Alone At Last
This is the first time in about two weeks that I actually have time for myself. What a blessing! With the cycle of Jewish holidays that began with Rosh Hashana, and that end almost a month later with Sukkot and Simchat Torah, I’ve spent hours shopping and cooking, cleaning, and catering to all sorts of guests, including my newly-married son and my parents.
Don’t get me wrong, it has been enjoyable; each day so full that sleep comes as soon as I put my head down. I’d rather be busy. I’d rather have the house full of guests, the fridge stuffed to the gills. It’s the beauty of living in the now.
When Mom was here, I expended a lot of energy including her in our activities. She peeled eggs and made egg salad for lunch. She washed and dried dishes. She cut vegetables for salad. She made tea. We chose with care the activities we knew she could do. And we made sure someone was with her in the kitchen to assist and to answer her endless questions. Most of the time, Mom volunteered to help. And when she was too tired or confused, we had her sit with us while we continued working.
I won’t deny it was a relief when Mom decided to lie down. Not only did I accomplish more in those two hours than when we were together, but I even had a little rest myself.
Taking Mom to synagogue was a challenge. First, we had to get dressed. Mom kept asking how her clothes had magically appeared in her room. It took some convincing to get her to wear a pretty dress instead of the skirt and shirt she’d worn the day before.
When we finally got to synagogue, Mom kept losing her place. She loved singing along with all the communal prayers, the tunes so familiar they are etched in her memory. But unless I kept my finger on the words in the prayer book, she had no idea where we were. I realized right away that my focus was on Mom’s enjoyment, and that my own personal prayer was taking a back seat. I was ok with that. Questions kept fluttering through my mind. I wondered how she coped when she was in her own synagogue. How much longer would she be able to attend services? How much longer until the whole service was too complicated for her? Did I mention how much she loved being with me and participating in the prayers? I am sad that this too will soon slip from her grasp.
There was a poignant moment for me in synagogue on Rosh Hashana when our neighbor brought his wheelchair-bound mother to hear the Shofar. Is it worth the effort, I thought to myself, bringing someone so far gone to synagogue? But when the Shofar sounded high and light, her stooped, withered body visibly reacted. Wow, I thought, maybe it is worth it. I can see myself doing that for Mom, bringing her to synagogue to let the prayers enter her, whether she can appreciate them or not, hoping, praying they touch her in some small way.
In her younger, stronger days, when the kids were little, Mom’s visits were a whirlwind of activity. She called herself “Grandmarella,” a take-off on Cinderella, the always busy servant girl. She’d wash the kids. She’d wash the clothes. She’d wash the floor. (“I don’t do windows,” she’d joke.) She would help me out with anything that needed to be done.
Now our roles are reversed.
If “the child is father of the man,” then Mom is a sweet-natured inquisitive young girl, perhaps similar to when she really was young. For me there is another meaning. The child, meaning me, is now mother to the mother. I cannot fight this turn of events. I can only flow with the tide, waves of sadness washing over me as I realize how much more there is to lose.
This week’s recipe is part of the monthly challenge created by the “Kosher Connection” an informal group of creative kosher food bloggers from around the world. What’s the one food you’d want if stranded on a desert island? The fact that I am all alone and that I already live in the desert, makes me realize that what I really want is to inhabit a dessert island. Being a true chocoholic, here’s the mousse recipe I made for Sukkot. It is adapted from The Ultimate Mousse Cookbook,* a fun book that is actually in the shape of a moose. I kid you not.
Making mousse is a bit patchkied, meaning it’s an overly elaborate dish, but well worth the trouble. Even Daddy, the ultimate chocoholic in our family, enjoyed it! I decorated the mousse with chocolate shavings. These are best made from a frozen chocolate bar and a small hand grater. Thanks to my friend Catherine for giving me the confidence to make this dish.
7 ounces semisweet chocolate squares (or 3 x 100 gr chocolate bars)
3 egg yolks
3 cups whipping cream (or 3 x 212 ml cartons of Rich’s non-dairy whipped topping)
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp water
3 egg whites
Place chocolate, vanilla and water in a microwavable bowl and cook on high for 40 seconds. Stir. If chocolate is not melted, cook on high for an additional 20 seconds. Stir and repeat until melted. If chocolate becomes too thick, add an additional teaspoon of water. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, beat the cream and sugar until soft peaks form. Set aside. In a glass bowl separate the whites from three eggs and beat until stiff. Add the yolks into the chocolate and mix well. You now have three bowls in front of you: 1. melted chocolate with egg yolks; 2. whipped cream; and 3. beaten egg whites. Take the chocolate and add it to the cream using your mixer on low speed. Then, using a spatula, fold the egg whites into the chocolate cream. Pour into individual bowls and top with chocolate shavings. Chill for up to four hours before serving.
Note to readers: I'll be away for the next two weeks with limited internet connectivity. I'll be back in full force at the beginning of November!
*Stone, Jack and Janet Cassidy, The Ultimate Mousse Cookbook (Contemporary Books, Inc., Chicago, Ill., 1990)