Inheritance

by Bonnie Widerman (Irvine, CA)

There is a hole in the fabric of my Jewish childhood,
something missing, gone, nowhere to be found,
though I’ve searched my childhood home high and low—
Not for a beautifully crafted Tallit left behind.
I was never given one—no girl was in those days.
Not for a handmade Challah cover,
embellished with my awkward scrawling and designs.
Surely that fell apart years ago.
Not for my mothers Shabbat tablecloth,
white patterned fabric with a neatly scalloped edge.
All her tablecloths lie exactly where she kept them
when she was alive.
No. The treasure I inherited and lost all at once
was the very fabric of my mother’s Jewish life,
embodied in her Shabbat candlesticks—
A wisp of white smoke threading through the air
from an extinguished match.
A blessing in two voices, intertwined.
Two dancing flames casting shadows on the wall,
knitting our family together in Sabbath peace.
After my mother passed away, her candlesticks vanished
as if they were that matchstick smoke.
When I stand in her kitchen and look up at the shelf
where those pillars of blue-green enamel and brass once stood,
I feel the weight of their absence—and hers—in my heart.
I cannot bring back what is gone.
But the pattern of lighting candles with my mother
week after week, year after year,
is woven into the fabric of my life.
It unfolds into blessing every Friday night
as I light Shabbat candles at my own family’s table
with my daughters by my side.

Bonnie Widerman is the Director of Marketing & Communications for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, a national non-profit organization. She has been a professional writer and corporate communicator for more than 20 years. In her free time, she writes stories and poetry and her work has appeared in Ladybug magazine and Fandangle. Bonnie is currently editing a manuscript entitled, Her Kaddish: A Jewish Woman’s Journey through Mourning, which she wrote during the year she spent saying Kaddish for her mother, and which she hopes to share with others facing a loss.
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Filed under American Jewry, Family history, Jewish identity, poetry

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