By Sara Fryd
On the refrigerator hung a huge calendar two feet up from the floor, when Rachel could see it every time she opened the door to get a drink for herself and her brother Daniel.
When it had big red X's crossing out the first five months of the year, Rachel knew it was almost time to fly to a magical place. June was Rachel's favorite month of the year. Not just because school had ended. Every June since she was five years old, Rachel flew to Tucson, Arizona from Manchester, New Hampshire on America West Airlines. She sat in a front row seat near the flight attendants. All by herself!
This year would be her fourth visit to Bubbie and Zaddie. It was already April and everyday she marked the red X's on the calendar. When she went to bed at night, she tried NOT to think about the drive through the desert from the airport to the ranch with all the different kinds of plants called cacti saguaros, chollas, yuccas, ocotillos, prickly pear, and hedgehogs. The names of these plant creatures were almost as fanciful as their looks.
The prickly pear cactus had red purple Sabra fruits growing on them; just like in the pictures of Israel in the big book on the coffee table. She tried NOT to think about Bubbie and Zaddie's animals. She couldn't help herself. When she lay down at night and closed her eyes, her favorite pictures were the ones of the lovebirds (Tsippi and Shira), the chow-chows (Yofi and Eli), and the painted pony (Chayaleh).
Tsippi and Shira had green and yellow feathers with red cheeks. They would ride around on Yofi's back and take baths in Eli's water dish. Chayaleh loved little apples and carrots with the greens still attached. If Chayaleh got out of the corral, she would sneak into the garden and pull the carrots out all by herself. She loved running over to the trees where the apples grew, then look around to see if anyone was watching her and grab a few snacks. In his letters to Rachel, Zaddie mentioned that apples and carrots were like cookies and ice cream to horses. This year he promised her that she could ride Chayaleh all the way down to the creek and back.
Rachel could hardly wait and every day when she came home from school, she counted the remaining days on the calendar and added a big red X. Then she ran upstairs and pulled the box of letters out of the special box she kept them in, then read them again and closed her eyes.
When Mom and Dad asked her what was her favorite part of the trip, she always said, "peeking through my fingers at the golden light while saying the blessing over the Shabbat candles with Bubbie Nusha." Every night before she fell asleep, she'd say the "Shy'ma" and ask G-d to bless everyone in New Hampshire, everyone in Arizona, and everyone in the whole world, especially all the wonderful animals.
After her prayers, Rachel fell asleep remembering the golden light of the candles flickering through her fingers when she and Bubbie moved their hands three times in a circle and covered their eyes to say the blessing over the candles.
After all the days of April and May had been crossed out and a couple in June, Rachel packed her pink flowered suitcase. On the way to the airport they stopped at Shlomo & Vitos delicatessen and had bought a home made challah for Shabbat. She picked out the one with a huge braid down the center (just like Mom braided Rachel's chestnut hair). Mom put the challah in Rachel's suitcase, hugged her real tight, and kissed her eyelashes. "Goodbye New Hampshire, hello Arizona" Rachel thought. Maybe this time she could look out the window and see Kansas (where Dorothy lived).
Flying was exciting! She loved looking out at the clouds and the sun. She knew G-d lived up here. She would look out the window, wave and talk to him, "Hi G-d, how are you today? Thank you for these wonderful clouds that look like new snow and cotton balls." Once they were in the air, the flight attendants brought her a wing pin for her sweater, a whole can of juice, and a package of peanuts. Soon the pilot came on and told them they were flying over Kansas ("Hi Dorothy, I'm up here"), then the Rocky Mountains (which still had snow at the very top).
When the pilot told everybody to look out the window so they could see the Grand Canyon from 36,000 feet up, Rachel knew she was almost there. Rachel knew her geography. She knew they were getting very close to Tucson. They turned at the Grand Canyon, then started flying south towards Tucson. She was high above her beloved Arizona. Soon she could see the Catalina and Rincon Mountains and knew they were about to land at Tucson airport.
Flight #918 came to a stop at the gate. Bubbie and Zaddie were waiting to take her to the "B Z Ranch." Bubbie had brought her a pink cowboy hat. The kind cowgirls wear. She wanted to hug and kiss them both at the same time; she missed them so much. Hugs and kisses while Zaddie picked her up and put her on his shoulders and carried her out of the airport. She was so tall sitting on his shoulders; she could see everything. With her cowboy hat on, she and Zaddie were almost nine feet tall.
Eli was waiting in the back seat of the car. The licks, the yelping, the whining. Everybody in Arizona had missed Rachel so much. All the way to the Ranch she was thinking, "I'm Rachel the Cowgirl with the pink cowboy hat." Wait till she brought the hat and pictures riding Chayaleh for fifth grade "show and tell" at the beginning of school in New Hampshire. First, she called home to tell them she arrived safe. "Mom! Dad! I got a pink cowboy hat! Now I'm a real cowgirl." Then she went to the barn to give Chayaleh carrots and apples.
After she said hello to all the critters (cowgirl talk for animals), Rachel helped Bubbie get ready for Shabbat. She gave Bubbie the challah she brought from Shlomo & Vitos deli. They put it on a special Shabbat plate with Hebrew writing, covered it with a special challah cover with more Hebrew writing, and set it on the dinning room table next to Zaddie's kiddish cup. They had set a beautiful table with a white tablecloth and napkins that Bubbie brought from Romania where she was born. Then they took out the silver candlesticks, placing white candles in them that smelled like the vanilla in Bubbie's cookies.
They would light them later just before the sun went down. Then Bubbie gave Rachel a little box with a pink ribbon. When she opened the box, Rachel saw two smaller candlesticks of her own with two pink candles. Each of the candlesticks were shaped like big bow and when she put them on the table next to each other, they looked like silver flowers. Rachel gave her Bubbie the biggest hug. Then Bubbie said, "One for you and one for Daniel. My two favorite children in the whole world." Bubbie would light two extra candles for her grandchildren.
Rachel helped feed all the animals before Shabbat began.
Then she went upstairs with Bubbie to get all dressed up for this special dinner. Friends were coming. Food was ready. The table was gorgeous. Now it was their time. Bubble baths with great smelling bubbles, hair brushed and twisted into a braid like the challah, and her pink dress with the little roses. Bubbie wore a yellow one, the color of the inside of the challah. Down the stairs they walked, while Zaddie waited at the bottom with "don't my two girls look beautiful tonight!" With a hug and kiss for each.
It was time for Shabbat. First they covered their heads and then Bubbie lit the candles. She and Bubbie moved their hands three times in a circle and covered their eyes to say the blessing over the candles. Rachel peeked at her new candles! She could see the golden light of Shabbat peeking through her fingers. "Baruch ata adonai, elohaynu melech haolom, asher kidishonu, b'mitzva tov vitzevonu lihadlick ner shell Shabbat." "Amen," everyone joined in chorus.
Bubbie asked Rachel to close her eyes and asked, "Rachel Dear, do you ever miss Shabbat in New Hampshire?" Then she told the story of a man that left his town in Romania traveling far away from his family and his home.
So far away that he got lost and couldn't find the way back. And the man cried lonely tears with his heart breaking. The next Shabbat G-d sent an angel to this lonely man with a special silver goblet of red wine. The angel asked the man if he truly missed his family and his home. The man began to cry. The angel told the man to close his eyes and remember his home and his family. Then the angel blessed the wine, put his finger in the wine and touched the man's eyelashes. The angel reminded the man that anytime you want to be with those you love, all you have to do is close your eyes and touch your eyelashes with a drop from the Kiddish cup. The man was so pleased with what the angel had taught him, that he searched for the path back to Romania, home to those he loved. And finding the way back to those he loved, he found he wasn't lonely anymore.
Then Bubbie put her finger in the wine glass and touched Rachel's eyelashes. Then Bubbie said, "So Shayna Poonim (pretty face), when you go back to New Hampshire, if you miss our Shabbat in the desert, just close your eyes, touch your eyelashes with your little fingers, and as if by magic you'll be here with us." Rachel smiled the biggest smile and everyone at the table closed their eyes, touched their eyelashes and remembered.
Dinner was wonderful, especially the challah and the soup with knadlech. After Bubbie and Zaddie tucked her in bed, Rachel closed her eyes, took her fingers, touched her eyelashes, and as if by magic she was in New Hampshire with Mom and Dad, her brother Daniel, and her puppies Emily and Woody.
Before she fell asleep, Rachel said the "Shy'ma" asking G-d to bless everyone in New Hampshire, everyone in Arizona, everyone in the whole wide world, and all the angels who come to earth and share wonderful stories about eyelashes and magic.
Bubbie = Grandmother
Zaddie = Grandfather
Hashem = Lord
Baruch Hashem = Bless the Lord
Kelev = dog
Challah = egg bread
Knadlech = dumplings
Shabbat = Saturday
Sabra = native born Israeli/fruit of the prickly pear cactus
Shy'ma = Hebrew prayer
Shayna Poonim = pretty face
See Sara Fryd, author of You Meet No Strangers (Amazon/Kindle/Smashwords/Nook/iPad),
on her web site http://sarafryd.com/
from the September 2011 Edition of the Jewish Magazine