After being invited to New York City by The Museum of Jewish Heritage, to take part in a program called Exploring Latin American Jewish Cuisine, http://www.mjhnyc.org/calendar.html#latin, I become more interested in the term heritage.
Of course I’ve heard the term forever, yet I search in the dictionary, and here are portions of definitions I find:
noun \ˈher-ə-tij, ˈhe-rə-\
: the traditions, achievements, beliefs, etc., that are part of the history of a group or nation
a : something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor
We, our parents, our children…all of us are the result of all of the particles and cells that miraculously come together from what precedes us. We take the baton from our parents, as they took it from theirs, and just the same, we hand it to our children who wait for it with open hands.
Today, my elderly and beloved father is unable to speak much, nor do much anymore, yet he fiercely clutches the sides of the bowl, as I feed him the soup I made for last night’s Shabbat dinner. I lift spoonful after spoonful to his waiting mouth. He noisily, slurps and swallows the broth. He slowly chews, the carrots, barley pearls, and bits of chicken. After a while, barely audibly, he says “good”…this is part of my heritage.
After lunch my dad and I sit in knowing silence, looking out at the pool and its reflections. We know that we love each other, and this love is unbreakable. We look out at the water and beyond the edge of the yard, onto the hot summer day, where stealthy hawks continuously swoop up and down the hills in search of prey.
Dad’s hair is getting long, so there, in front of the hawks, I decide to give him a haircut. I really don’t have experience cutting hair, but it turns out it’s pretty easy. I say, “Dad, be very still. I’m cutting your hair and I wouldn’t want to poke you.” He understands, he’s worried, and so he keeps very still. He is that little boy he was more than 90 years ago. After the haircut I soak his hands in warm soapy water and give him a manicure. He winces, afraid I’ll cut him, but when it’s over he’s happy. My hands, my fingers are just like his…this is part of my heritage.
“Daddy tell me if you remember this one,” I say, as Dean Martin starts to sing Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime. My father smiles broadly, and with sad, nostalgic eyes he nods in satisfying recognition…this is part of my heritage.
After many songs, and caresses, my daddy falls asleep. I quietly get up and go into mom’s closet. Today I play dress up. I try on the gold shoes she wore with the St. John’s outfits she so loved, and the silver ones she wore to my niece’s wedding. I find a cute pair of black flats, but they’re small on me. Mom was a 6 1/2 and I’m a 7. I try on her blouses and skirts, her dresses and pants. Though she is gone, I detect the Channel No.5 that still lingers on her clothing…this is part of my heritage.
I sit on an airplane from L. A. to New York to take part in a program on Latin Jewish cooking. I think about the meal I prepared for last Shabbat’s dinner. Homemade challah (prepared by Norm), a choice of Pozole (spicy Mexican soup), or chicken barley soup, Chicken Paprikash and nokedli (Hungarian dumplings), barbacoa (a spicy Mexican lamb stew), accompanied by a red Mexican rice, refried beans, warm corn tortillas, guacamole and salsa…this is all part of my heritage too.
Hello New York, I carry you inside of me, the place of my father’s birth… you are part of my heritage too.
It is nearly Shabbat now, the greatest part of my heritage,… and with a full and happy heart, I say,
Shabbat Shalom le kulam!