Memories


“Bubbie, you didn’t give me a present for my birthday!” wailed my four-year-old grandson.

“Of course I did!”

“Nooooo!”

Trying to reason with a sobbing child, I calmly explained: “Remember, I gave you the matching game with the colorful pictures?”

“But that wasn’t a present!” he yelled.

“What? Why…”

“The game wasn’t wrapped! You didn’t give me a present!”

“Ohhh…you mean if I give you a game that’s not wrapped, then it’s not a present?

“Right. You didn’t give me a present!”

Oh! I never knew that a wrapped box made the item a present…at least for a four-year-old. But how could I correct this egregious error? I didn’t want to be known as The Bubbie Who Doesn’t Give Presents!

This conversation happened in December, shortly before Chanukah. Perhaps I had a chance to redeem myself.

“Chanukah is coming. What would you like?”

Said child responded with interesting toy choices such as Ninja turtles and PJ Masks Headquarters.  “OK. I can buy one of those toys for you!”

“But Bubbie…remember to wrap it!”

“Of, course!” I smiled back and gently patted his face. We continued chatting, played some games, read stories, and I visited with the other kids. And of course played catch with Jax, their two-year-old frisky Lab.

As I walked to the front door to leave, Mr. Wrap-the-Present reminded me, “Bubbie, don’t forget to wrap my toy!”

The Importance of Wrapping

Typically, kids excitedly and hurriedly rip the wrapping paper off the box, toss the ribbons to the side, and tear open the box. Wouldn’t simply handing the kid the toy they wanted do the trick? I could smile and say “Happy Birthday”.

Apparently, wrapping the gift matters. From my research—outside of speaking with four-year-olds—I discovered that a wrapped box:

  • builds curiosity: “It’s a large box; what’s inside?”
  • increases anticipation: “Did she get me what I asked for?”
  • boosts the surprise element: “I wonder what this is?”
  • is something people prefer: “It would have been so much more fun to have a cutely wrapped box!”

Redressing the Egregious Error

My oldest grandson and I shopped for his little brother’s gift. We found the oversized PJ Masks toy easily. As we approached the checkout line, I saw wrapping paper and bows. “Better buy the wrapping equipment now so we can bring the gift home prepared.”

“Yup! But how will we wrap it before we get home?” N. wisely asked.

“In the car!” Then I realized I didn’t have scissors and tape in the car. “We’d better duck into the drugstore and get scissors and tape.” I figured it’s always helpful to have spare scissors and tape in the car. Never know when I’ll have to wrap another gift on the road!

Supplies in hand, we set to wrapping the gift. The Honda Civic seats were too small for us to wrap the gift in the back, so we opened the trunk.

“Bubbie, we’d better work fast. I think the weathermen were right for once; looks like rain any moment.”

We unrolled the paper and tried to straighten it out in the confined space. Giggling, we unevenly cut the paper. I placed a portion over the front of the box and taped down the paper. And then the drizzle started. We worked as quickly as we could, laughing about the absurdity of wrapping a gift in the parking lot, in the rain!

The effort paid off! We brought in the large box, covered in blue and silver paper, and topped with navy blue bows. Little brother greeted us wide-eyed and a with a large smile: “You bought me a present!”

Redeemed, at last!

**

Why do you wrap presents? Jump into the comments and let us know!

**

Resources:

http://scienceblogs.com/grrlscientist/2008/12/04/the-psychology-behind-wrapping-1/

http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/why-do-we-wrap-presents

 

 

I just lit the candle to mark the beginning of my Dad’s second yahrzeit (anniversary of his passing). It’s just me and the candle. No distractions.

I feel pain, yet not as intensely as last year. I feel the loss more acutely now.

In the past year, I had several complex decisions to make. And I often thought, Where’s Dad? I need his counsel!

Not able to chat with him in life, I couldn’t figure out what he would have advised. Stuck. Unsure.

And then I remembered this: Take a piece of legal pad paper. Draw a line down the center. Write Pro on one side and Con on the other. Then make your list. As I wrote those words, I could almost hear Dad relaying those instructions.

The classic Pro and Con list helped. Trying to hear his voice comforted me.

**

We had happy times in the family during the past year. Dad wasn’t there. I missed sharing the events with him. Did he come in spirit? I believe he did. Yet I couldn’t see him. I couldn’t see his smile.

I could conjure up memories of him smiling at other milestones.

three-generations

Three Generations: Poppy, Grandson, and Great-Grandson

 

 

dad-and-noey

Poppy and Great-Grandson at School

 

The image of him dancing spiritedly with his grandson—my son—at the wedding came to mind.

Picturing the memory of the wedding dance comforted me.

**

On the yahrzeit, some of the observances of mourning are in effect. I won’t listen to music today or go to joyous events. I’ll draw on what I learned about simcha (joy) during the year of mourning: Feeling joyful comes from the inside. I can feel joy without the outside stimuli like music. Today, I’ll catch up on my spiritual studies and listen to classes, especially those with an upbeat tone.

And learning in Dad’s memory will comfort me.

**

L’ilui nishmas (for the elevation of the soul) Yoel Meir ben (son of) Simcha—Joel Sandleman, 26 Tevet 5777 (solar calendar date is January 17).

Photos ©Sherri Leah Henkin 2004-2017.

 

 

I arrived in Israel right after Rosh Hashanah (early October). I sensed the spirit of the chagim (holidays) as soon as I landed when I saw the Shanah Tovah (loosely translated as Happy New Year) signs at the airport! My Israel Adventure had begun!!

And it’s been quite a spiritual and physical adventure! Here’s the wrap-up:

  • A long-time friend met me at the airport—her beaming smile warmed my heart! And off we went in our private taxi to my Jerusalem cousins.
  • Friday early afternoon, I visited the Kotel (Western Wall) and merited to pray Mincha (the afternoon prayers) there. kotel-first-friday-afternoon-erev-shabbos-shuva
  • Early Tuesday morning, I travelled to Alei Zahav and spent Yom Kippur with other long-time friends. I enjoy the spirituality in this place, and the view from their porch grabs me each time, since I see the Mediterranean in the distance! alei-zahav-view-from-the-porch
  • Sukkah-building got underway; I heard hammers and drills late into the night after Yom Kippur! My cousins fill their sukkah with original paintings and decorations. As a friend put it, “You are eating in an art gallery!” What a privilege. sukkah-with-succos-painting                                             Artist: Elya Succot
  • Being at the Kotel for Birkat Kohanim (public priestly blessing) is my favorite Succot activity. This year, I was one of the 70,000 who attended! The thunder of that many people answering Amen to blessings inspires me for many months! And in the midst of the crowd, the doves peacefully watched over us. birds-at-birkat-kohanim-blog
  • The lighting effects, fireworks, and sound during the concert in Brechat Sultan (Sultan’s Pool) blew me away! Real feet-stomping and hand-clapping music—with many people dancing in the aisles!lights-brechat-hasultan-concert

 

dancing-in-aisles-breachat-hasultan

  • And then, I travelled to Tzefat (Safed) for the Shabbat during Succot. I toured part of the Artists’ Colony with a friend—and made some purchases, of course! artists-quarter-sculptureOne night a few of us drove to a quiet spot near the Jordan River…we chatted and enjoyed the gurgling of the rushing river. And the stars! WOW—millions of them! I could even pick out some constellations!
  • Back in Jerusalem, a friend and I took in the Valley of the Gazelles…right in the center of the city! gazelle-running
  • I’ve even done some mundane activities such as food shopping, clothes-buying, and helping a friend declutter!

Although my cousins put away the sukkah and the chagim are over, the festive spirit continues. We have a family wedding this week! Our dancing shoes are ready! If you hear loud lively music this week, it’s coming from that wondrous simcha (joyous occasion)!

Wishing all my readers a year full of health, success, joyous occasions, and exciting adventures!

Birch Aquarium. For over 20 years I’d seen the sign. For over 20 years, I drove past the entrance, on to other sites in La Jolla. Why? I like aquariums! They’re all about the water!

Enough of just looking at the coastline…ocean view of coastline

…the time had come to personally discover Birch Aquarium. aquarium sign2 (2)

I meandered through the exhibits, appreciating colors…orange fish in tidepool

Big Blue Bass

Butterfly Fish

…and the curators’ creativity.

sunken boat with fish

I learned about fish who blend into their environment. Some fish look like plants…tidepool…others look like the surrounding flora.

Dragon Seahorse

Birch even boasts a nursery—for fish!

Baby Seahorses

Juvenile Moon Jellyfish

Juvenile Moon Jellyfish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breathing in the salty fresh ocean air energized me. And viewing the grey whale statue jumping out of the water reminded me that I too, can jump up and move!

 

grey whales (2)

**

All photos (c) Sherri Leah Henkin 2016

 

 

“Welcome to Kiev.”

Three words I never thought I’d hear in my life. The KLM plane had just touched down at Borispol Airport.

I had flown with a group of women from the US. In Kiev, we met a group from Israel and Europe. Our spiritual journey to the birthplace of Chassidus was about to begin. For me, the trip was a family reunion of sorts, since I met up with my Israeli cousins and friends.

**

Kiev, Berditchev, Mezhibuzh, Breslov, and Uman had not been on my list of places to visit. I’d studied about the former USSR and learned about the roles these cities played in Jewish history. Over the last few decades, I’d heard the first-hand stories of visitors to this part of the world. While the experiences interested me, I never expected to travel to Ukraine.

So what changed?

A suggestion here: “I’m going to Uman in July; why don’t you come with our group?” Debbie had asked. A hint there: “It’s a healing, life-changing trip!” The emotional video on the Holy Journeys website drew me. And Hashem [G-d] created life circumstances that made the trip possible.

I traveled through time and physical space to a mystical—but very real—place. Learning, praying, laughing, crying, dancing, and singing—all the raw emotions rattled my core and catapulted me into a positive direction. With immense gratitude to Hashem [G-d], I share with you some of the photos from this trip.

Tomb of Rav Levi Yitzchok from Berditchev

Tomb of Rav Levi Yitzchok from Berditchev [For historical description, see: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1007604/jewish/A-Brief-Biography.htm.]

Berditchev Cemetery from Sara

Berditchev Cemetery (Photo Credit: Sara Melman)

 

 Baal Shem Tov

Tomb of the Baal Shem Tov and others (Mezhibuzh) [For historical description, see: http://www.chabad.org/generic_cdo/aid/388609/jewish/The-Baal-Shem-Tov.htm.]

Hotel in Mezhibuzh on Left

Hotel building in Mezhibuzh

Night Sky En Route to Mezhibuzh

Painting of Night Sky en route to Mezhibuzh

In Uman, we prayed and learned at the tomb of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. I was drawn to the exquisite beauty of Gan Sofia (Sofia Park).

Fountain near entrance                        Lily Pad                                        Waterfall

**

Photos (except Berditchev Cemetery) and painting (c) Sherri Leah Henkin 2016

Last week I wanted to bake challah. I had no flour or yeast, and figured I’d be tired by the end of the week. How could I make challah? I decided that I would take one action a day and see what happened. On Tuesday, I purchased the flour and yeast. Wednesday evening, I pulled out the rest of the dry ingredients, bowl, mixing spoon, and the recipe. And on Thursday evening, I didn’t think I could do anything else but put the dry ingredients in the bowl. That meant, I would bake on Friday. With a full writing schedule on Friday, I might not get to the baking.

What’s my option? Should I try to prepare tonight? It’s already 7:30 PM and the dough needs to rise for two hours!

I decided to try. While working on each step in my recipe, I connected spiritually to women from many generations before me who prepared challah for Shabbat or chagim (holidays). The water, oil, and eggs went into the bowl. I realized kneading time—the activity that requires the most energy—had arrived. I didn’t notice the time; I kept focused on the task. Almost magically, the individual ingredients became dough.

As I shaped the dough into rolls, I remembered the first woman who taught me that technique. My mind wandered back to her kitchen where we chatted about everything from challah-baking to child-raising…and even writing!

The sticky dough was hard to work with, so I added more flour. I prayed that dough would turn into tasty loaves. I placed the dough in a warm spot and prayed for the dough to rise quickly, although I hadn’t used quick-rise yeast. About an hour later I looked at the dough that was about to overflow the bowl!

As I shaped the loaves and rolls, I prayed some more. This time, I prayed not for the dough but for friends who want children, friends who want to get married, for all of us who need respectful livelihood, and for a speedy recovery to everyone I know who is sick. The whole wheat dough looked like fine wood on which I shellacked the egg white. While the challah baked, there was a woody-wheat smell throughout my apartment.

At the end of the process that I didn’t think I could do, I had spiritual and physical tasty whole wheat challah to share!

challah

And a sense of accomplishment! I committed to one small step, took it, saw that I could accomplish it, and could move on to the next step.

Here’s my challah-baking-task-accomplishing recipe:

  1. Create a do-able plan that has three to five steps.
  2. Commit to accomplishing one step.
  3. Pray or take some spiritual action before that first step.
  4. Take the first step.
  5. Do more spiritual activity.
  6. This can be a simple plea like, “Help me.”
  7. Take another step.
  8. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you complete your plan.
  9. Look at your accomplishment and celebrate!

 

 

 

 

Several years ago, I found this statement, attributed to Claude Monet*:

One could not be any closer to the sea than I am, on the pebbled beach itself, and the waves beat at the foot of the house. You know my passion for the sea…I’m mad about it!

Monet might have made this comment during his stay in Le Havre or on one of his journeys to Normandy’s coastal towns. I’ve not traveled to Normandy; I have lived near the ocean, and I, too, am mad about it!

The soft quiet waves coming in from low tide calm me. Feeling cool blue-green water as I wade at the water’s edge refreshes me. Waves against cliffWatching the waves at high tide rise majestically and crack against the cliffs can scare me, until I sit still long enough to hear the rhythm.

The rhythm produces a symphony; I almost hear the drums and cymbals!

Last week I visited a friend near the Pacific Ocean. Standing near the buildings, I could see the waves, and seagulls. Sea and SeagullsBut I couldn’t smell the ocean air. What’s all this city smell if I’m so close to the ocean?

I walked toward the ocean, away from the buildings, the volleyball players, and the bikers. I dodged the sunbathers and kids building sandcastles. And I stopped to inhale deeply the salty energizing ocean air. I stood on the beach, oblivious to anyone, relaxing into the sea salt and ocean sounds.

The scene reminded me of my girlhood. I saw myself playing on the beach with my friends, building sandcastles. We gathered seaweed to hang as decorations on our sand structures. Then, having tired of the digging, we grabbed our shoe boxes and began our trek along the water’s edge to collect sea glass: colored glass pieces that the sea water had softened. We prided ourselves on how many boxes we could fill with these pastel opaque pieces.

And of course, the memory came up of swimming with my grandfather. We swam as far out as he felt I could—pretty far for a kid—and then swam back. No chatting; these swims were serious business for exercise and bonding!

The waves beat close to the beach house and gave me the gift of a life-long love for the sea!

Dead Sea at Sunrise

*Apologies to my readers: I recorded this quote without a source.

Photos © Sherri Leah Henkin

 

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