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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Green

Abby Normal

My brother Simon is here for a visit! He is all laughter and warm hugs, and it is a pleasure to be around him. I arrived early at my parent’s house in order to spend time with him and with my parents; it’s not often we are together, the four of us, our nuclear family. We slip easily into our familiar roles, recalling family jokes, reworking the same silly arguments.

And yet, we are older now, perhaps wiser (and definitely crankier). How protective we’ve become of Mom. She is the planet around which we orbit, nurturing her as best we can.

Mom is never alone. One of us is always there to speak or sing with her. Simon is working to make old movies and musicals easily accessible on their new television so that Mom can be constantly entertained. We are trying hard to keep her stimulated.

Today, we gave my dad a few hours off and took Mom grocery shopping. Mom wasn’t quite sure what was happening as we piled the cart high with sundry items. She seemed confused by the stocked shelves and the back-and-forth of people all around us. She did stop with delight to coo at a few babies. Her main concern was where my dad had disappeared to. When I told her we were heading home to him, she complained that it was quite insensitive of him to leave her in the first place. When we were getting out of the car at their apartment, Mom had a small fit about removing her seat belt, as if we were taking something from her. But eventually we made it up the elevator with all our purchases.

At lunch, Simon and I started catching up on our mutual friends and sharing stories. He told me about one of his co-workers who is not only suffering from her own rare illness, but is now also contending with her father’s Alzheimer’s. His violent outbursts have forced his family to place him in a senior living facility.

“What a shame,” Mom tutted. “Alzheimer’s is horrible. We are so blessed that we don’t have any of that. We are so normal.”

The three of us looked at each other with knowing smiles. “Yes,” I said, “we’re so normal. Right, Simon?”

“Ah ha,” he chuckled. “So normal.”

I am grateful that Mom doesn’t realize her own illness. There are times when she is intent on understanding our conversations, asking again and again what we’re talking about and what we’ve said, even getting angry if she feels we’re excluding her. And then there are those times that she completely misunderstands. If it weren’t so funny, I’d be crying.

In the meantime, I look forward to spending more time with my family. They’ve decided to come to my house for Shabbat. I am mentally preparing for all that must be done before they arrive.

It seems that my daughter is suffering from low levels of B12 in her system. Whether this is a cause of celiac or one of its symptoms—or neither—is still unclear to us. At first she was half-hearted about the idea of eating special bread, but when she reacted violently to a slice of pizza, we knew there was no going back. In order to keep her feeling well, I’ve been experimenting with non-gluten challah recipes.

Gluten Free Challah

As a starting point to making this bread, I called my sister-in-law for her recipe. After playing with the amounts and ingredients, and trying to use what I had on hand, the recipe changed considerably. The consistency of this dough is more like cake than bread, but it does rise, and it browns nicely on top. And best of all, I can find these ingredients at my local supermarket. I decided to make small challah rolls instead of one large challah as I was baking for one person.

1 Tbsp yeast

2/3 cup warm water

1/3 cup honey

1 cup brown rice flour

1 cup gluten free flour

¼ cup corn flour

¼ cup potato flour

¼ cup oat bran

2 Tbsp unflavored (fish) gelatin

1 tsp salt

2 large eggs

¼ cup oil

½ tsp apple cider vinegar

2½ Tbsp brown sugar


Proof yeast by combining yeast, water and honey. Let sit for 10 minutes. When yeast bubbles up, add flours, salt, and gelatin. Add eggs, oil, vinegar, and sugar. Mix well. Place into baking pan (or small muffin tin) and let rise for 1 hour. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. As a way to keep it moist, bake with a small pan of water in the oven.

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