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My Nanny


You once told a story, you always told the story, never stopped telling the story, of that model airplane. The little model airplane, that you did not understand. I came over, and in the accute brilliance of a four year old, pieced the whole thing together. You were amazed, now I am as well.

How many times have I been told how blessed I am to have you in my life. Sally is such a neat and amazing lady, they tell me. But do I understand? She’s the one who makes me do face exercises at the age of 10 to ensure I don’t get wrinkles. She’s the one who makes such fusses over the most mundane things. She talks about weird things, like spirituality and reincarnation. Isn’t she kind of kooky? But oh, the cookies she bakes…

And your afghans. How can someone have the patience to knit such a thing? I just saw a friend yesterday, knitting a scarf, and said to her… but that’s inconsequential now.

I always feared you know too much about me. Pearing into my handwritting, you knew every quirk about my brain, the way I think, the way I may act in every moment. Get out of my brain. But there you sat, more blank paper in hand, and I write you another sample. I guess you can stay.

I remember last Pesach, and for that matter, the one before, when at seder you asked that we enact a model “crossing of the sea” before eating. Two years in a row, we forgot, no, I forgot, and moved on in the seder. We both times came back and entertained your wish. The walk was one of the more entertaining parts of the night; maybe out of a lack of understanding of why we had to stumble our way around 15 chairs in a small room; maybe out of our appreciation of your differently nuanced way of understanding the holiday’s significance.

I’ll miss the stewed fruit that I never ate. I have always refused to eat it. It seemed a relic of days long past, something I certainly should not put in my body. But the smell and the sight made me know that Pesach had come. Watching others, my elders, eat your stewed fruit, I felt still a little naive, not fully learned in the ways of life, unprepared to eat the foods that we should all appreciate on the holiday. Maybe, when I finally grow up. Your applesauce, your microwave Trader Joe’s enchiladas, and your cookies…

Happy Birthday Nanny! How great does it feel to have made it to such a milestone? “Oh, well, I’m glad I made it this long, able to enjoy my birthday, cause I’m probably going to die this year…” You started telling me that five years ago. The way you looked life and death in the face and accepted your lot, we can all learn from. Do you remember your promise to me? I have never forgotten. For the next few days I’ll be here, waiting. I have apples and honey to eat as we sit and catch up.

You taught me and Shanna how to gamble. You, my great-grandma taught me the art of playing cards for money. You reminded me that I wasn’t a real history major. You informed me that all my religious understandings were actually baseless. You confided in me that the rest of the family thought you were crazy.

I don’t know what ever happened to that model airplane. Did you keep it? You kept so much. But, if it cannot be found, at least I can relish in the model that you pieced together: your autobiography. The racey story that brings us all blushed faces and that says so much about who you are and the amazing life you have lived. The New York Times may not have picked up on it, but I assure you its the most important bestseller on my bookshelf.

זכרונך לברכה

Your memory is a blessing

I love you… I’ll miss you.

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