When I was a little girl, every Friday night my family would drive to Tel Aviv for Shabbat dinner at my grandmother’s tiny apartment. My parents, who absolutely loved working in the garden, came home early on Fridays, and would be immersed in their work outside till the very last moment. Then, the rush to the showers began.
I remember one Friday when my mother jumped in fully clothed in her attempt to beat my father to the shower first.
Once we were all clean and dressed in our Shabbat clothes, we would get in the car and drive to Safta’s house. The streets in Israel smell differently on Friday night, of chicken soup, meat stew, potatoes baking, carrots in honey. Chocolate babkas and challas waft their fabulous scent everywhere.The streets are quiet, the darkness of the skies strikingly contrasted by the light shining out windows in holiday joy.
Now I’m a mother myself. I live far away from my grandmother, but luckily close to my parents. I don’t work in the garden as much as my parents still do, and I am not as diligent as my parents were about all of us showering and dressing nicely in honor of Shabbat. But every Friday my mother, my sister and I cook delicious meals, and our three families, eleven people at least, share Shabbat dinner together at my mother’s house.
Yet in my memory, perhaps the way memories always are, there is something extra-special in those Shabbat dinners we had at my grandmother’s house. A particular taste, a unique smell, perhaps a whiff of the moth balls which my Safta used to put in her clothes and which hang about even under the smell of egg salad and stew.
I remember one evening like that at my Safta’s tiny apartment in Tel Aviv. The voices of the adults filtered through the wall into my grandmother’s bedroom where I lay on the bed, half on, half off, my legs dangling to the floor. My heart beat peacefully. I felt full and happy, wonderfully relaxed and completely loved. Sleep stole over me as though an angel weaved a somnolent web all around. Later, on the way home, I watched through sleepy eyes the hazy glow of traffic and street lights approaching, then disappearing behind.
Tonight I will have the children shower and dress up before we go. I love knowing that I am creating memories for them, and I know they will always remember these evenings at my mother’s house. Different, perhaps, than mine, but still wonderful memories, of family gathering, good food, and a lot of love.