Shabbat candles’ copper light trembles in the threads of my daughter’s hair. I pull a plank of salmon off the stove, singing.
The past spills out of my father’s luggage, threatening to set into the carpet: in Paterson sixty years gone, my grandparents own a corner store in the old neighborhood; amid steam and sauce pans in a house where no troubles lie, great grandma Alice grinds fish with God’s patience, making gefilte fish and a hundred other blessings a day as simply as you put on a shirt; and on like this in alternating currents of love felt presently, loss, and the look a person has when a warm door closes on them in the rain.
Let’s get out of here, I say. Off we go to eat more Jewish soul food in a day than I eat in a month: brisket served in the urbane shtetl of Lakeview, where payes and piercings linger over the same barbecue; salamis aged under trade secret in Rogers Park by butchers who keep regular hours only on Romanian time; and herring packed in wine from stately groceries along the North Shore.
We keep eating to keep the past behind us. In the little barbecue, my great grandma floats behind the bar to look for Bobby Darin records. The past pours out of Dad’s pockets, his shoes. More the further we go, despite ourselves.
How do I wring seventy years out of you and me? Leaving only this moment together. And room for the future. Is that the answer?
Neighborhoods change their faces all the time in this city. But most importantly, the little world to which we give our days keeps inventing new ways to cheat death.
Have you tried the Israeli schnitzel in Skokie, I ask. Schnitzel came from the old country, you say.
We get back into the car reluctantly, silent. I roll down the windows to let the sky in and fidget with memories soaking the upholstery. Look, I say, and show you a little poem like a paper crane made of kitchen light—that’s great grandma.