“Baking Challah on Grandma Tudi’s Yahrzeit” by Carly Sachs

Reading by the author

After my grandma died,
my mom gave me a laminated copy
of the “Emotional Hygiene Creed”
Grandma Tudi kept in her purse.

I don’t know if sensitivity and worry
come natural to Jewish women,
something in our genes.
My friend Jessica says we carry
our ancestral pain in our bodies.

I think of this as I watch the yeast
bubbling as I make challah,
the part I am most anxious over.
Why do I care so much

to get something right?
to control what ultimately
can’t be controlled,
Which is everything.

On the counter, the yahrzeit candle burns,
I do not expect to get precisely what I wanted
from this world.
I will not kick against the annoyances of life.

My grandma never talked to me
about what she lived through.
Or that she carried this creed
in her purse since 1962.

I wonder what I will tell my daughter.
She learned to walk in a pandemic
That a few days before she stirred her first challah dough,
a man wearing a Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt
was storming Nancy Pelosi’s office in the Capitol.

At two and a half, she knows what Shabbat is,
what challah is.

I follow my friend Nina’s advice:
I start the braid in the center,
then work down each end.

Even though afraid, anxious, and worried,
I shall continue with my activities,
knowing that fear is the normal stimulus
to courage. I will laugh more every day.

This is what it is to be a matriarch,
To offer what I can,
To make a weekly bread,
To give my loved ones
something warm and delicious
to hold.

Carly Sachs is the author of Descendants of Eve (Delphi Series Vol. 8 Blue Lyra Press) and the steam sequence (Washington Writers Publishing House), as well as the editor of the anthology the why and later (deep cleveland press). She coordinates the PJ Library Program in Lexington, Kentucky. Her favorite pandemic hobby is baking challah every Friday for Shabbat.

Image: “Kitchenware 1” by Susan diRende

Special Feature: F2020

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