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New Beginning

Last month I started a new career. Finally after a long time searching, I became another full-time busy bee in our economy. I am so very grateful. G-d is putting me in a place where I can help others and strengthen our community. I will have a chance to make a difference in peoples’ lives. And I work with some swell people.

Monarch Butterfly on Zinnia.

Monarch Butterfly on Zinnia. © JustHavingFun

I’m feeling rather enlightened. The non-profit agency I work for does way more than I’d imagined. So many dedicated people pour their hearts and souls into the various programs. Their creativity sparkles. Caring blankets their work. People from various backgrounds pull together for one cause: betterment of peoples’ lives. As I pore through the agency’s historical documents and learn about the ongoing and future programs, I’m proud by association. Look what a small group has been able to accomplish and view the future through expansive eyes as more can be helped.

This boon fell upon me as millions of people suffer: Houston’s victims of Hurricane Harvey; Florida, Cuba, and Caribbean islands from Hurricanes Irma & José; wildfires in the western states; an 8.2 magnitude earthquake in Mexico; and daily murders here in our charming Charm City. It would be easy for anyone to sit back and refrain from doing anything in this troubled time. We feel there is little we can do—even sending dollars to help the needy doesn’t feel like enough. Helpless, overwhelmed, and confused, we watch the news as it informs of another catastrophe.

I have an answer to that feeling: Do Something. Not everyone has the good fortune of working in an agency like mine, but that should not be a deterrent. Maybe she can’t help Puerto Rico, but she can volunteer in her community: driving seniors, reading to the blind, stuffing envelopes, knitting for charity. Perhaps he has skills sufficient to tutor children, repair bicycles, or make phone calls.

If everyone took on one “charitable” project, what a world of difference it would make! Just like the butterfly effect, where the proverbial butterfly flaps its wings in one hemisphere and affects weather in the opposite one, our positive acts can effect worldwide changes.

A single positive action from each one of us can change the world. I’m so fortunate that I get to see positive actions accumulating favorable results every day. Talk about new beginnings!

 

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Possibilities

Today I’m focusing on what is possible. We control an amazing force—the potential to do something! In physics, an object’s potential energy relates to its proximity to other objects. How will it act? What will it be capable of doing? What factors act upon it?

Possible Sunflower

Possible Sunflower. © JustHavingFun

As we age, we find ourselves conveyed into increasingly narrow channels. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. We become specialized. Certain decisions will collapse other options. If you turn right, you obviate the choice of turning left. If you choose fish for dinner, you will not have eaten beef. And so on.

Here’s a career choice example. You start school as a blank sheet of paper. Then you take a full slate of classes—biology, art, sociology, and computers—and one will pique your interest more than the others. In college a course in developmental biology seems fascinating. You end up working for a professor who studies chick embryo neural tube development mutations, which leads to your Ph.D. research in genetic defects that cause spina bifida. You didn’t start out to become a research scientist. You simply liked biology class and decided to pursue that area of study. At some point, access to time and resources for delving deeper into art history, organizational hierarchies, or computer natural language development, say, becomes less available. Few people have the wherewithal to pursue a second field with the same verve as their first. Or, they wait until later in life and take it on as a second career—or not at all.

But the potential still exists. Possibilities don’t vanish completely as long as intellectual curiosity propels us forward.

Every choice we make hones us and refines us in ways we can’t imagine. That doesn’t have to make us narrow people. The rhythm by which we live is not a steady, monotonous drumbeat. The rhymes we repeat to ourselves don’t all end with the same syllable. The songs we sing have more than one stanza.

Possibility opens us to different ways of looking at things: a ball of yarn becomes a sweater, a calendar photo becomes a vacation, an appeal for charity becomes a passion. Our personal potential becomes expressed because of the choices we’ve made, the roads we travel down. But the other roads still exist.

Stem cells are plenipotent; they have the capability of becoming any type of cell in the body when they mature. So, too, are humans. We are born plenipotent, able to become any type of person and fit any career, following manifold interests. The beauty of humankind though, is that once we do fit ourselves to some mold, we can branch out. We can explore our possibilities. We can expand our world to include aspects outside of our immediate circle of knowledge. We can let other aspects into our consciousness, work on them, enjoy their possibilities.

The sunflower has no choice but being a sunflower. Its fate is predetermined and set. We, however, can enjoy the variety of knowledge, reflect upon the various possibilities that the world presents us. Just because we research spina bifida doesn’t mean we’re excluded from writing songs. Our rhymes are not squelched; rather, they are enhanced by the bits and pieces that total the world of possibilities.

For today, it is possible for me to break out of my mold, to incorporate various possibilities into my life song.

 

 

Happiness is My Choice, 14

With all the noise and clatter of today’s world, the incessant advertisements and social pressures, the still small voice of the authentic self—our souls—can be easily drowned out. We are sensual beings, experiencing the world through our skins.

Red Maple. © JustHavingFun

Listening to birdsong can lift my heart if I allow myself to pause, and recognize the miracle that it is. Birdsong is a gift. How can it be? A creature the size of my fist has the power to fill the air with song! Birds have a syrinx, a special organ to produce that multi-note trilling. We don’t have them. Do we lack?

What about the cricket song symphony of a summer’s afternoon? How is it that stridulations of an insect’s limb or wing, multiplied by a thousand, can blanket the air with sound? If I stop what I’m doing, I realize they are singing. It’s only in my silence that I hear their songs.

What message do the lightning bugs encode in their evening travels? I’ve watched them shape the dark with Morse code-like flashes. Their travels define a unit of space, their paths as distinct as a fingerprint; their flashes stutter a secret pattern as they fly through the night. To think as a child I trapped them in jars, quieting their dialogues forever.

And flowers, oh the abundance of flowers! Colors, textures, scents, foliage. From early spring to the beginning of winter, these bursts of color elicit deep sensations.

Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas. © JustHavingFun

When I desist from my busyness and resist the lure of my phone, screen, kitchen, and bed, I turn to the sky. The moon in her brilliance, the clouds in their majesty, the rustling of the wind in the trees gain my attention. My soul gets nourished by nature’s caress. My authentic self can breathe a bit deeper and savor the sensations.

Happiness doesn’t come from things. Rather, it’s events, experiences we share—or not. I relish simple pleasures like breathing deeply in fresh air, feeling heat prickles when I enter my car in summer,  the sound and feeling of snow crunching underfoot, the breeze ruffling the fine hair on my arms—things I notice when I’m not distracted.

I recall the scent of peonies and the fuzz on that juicy peach tickling my nose. The sounds of trains rattling down nearby tracks stitch through the night’s darkness. And the succulent sourness of a fresh-cut lemon puckers my lips. These pleasures have been described in ancient literature and we can still relate to them. They rely on nothing save our senses taking in the beauty of the world. They  speak to my soul, refreshing it, and bringing it back safe to this body for another day.

Simple pleasures? Yes.

Universal? Yes, oh yes!

Can’t Go Back Home

This odd sculpture on the side of an otherwise nondescript apartment building.

“Bacchus/Dionysus” Apartments, Regent Square. © Just Having Fun

Back home. All memories seem bright until you get there:

Pittsburgh, my home, isn’t home anymore. Buildings are shabbier, streets more narrow, stores smaller, pavements more broken up, lawns weedier, properties needier. Store facades lack pizzazz, fashions seem grayer, people walk bent over, and hairstyles belong to the 1980s. Indeed, mullets haven’t died out there, and jagoffs still crowd the Parkway.

I don’t live there anymore. Home livens my dreams, though. I spent so much of my life there; it formed subterranean parts of me. But now I live in another place, sipping another culture, another state of mind.

“Home” speaks my vernacular. Home wears the gown of happy memory. Home sidewalks remember my skinned knees. Home parks have water fountains where I slurped away my thirst. Home benches remember nights I sat there looking across the river at the shining city. Home playgrounds hold my childhood.

Duquesne Incline from Carson Street

Duquesne Incline from Carson Street. Image: Dan Buczynski, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Away: We’re away from the inevitable aging, concrete crumbling, roadways growing potholes. We forget the annoyances of overflowing sewers, flooding, and road closures. Traffic cones move from site to site, an ever present landscape feature, but we lose our way among the newly created maze—new to our minds at least. “Remember where that big pothole was that they didn’t fix for a couple’a years?” We dodged it every time, and now just ride over the smooth street, the pothole a trouble only in the past.

Local politics, local concerns, don’t interest me because I’m not a part of it anymore. The hallmarks of the community, saying “yinz” and wearing shirts emblazoned with Steelers or Pirates logos, color the culture. Familiar local landmarks take on an importance they never shone with when I lived there. Pointing to repurposed buildings we remember aloud, “That’s where Isaly’s used to be;” or looking toward South Side, “J&L used to cover that entire shore of the river, before the Cheesecake Factory.”

Taylor Allderdice High School, Aerial View, circa 1930-1945 approx.

Taylor Allderdice High School, Aerial View, circa 1930-1945 approx. Image: Boston Public Library collection, CC BY-NC/2.0

I can’t go back home. The people aren’t there anymore. The “kids” I hung out with are spread across the map. They’re getting ready for retirement and buying condos in Florida. My high school’s awe-inspiring facade hides behind a blocky addition; my university has new buildings across campus. Downtown features newer, brighter buildings. Even the subway stretches to new distances, under the Allegheny River to the North Side and the stadium.

This is not MY Home anymore, but it is an extension of it—another dimension, say. If I lived there still, I would not notice the changes in the ways I do now. I would be a part of the rerouted traffic, commuting to my job without comment, or grumbing about PennDOT like everyone else. Local problems would not seem so exotic or notable the hundredth time we encountered them.

I can’t go back home, but I can look at it again like a many-faceted jewel—preserved in a museum showcase, or worn proudly on my finger—and see the lights glinting from within.

 

Not Perfect

I’m attempting to knit a lacy shawl, my first really big lacework piece. I’m relieved because…

The Problem

Not Perfect

Not Perfect © Just Having Fun
(The green yarn simply holds a stitch)

Something’s not right. I can’t see it, but I can tell. It’s not symmetrical, I can’t see the pattern emerge. Nine rows into the piece, before I start the next section of the pattern, I have the certain recognition that I need to start all over. Again. What is this, the 20th time maybe? There are supposed to be a certain number of stitches on the needle at this point and I keep ending up with one less than what’s needed. Grrr!

Persistence and perfectionism, perfectionism and persistence: these two perverse sisters taunt me. On the one hand the project lacks the clear definition of stitches that I would expect to see. On the other hand I feel like I am learning something, mastering this thin, woolen yarn and these slippery circular needles. My drive for persistence reinforces my yearning for perfection. And on and on. But doing the same thing over and over, no matter how patient I am, does not get me the results I need. Something’s not right. 

I Could

I should do something different. I could get a different set of needles, ones less slick. Plastic or bamboo? Ugh, not pleasing. I could watch some tutorials on YouTube and try to get a handle on what I’m doing wrong. I could go to a LYS (local yarn shop) and ask a human being to observe me while knitting and dropping stitches. I could try the pattern with different yarn—a thicker one, maybe acrylic—to see if this lovely wool is confounding me. There are a lot of things I could do… but don’t. I should do something different.

What I Did

Baby Blanket In Progress

Baby Blanket In Progress © Just Having Fun

I’m relieved I didn’t torture myself any longer. I put the lacework away for several months. In the interim I picked up something easier, a baby blanket made with leftover acrylic yarn that I don’t want to use for anything else anyhow. Despite my eyeballs burning from the red red Red yarn, the rhythm soothes my jangling nerves and lets me be less perfect, less precise. This project doesn’t laugh at me in the face and make me knit the same mistakes over and over again.

Sometimes I just have to get over myself and stop trying to be so perfect all of the time. I enjoy the process of knitting more than having a finished item. So it’s OK to have a simple piece to work. This is just a modified basket stitch in some random colors I have in storage. The baby won’t mind, whoever he/she is. The repetition provides the relief; the soft clicking of the needles and the shuttle-like motion of my finger wrapping yarn around them provide a focused mindlessness. From here I can soar, race, crawl, or rest. I don’t have to be perfect.

I shouldn’t think it over too much. I may destroy the magic.

Cholom Ra*

I had a bad dream, a חלום רע — cholom ra.

Its total duration seemed to have been a week though in reality probably no more than an hour. It lingered longer, however, following me into the daytime, challenging my reality, and painting my blue sky gray.

Dreams, in Jewish tradition, oppose the modern theory that dreams have no inherent meaning on their own. Contemporary research posits that neurological structures in the brain become activated while we are asleep and assess, process, and encode the day’s activities somehow. In contrast, dreams were thought to confer the power of prophecy on the dreamer in bygone days. The Talmud states that “dreams are one-sixtieth of prophecy,” while averring that dreams contain nonsense, and interpretations are up to the interpreter.

Pharaoh’s Dream of Seven Cows” © Sue Bentley/FreeBibleImages.org, CC BY-SA 3.0

In the Torah we read of Joseph’s dreams in the house of Pharaoh and their interpretation. In the first dream, he described his brothers’ wheat sheaves bowing his own upright sheaf. Further, he dreamed the sun, moon, and eleven stars, representing his parents and brothers, bowing to him. The brothers pejoratively call him a dreamer and conspire to throw him in a pit, sell him to traveling Ishmaelites, and end with Joseph being sold to Potifar in Egypt. Joseph was imprisoned, and while there, interprets two dreams for which events passed as he said. Then the Pharaoh had the dream of the seven emaciated cows consuming the seven fat cows which none of the magicians in Egypt could explain. Pharaoh gave Joseph a chance, and his interpretation so pleased Pharaoh, that Joseph became the chief minister in Egypt. Events came to pass as Joseph foresaw (Genesis 37-41) and the Israelites flourished.

Likewise, the Book of Daniel relates Daniel’s parallel elevation in status after his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams.

Many other cultures have traditions of interpreting dreams. The Babylonians discuss dreams and perform dream rituals in The Epic of Gilgamesh (circa 2100 BC). Through ancient times, escalating with Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, to the modern Dream Interpretation Dictionary online, people want to know the meaning of these nocturnal visions.

Me, too.

Image: Laurence Horton via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I love to sleep, largely I suspect, because of my dreams. They defy Hollywood‘s brilliance. My dreams are in Technicolor. Sight, sound, smell, and texture surround me. Strangely, however, I see myself from the vantage point of an observer. I am the star of my own movie.  The dreams are bigger than life and often better than life. I can fly. I have power not experienced in the real. My dreams thrill and intrigue me. Sometimes, like on that night however, they are bad.

The morning of this bad dream, I awoke with the foreboding of terrible outcome. Someone dear to me would 1) lose her life, or 2) his fortune, or 3) their mutual respect and love. I’m not going to say which one it was, but you get the idea. I stood by watching myself in my dream, helpless to change an outcome. I didn’t stay asleep to see the actual thing happen; I awoke shaking, sweaty, desiring coffee.

Lucid Dream” by Wolf94114 , used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Although I’m not a lucid dreamer, I would like to become one: confronting bogeymen, kissing handsome princes, and filling my arms with treasures. Other times I would want to be a benevolent teacher, directing others in my dreams to learn from me, instructing them in life skills that avoid evil and promulgate good. I’ve wanted this ability since childhood but don’t know how to cultivate it. One more item for the bucket list.

Ritual prayers exist to avert ill effects from bad dreams, like the paragraphs said under our breaths during the Priestly Blessing (birkat Kohanim). But mostly, we  Jews have a tradition: to learn the true meaning of dreams, we must be on a very high spiritual level. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it.

May we all be blessed with only beautiful dreams, and banish the bad dreams forever.

 

Impressions

A potential employer has called me in for an interview. I really want this job. What will I wear? I have a business suit for this purpose, and worn with an understated top, modest jewelry and matching accessories, it is the appropriate uniform for the occasion. I will appear to be a responsible, sober, capable person who takes this job seriously. This is not the time to express my preference for a roomy sleep shirt and bare feet. I know how to make a good impression.

Tattooed guy on the A-train.

Tattooed guy on the A-train. © JustHavingFun

How we are exposed to things creates impressions. The frequency, the popularity, the acceptability seem to grow proportionately. I remember a time when a boy with an earring was a rarity, a rebellious type to be avoided. Now? I’ve seen guys with dangly earrings as well as holes as big as quarters in their lobes. And tattoos? I’d heard stories growing up about crusty, tattooed sailors. It wasn’t considered to be suitable for nice folks. Now they’re all the rage.

First impressions count—it’s not just a worn adage. The subtlety of impressions cannot be emphasized enough. They get worn into our brains, drip by drip, until an impression is formed. Like water on a rock, with time enough, a path can be carved. The Grand Canyon proves this theory.

Impressions are also formed by the media. What we consume as humor and entertainment become realities. Like mouthy, bratty, know-it-all kids. Remember the fantasy of Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show? I can’t imagine Opie being mouthy without consequences. Or Richie on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Nowadays children on sitcoms mouth off and are bratty, and that is considered normal. Not in my house, honey. If my kids had been as fresh as those on TV, they’d have had what to be upset about.

SNL Screenshot

Screenshot. © NBC

What happens when the media steps past a societal boundary, more than just a breach of good taste? Saturday Night Live last week ran a skit that I thought pushed the boundary too hard. Here’s what I sent to NBC as a comment on the show:

DESPICABLE. That’s the “World’s Most Evil Invention” skit from 5/20/17. Child molestation must NEVER be exploited for humor, never mind ironic use. Yes, the behavior is really, really evil, but it’s no laughing matter. When SNL uses child abuse for humorous purposes, it diminishes the horror of the act, the level of sickness it embodies. Child sexual abuse should be verboten, like rape, making fun of handicapped people, or even saying the “N-word.” Push the envelope, but use restraint.

There are certain things we should not joke about or hint at in humorous settings. I draw the line at child sexual abuse. I shudder to think that this evil act can be made as acceptable as tattoos. I don’t think I’m over-reacting. The more people are exposed to things, the more “normal” they seem and the less sensitive they become to those topics. I like to think that we are a society that wants to be good and do right. In order to do that, we need to make the right impression on ourselves. Think about that. How do we do that?

The media have a lot of power. As I’ve said before, whether you love him or revile him, Donald Trump is the President of the United States. Most of the photos I’ve seen of the President show a snarling, warped visage. The camera seems always trained on him mid-grimace. Perhaps if the media were to show him smiling, some of the rancor would diminish.

Likewise, if the media were to treat actions like rape, sexual abuse, sexual trafficking, child molestation, death by gunshot, and other acts of horror seriously and not gloss over them, perhaps there would be more attention paid to the plight of the victims.

Just saying. I’m really worked up about this topic and there is no room for humor about it. There are some things that cannot become commonplace or humorous.

Happiness is My Choice, 13

Waves Lapping on the Shore, ©Batya7, JustHavingFun

Writing this piece, on the eve of Passover, is the last thing most Jews would think is important. As Jewish holidays commence after sundown, the daylight hours before the Passover seder are easily the busiest for many Jews. The house has been searched top to bottom for chametz (i.e., leavened products). Ordinary year-round utensils are stored away and new ones designated for Passover use have been brought out. The whole house is topsy turvy. A yearly chaos, hated yet beloved.

Many preparations need to be performed during the day before the seder: calling friends and family to wish them a happy holiday, making sure the children have matching socks, last minute purchases because yet another guest is coming. And the cooking!

I used to spend the entire day before the seder cooking and preparing. I felt like an artist, carefully selecting my ingredients like colors, figuring quantities like determining to use a fine paintbrush or a trowel. My palate consisted of chicken and vegetables for the golden soup, and tan matzah balls to accompany it. Romaine lettuce provided the green. Red was the beef tongue I prepared, a delicacy saved for twice a year. Wine and grape juice provided rich burgundy and purple colors.

All of the busy-ness gave me so much pleasure. Then sunset would fall and I’d light my holiday candles, singing the ancient blessing. The men would come home from synagogue about an hour later, and we’d start the seder. The children would participate, the youngest saying the mah nishtanah. We’d all groan about the amount of food to eat at midnight and the late hour the seder would finish at. Somebody would retire to the sofa and fall asleep, inevitably. Strangely, I’d look forward to the washing up ritual, making sure the kitchen was in order for the next day’s festive noon meal, although ordinarily I dislike cleanup. I was very much “in the present” at those times in the past, not blindly participating in the ritual, but appreciating the ability to do what I was doing.

Wavelets, © Batya7, JustHavingFun

I’m not preparing a seder this year. I will be a guest. I will not have the same pleasures as previous years; I expect I will have new pleasures. I can enjoy another’s family customs and make new memories. I can be in the moment yet feel the echoes of years past lap against my mind like wavelets upon the shore.

I could choose to dwell on what I don’t have—but rather, I choose to enjoy what the present provides. If I live in the negative shoals I will only bring sorrow and misery to my life. I choose happiness, being present in the current day. I choose to open my eyes to the beauty that is every day and grab at the chances for being open to miracles. For isn’t each day a new miracle?

Redemption is near. Until then, I choose happiness.

Small Red Hand

Small Toy Hand

Small Red Hand. ©Batya7, JustHavingFun

Early one morning I drove to the medical lab to have my blood drawn. A small red hand lay on the curb in the parking lot. Its brilliant color caught my eye in the early morning sun contrasting vividly with the concrete. I paused and knelt to examine it.

Few others would stop to look at detritus on the ground, but I’m a scavenger. I believe that there are things in this world seemingly with no purpose except for that which only I can see in them. Found items, scrounged items, trash-picked items—they excite me. That which was once scorned calls to me. I have the “flea market gene,” and it activates itself when I pass thrift stores. Perhaps it can become “art.” I want to collect it but refrain. The “decluttering” gene kicked in and sense returned to me.

Still I wondered. Where did it come from? An action figure? Superman doesn’t wear gloves and Spiderman’s hands have webs on them. Batman’s gloves are black and Robin’s are green. Did the child cry when he realized his toy’s hand was amputated? How did it come to be precisely here, in this location, in the parking lot of a medical building? Perhaps the wind lofted it here, a particularly strong gust I’d imagine. Only a half inch long, it looked forlorn, abandoned, and incongruous in its strong color.

Brake Pad on Asphalt

Brake Pad on Asphalt. ©Batya7, JustHavingFun

I noticed the texture of the concrete it lay upon: coarse whitish rock fragments embedded in a sandy matrix. Nearby upon the asphalt rested a rusty brake pad, or so I thought then. Now I’m not so sure what it is. A smear of yellow paint limned one edge. The asphalt appeared chunkier than the concrete of the curb, almost sticky. In the strong morning light, deep valleys crowded its surface—deep from the perspective of an ant or a microbe, that is. Were I the size of the red-handed toy, I’d have no trouble walking over that knurled surface though. I’d have sat on the brake pad using it as a bench and admired the view.

I snapped some pictures then went inside for my blood test, forgetting the little red hand and the rusted piece of steel, my odd trip into a land where a red toy hand pointed the direction of my travels. That two-minute pause gave me a moment to think about something different than usual and I cherished it. And here, six months later as I reviewed my old photos, I was brought back to that sunlit morning, the air crisp, and possibilities beckoning.

Passover Pizza

Pizza for Pesach

Passover Pizza and Pizza for Pesach © JustHavingFun

Maybe it’s a symptom of me getting old, but I experience a moment of cognitive dissonance when I see “Passover Pizza” on the market shelves. You mean you can’t go 8 days without pizza? Is this a generational thing?

My Mother tells me about what Passover in Philadelphia was like growing up in the waning years of the Depression. They had eggs, fish, matzah, beets, meat, potatoes, nuts, fruit… and more eggs and potatoes. Kosher for Passover milk and dairy products weren’t readily available, and they didn’t have the wealth of prepared foods that we kosher consumers enjoy today whether for year-round or Passover use. Mrs. Hindy Krohn, also a Philadelphia native (and mother of Rabbi Pesach Krohn), describes the situation well in her 1989 memoir The Way It Was: Touching Vignettes About Growing Up Jewish in the Philadelphia of Long Ago.

Passover Pizza

Freezer case with kosher for Passover products. © JustHavingFun

I’m not quite that old but I remember my Bubba Goldie shaping gefilte fish loaves by hand, sliding them out of the oven, and serving them with a perfect circle of cooked carrot. I don’t know where the fish came from. She probably went to a fish man and asked him to grind it. She also had a special basin for the chicken to soak in. She sat in a chair in the breakfast room pulling the pin feathers from the skin before cooking it.

Passover wasn’t a big deal in our family. We were secularized; it was a time for family to gather. I don’t remember the family having Seder dinners, but I sure remember sitting at the big mahogany dining room table with the matching chairs and claw-footed legs.

Bubba Goldie’s chicken soup was the clearest golden broth with little “eyes” of fat on the top, and the matzah balls were light and fluffy. Well, really I can’t remember the matzah balls, but I like to think they were “floaters” because it fits well with the imagery of the golden soup. She’d serve it with a small portion of chicken breast meat. My other grandmother, Bubba Lena, cooked her chicken soup with lots of “junk,” as she called it. Vegetables peeked from a cloudy broth, and chicken chunks were liberally strewn through the bowl. Did she make matzah balls? I can’t remember, but if she did, I bet they were “sinkers.” I inherited her skills in making a fragrant, filling cauldron of soup and I don’t get complaints about my matzah balls.

Welch’s Manischewitz Kosher Concord Grape Juice is kosher for Passover. © Manischewitz

In the 1990s I saw Manischewitz kosher for Passover Quiche Mix (a product fad that didn’t survive); that was when the world changed for me. Now there is Welch’s kosher Grape Juice, too, another world changer. The products keep coming: marshmallows, chocolate chip cookies, mayonnaise, pizza sauce, macaroons (of course), and the list goes on.

I’ll forgo the Passover pizza. I’ll stick with unsalted whipped butter on matzah as the most exotic food choice.  Hooray for eight days of  limited choices!

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