorite. The smells roused something in her mind. Awoke a dozing memory. The memory stirred for a moment and then settled back to snooze.

"He looked so handsome in his suit."

Malka smiled and nodded and then said, "Who?"

"Your great-grandson, Mother," and her smile faltered.

Malka felt bad for making the nice lady's smile waver so she patted the nice lady's hand and said, "Of course, of course, dear."

"Let me comb your hair out; It seems to be tangled under your kerchief." Malka wondered why? Were they going somewhere? Perhaps they were going somewhere familiar. It didn't really matter. She let the nice lady fuss with her hair. Even closed her eyes under the tugs of the comb and caresses of her firm hand. Just like she remembered when her mother would fix her hair as a child.

"What's your name?" she finally asked.

"It's Gita."

"That was my mother's name," she said automatically.

"I know, Mamma." Gita said patiently.

"Gittel. Can I call you Gittel?"

"Yes, Mamma. You always have."


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.