It’s the new house and I’m four. I’m allowed to walk to my girlfriend’s yard all by myself. When I come home from playing, my giant white stuffed animal – the one shaped like a cat that’s taller than I am and has glittery green plastic jewels for eyes – is sitting on the curb, surrounded by my family’s garbage.
Its glittering green eyes look right at me as I run inside, screaming. It has to be a mistake. “Mommy, my cat is in the trash!”
“I know it is,” my mother says.
It’s too big to get it out of there all by myself. “Can you help me get it out?”
My mother is standing at the kitchen counter, pasting S&H green stamps into a little paper savings book. “No,” she says.
“But, Mommy, it’s my cat!” I’m crying so hard now, I can hardly breathe. I’m certain that my cat knows it’s in the garbage, that it needs me to rescue it. My heart is breaking. “Mommy, I love my cat! Please, help me take it out of the trash! Please!”
She’s angry now and puts on her ugly face. “Shut up. It’s staying in the trash. I’m tired of cleaning around it every single morning.”
I can’t even bear to look out the window. My poor stuffed animal is all I see – its heavy cat head, with its beautiful glittering plastic eyes, droops down now into the garbage. Sobbing, I run to my room and hide.
* * *
The upstairs of the new house is smaller than the old house’s was, so now the record player and all the records are down in the basement, in the playroom. And a huge leather rocking chair has been moved down there, too. The chair not only rocks back and forth, but also swivels all the way around – if you can manage to touch your feet to the floor, which I can’t.
I love to sit in the rocking chair and rock and listen to records.
I don’t know how to work the record player so my mother has to turn it on for me and choose which record I will listen to. She is usually too busy cleaning to turn the record once the first side has played, so I listen to the same side over and over.
My favorite record is the LeRoy Holmes’ Childrens Choir. They sing some of the best songs I have ever heard: “If I had A Hammer,” “Puff the Magic Dragon,” “She Loves You (Yeah Yeah Yeah),” and my favorite song, “This Land Is Your Land.”
I always sing along while I rock in the big chair.
If my dad is home, he turns the records over for me, so that I can listen to the other side.
* * *
On Friday nights, when the sky gets dark, my mother helps me and my brother light the Shabbat candles. She places silver candlesticks on pieces of tin foil on the kitchen counter. The foil is so that the whole kitchen doesn’t catch on fire if one of our candles falls over. Then she lights the small white candles and we all say the Shabbat prayer together.
Even though I am only four and the prayer is in Hebrew, I already know the prayer by heart because it has a melody – it’s like a song and I love to sing.
Barukh atah Adonai,
Eloheinu Melekh ha’olam
Asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav
Vitzivanu, l’hadlik ner shel Shabbat.
* * *
One Saturday morning, I come up from the playroom and my mother is in the dining room, putting things into her fancy purse. She is dressed up.
“Where are you going, Mommy?”
“To the synagogue.”
“Am I going, too?” I’m very excited. I haven’t been to the synagogue yet since I’m only four.
“No, honey, a babysitter’s coming. It’s Yom Kippur. You’re too young.”
“What’s Yom Kippur?”
“A High Holy Day – a very serious holiday. Where we ask God to forgive us for all our sins from the past year.”
I stand next to her at the dining room table and watch her fill her fancy purse with things from the purse she uses every day. “What does that mean?”
“Anything bad you did during the past year – you ask God to forgive you for it and then He does.”
“Is God a man?”
“No, honey. You can’t see God. He’s invisible – up in the sky.”
“Like a cloud?”
“A little bit,” she says. “But like a very big cloud. He’s everywhere and in everything. We all come from God.”
“We do?” I’m startled by this. I thought I had come from another mommy.
“Well, God creates us first and then puts us inside a mommy – He created you that way. And then, when you were born, God left a little piece of Himself inside your heart, so He could be with you all the time and take care of you for your whole life.”
That idea feels very nice to me.
I look around our new house and now I see God everywhere.
–– in progress —