Remembering Mother with Her Candlesticks

            June 2013    
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Remembering Our Mothers

By Judith L. Goldfarb © May, 2011

My mother was the only one of five siblings born in America. When her mother (my grandmother) came to this country, one of the few things she brought with her were her Shabbat candle sticks. They belonged to her mother (my great-grandmother), who gave them to my grandmother, as a wedding gift. She would light them every Friday night, until some twenty years later, when she gave them to my mother, her only daughter, on her wedding day. My mother cherished them, and I recall many Friday nights when, as a young girl, the two of us would light Shabbat candles together. I would watch my mother, in the soft glow of the flickering candle light, as she made the hand gestures, drawing the Sabbath into our home, then covering her eyes, and reciting the prayer.

My parents had two daughters. I am the oldest, and my sister isn't culturally Jewish. It was an easy choice for my mother. And so, on my wedding day, they were given to me. Her only requests were that when I finally decided to pass them along, they remain in the family, and that I give them to someone who would use them. Since I didn’t marry until I was nearly 48 years old, there was no chance that I’d be giving them to my own daughter. I lit them every Shabbat for many years, but now, they were just collecting dust and decorating the top of my book case. It was time for me to choose one of my four nieces to be the caretaker of this family treasure. The one I'm closest to - my sister's daughter - isn't Jewish, so that left her out. Now, I was in a quandary. My oldest brother's girls, Bonnie, Cindy; my other brother's daughter, Lizzie... Who would get these precious heirlooms? Bonnie, Cindy, Lizzie... Bonnie, Cindy, Lizzie... BonnieCindyLizzie... My three beautiful, amazing nieces. How could I choose between them? I hoped that somehow, something would show me the way.

Then, the family was hit with devastating news. My brother's beloved wife of 42 years had stage 4 ovarian cancer. We were shattered. My brother, his wife, Janie, their daughters, Bonnie and Cindy, and the rest of the family, spent the next year praying for a miracle. During this terrible time, we were also greeted with the joyous news that my brother's youngest daughter, Cindy, had given birth to a beautiful baby girl - Sophie Eve - named for her two great-grandmothers; my mother, being one of them. If any family needed a reason to be happy, it was them, and we all celebrated at Sophie’s official baby naming.

While the family was all together at this poignant gathering, my brother told me that my oldest niece, Bonnie, had begun to light candles and make Shabbat dinner every Friday. There it was! Finally, I had my answer! Bonnie would get the candle sticks! And she'd still be able to light them with her mother every Friday, for months to come. My husband and I lovingly wrapped up these precious items, to be shipped to a fifth generation of women in our family. I was delighted with this choice, that seemed to have been made for me. Bonnie was the oldest girl in the generation after mine, and she had the oldest girl in the following generation; my great-niece, Amanda. The candle sticks had a good home, and a good future home. It was perfect! On the very day Bonnie received the candle sticks in the mail, her son, Josh, came home from Hebrew school with the following assignment: write about something that's been passed down in your family from generation to generation. Was this a coincidence? Maybe… Or, maybe it was my mother, telling me that the candle sticks had found their way into the right home.

From my great-grandmother, to my grandmother, to my mother, to me, to Bonnie, and in years to come, Amanda, and then her daughter... These candle sticks, passed down over the years, have connected five generations of women in my family, and will continue to keep us all in each other’s lives, for generations to come.


from the June 2013 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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