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Mommy’s Nook

Mommy’s Nook

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An advertisement for a dream kitchen caught my eye recently—spacious, gleaming countertops; feast-for-your-eyes cabinetry; top-of-the-line appliances. I felt a tug at my heart, remembering—in contrast—my mother’s kitchens. I grew up in rented apartments, but no matter how small and outdated the kitchen might have been, it was truly the focal point of our home.I felt a tug at my heart

As cramped as the room usually was, there was a place for everything. Of course, this was not difficult to accomplish, as Mother never owned gadgetry. Her potato kugel and latkes were hand-grated (even after food processors were the norm), and she even considered a vegetable peeler unnecessary. As far as she was concerned, stained clothing had to be treated on an old-fashioned scrubbing board, and the only way to have a thoroughly clean floor was to use a scrub brush.

Neighbors would attempt to dissuade her from using these backbreaking, finger-imperiling methods, but soon conceded that Mrs. Schreiber’s results were far superior to theirs. However, beyond my mother’s exceptional culinary talent and general housewifely expertise, there was something quite remarkable about her kitchen.

My mother had a special corner we children called “Mommy’s nook.” The nook was a haven that attracted the unfortunate—spinsters, widows, women who were destitute, lonely, or otherwise down and out. Many were Holocaust survivors, like my mother; but unlike her, they dwelt in their tragic pasts. In Mommy’s nook they found a listening ear and an understanding heart, along with a cup of tea and mouth-watering apple strudel, fresh-baked rugelach, or perhaps an extra-large bowl of nourishing soup that reminded the diners of di alte heim (“the old home”). Until I If there was soup, she slurped itreached my teens, I did not realize that my family had a household budget, so generously were these portions dispensed.

Azoi git, azoi batampt (so good, so tasty),” the guests would say. At first I found their praises redundant. Only after a while did I understand that they were referring to much more than the mere taste of the food.

There was one guest, I am still embarrassed to admit, whom my sister and I found particularly difficult to welcome. Aunt Becky, as she insisted we call her, lived alone in a cheerless apartment, furnished with heavy, dark pieces that looked even older than she was. Whenever she did not appear at our door for a few days, our mother would send us down to her airless apartment to invite her for dinner, usually on an evening that our father was coming home late. The main problem for us was that she seemed to expect Mother’s undivided attention. But there was also the matter of the noise Aunt Becky made as she ate. If, for instance, there was soup, she slurped it.

Once, when Aunt Becky was not present, my sister expertly mimicked her slurping sounds. I almost choked with laughter—until I saw the tears glistening in my mother’s eyes. My sister and I never forgot her rebuke, or her disappointment in us.

Mommy’s nook extended beyond our four walls, too, whenever a situation warranted it. When the Hochmans’ baby suddenly needed out-of-town medical care, Mommy was at the forefront of the neighborhood chessed (kindness) squad, taking care Mommy’s nook extended beyond our four walls, tooof the family’s needs. Their next-to-youngest, a rambunctious two-year-old, could fall asleep only after Mommy’s routine of picking him up to kiss the mezuzah and then reading him a bedtime story in her halting English, often improvising and improving on the original.

In this way, Mommy’s nook became a symbol of more than just motherly love. It extended to include anyone who needed a giving, warm-hearted touch. Mommy’s nook proved the adage that asserts, “If there’s room in your heart, there’s room in your home.”

B. Schreiber, M.A., is an English teacher, writer and editor whose stories and essays have appeared in various publications. She lives in Jerusalem with her family.
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RJ Lee Jacksonville FL USA July 10, 2014

Thank you Mrs Scheiber!
Your Mother's graciousness is a beautiful example of how practical and spiritual are one and the same.
Men and women would do well to follow her example.
Thank you again!
May G-d bless and protect you and your family. Reply

Sunnie Mitchell UK July 10, 2014

Every child Should have a mother like yours. Every girl should aspire to being the wife and mother yours was. I'm a grandmother of four, I work at mothering and grand-mothering in a way that I hope one day reaches at least half the measure of your mother. Reply

Anonymous Texas July 10, 2014

Living in the past It was sad to read about the people who were still living in the past, reliving the agonies in which they found themselves when they could have been grateful for what they had in the present.
My life has not been easy, so what? I've had major health challenges but never asked "why me?" I was just grateful that today's medicine had the cures.
Living a life of gratitude for all of the blessings Hashem lavishes on us makes life happy.
I'm poor, having lost my life's savings in '08, yet being grateful for the incredible luxuries that even King David did not have (air conditioning, automobiles, medical care...) even in what others may view as being in poverty, is WAY better than what even our grandparents lived through (I'm 73 years young).
My grandfather died from a blocked coronary artery. Nowadays if one has a blocked artery, a quick trip to the catherization lab and installation of a stent (invented in Israel) and you're on your way. Baruch Hashem! Reply

Laura Gothard TucsonAZ July 9, 2014

This little story about Aunt Becky was just what I needed today. My own gramma and my dad were both also so very accepting of others. Gramma was a devout person, raised as a Calvary Baptist, she still encouraged exploration of every faith, recognizing G.d in each one.. She was so kind to strangers, neighbors everyone she met. Your story brought her wonderful memory to life today, and I thank you for that. G.d's peace be upon you! Reply

Anonymous July 8, 2014

B"H

I am just so taken at your mother, may Hakodosh Boruch Hu bless her. I pray Hashem make me and all of us like her. Surely, Moshiach would be sent then with no delay. And what a writer our Hashem has made you! Your ability to put that into magical words that transported me to your mother's kitchen.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Reply

Anonymous USA July 8, 2014

Yafe, This so touched my heart. What a woman your mother was. This has inspired me to rise higher. Just when I am feeling so out of sorts this comes into
my world. Reply

Kathy July 7, 2014

A special woman I know that according to tradition, the lamed vov (36 especially righteous people) among us are supposed to be men. However, G-d frequently surprises us and I'm wondering if your mother was one of those chosen to live on earth, a beacon of pure light and goodness, to remind us all of the worthiness that we can aspire to.
I'm so glad you had this wonderful woman as a mother! May her memory be a blessing. Reply

Anonymous July 7, 2014

What was Aunt Backy's story? I'm hooked now. Mommy's Nook is great, but I want to hear more about Aunt Becky. Can you tell us about her? Reply

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