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Chatting, while tossing stones into Lake Michigan on a warmish December day, I asked my four-year old granddaughter about school next year. In a tone appropriate for announcing college in the fall, she reported, “I’ll be five. In kindergarten.” I asked what came next. “Six, then seven…”. And without skipping a beat, her succinct summary of the future, “I’ll be a big-year-old.”

Barely able to contain my delight, I asked, “Is your baby brother a big-year-old? Are you? Am I?” No, yes and yes. But granting me entry to the club, required some careful consideration. Peering at me, she observed, “You’re not a kid”. It sounded ominous. Not wanting to appear too hopeful, I was quiet. She thought for a moment longer and nodded. …


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My mother never allowed herself to fully enjoy fresh flowers. She did not encourage them as gifts. But smiled and thanked my father for his holiday offerings before Rosh Hashanah or the Passover Seder — the only times he brought flowers home.

He usually chose long gladiola stems with only the lower buds beginning to bloom. I learned it was a way to pace their beauty. A wise strategy when something was not long for this world.

She made a pleasant fuss arranging them in a large, water-filled crystal vase. And placed them center stage, on the credenza in the living room. I remember her ruefully shaking her head when she tossed the spent flowers some days later. …


My mother typically greeted my teenage angst with impatience and incredulity. Her response to any sulkiness, “What do you have to be unhappy about? When I was your age, my parents, my family had been killed. There was no food and I was hiding from the Nazis.” Not verbatim. But close enough to capture its spirit and truth.

I didn’t argue. Guilty as charged. Nothing in my life could compete with such pain and loss. I resolved to never to share what ailed me. Partly to spare them them needless worry. I had only my happiness to offer in exchange for my relatively charmed life. And partly, to make peace with reality. Their history made it impossible for me to see the world through their eyes. …


Incredibly, we are entering the sixth month of the pandemic. Spring and summer have come and gone. I long for simple things that promise comfort and pleasure and a sense of normal. Potato kugel beckons.

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My mother’s potato kugel is one of my favorite things. At first glance, it most resembles a giant potato pancake. But a few bites in, it is unmistakably something else.

It emerges from the oven crisp on the outside with an almost molten middle. Generously seasoned with salt and pepper, it’s the unexpected pinch of cinnamon that lends a mysteriously addictive depth of flavor.

My mother made her kugel with a box grater. A process not without risk. Trying to grate every bit of potato and onion to avoid waste, she always came dangerously close to the grater’s sharp blades. A scraped knuckle, an exclamation of pain and a few drops of blood were the unlisted ingredients in her recipe. …


The Empowerment of Bed Making During the Pandemic

Creating Order in A World Turned Upside Down

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I am usually up before my husband — almost done with coffee and the newspaper before he emerges. But when he does, I make the bed. Almost before I do anything else. With a duvet, just a quick fluff leaves the blanket neat and the pillows plump and upright against the headboard.

I’ve always had this bed-making thing. No matter when or where I had to go, I hated leaving with the bed unmade. …


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As the lockdown continues, there is a relentless sameness to the days and weeks. The flowers and trees have bloomed. But little else changes. It’s encouraging that some scarce goods are finding their back. That toilet paper procurement no longer occupies brain cells best deployed for more critical tasks.

But it’s feeling a little like “Groundhog Day’. The movie where Bill Murray finds himself waking up to the same day over and over again. A numbing sameness has set in. And with it, a visceral longing for the world to move forward once more.

At least the earth’s orbit around the sun continues. The seasons are not under lockdown. On a warm day, towards the end of April, I retrieved my large pots of lavender from the garage. They had wintered in that unheated space, protected from the snow and wind, but little else. By Chicago standards, this had been a mild winter. …

Yona Eichenbaum

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