Home for the Holidays
If you ask me where home is, I’d have to say St. Louis though I only lived there for the first 23 of my 70 years. But still, when I hear that song about there being no place like home for the holidays, Missouri is where my heart roams. Though beloved cousins still reside there, the main players in my early life are long deceased. I can visit them in the cemetery, or as I choose to do today, via my memories. As I model this method of going home for the holidays, it is my Bubbie, Mary Willick, who seems to be calling out to me.
My impetus for visiting the past is due in part to the fact that I recently saw The Tina Turner Musical at a local theater. One of the things I loved about the show was that at several key points in her life, it was clear she was drawing strength from her ancestors. To show this to the audience, the actors who played the ancestors were physically on stage.
Bringing Bubbie on stage now, I remember these lessons from her.
Family is important!
Counting Bubbie, Grandpa, their three kids plus spouses, and the nine grandkids, there were seventeen people to whom Bubbie served Shabbos dinner every single Friday night. A relative visiting from out of town? Of course, they joined us too.
If this was not enough, we grandkids slept over on occasion though there was only one spare bedroom. Like sardines in a can, we were jammed into bed together often horizontally instead of vertically to fit more kids. The next day, Grandpa took us to the community swimming pool or fishing while Bubbie stayed home preparing the “hangie-bers” and “fried French” she would serve us for lunch. By the way, in the unlikely event of leftovers, they got wrapped in “silver soil” (a.k.a. aluminum foil).
What other people think is not important!
We can see that Russian-born Bubbie was adorable in the way she spoke English. One of my favorite Bubbie-isms was her spin on NOT taking things to heart. When I failed at my first attempt to go away to college due to homesickness, I left the University of Illinois for Mizzou. I was embarrassed and worried about what people would say! Bubbie advised this approach to unkind comments: Take them to foot – listen to what others say, then walk away.
Being a good person is where it’s at!
Whenever we parted, Bubbie said, “You are a good girl, and be a good girl.” This comment has kept me on the straight and narrow for all seven decades of my life. I am happy that Bubbie helped to make me such a solid citizen. But as I think of her – and commune with her in my journal this holiday season – I want to ask her for an additional benediction. Thinking back on all the childhood happiness she orchestrated for me, I want her to plant this seed: “You are a happy girl, and be a happy girl.” What help that would be with the ups and downs of life!
It’s great to have a safe harbor!
- In second grade, I ran away from home. My mom wasn’t worried; she knew exactly where to find me – at Bubbie’s house.
- All through elementary school, walking home for lunch was an option. When I chose it, I walked to Bubbie’s. She fixed potato latkes (pancakes) and served my milk in a coffee cup.
- When I got my first job after college, it was close enough to Bubbie’s house to drive there for lunch, which I did. Same menu, same serving style.
- And if there was spare time at a visit, we sat together on her three-cushion sofa. She was on one end; I was on the other; the cards for a game of solitaire were spread out on the cushion between us as we chatted away.
A walk down memory lane is a lovely way to go home for the holidays. And like Tina Turner, it’s a great way to draw strength from the past. As much as we idealize the holiday season for all its joy, there are also stresses. I plan to face them with Bubbie by my side as I pull out a deck of cards to play a game of solitaire on my sofa, as I eat latkes that I purchase from the kosher section of my local grocer, and of course, as I drink my milk from a coffee cup.
If you prefer to drink your milk from a mug instead of a coffee cup, take a look at the great mugs available in my etsy shop.