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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Green

Wings to the Mind

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ― Plato

Music truly animates my mom. She might not remember words to songs anymore, but her recall of rhythm and emotional phrasing is amazing. Today, when the accordionist who plays weekly at Mom’s home announced that his accordion was “broken,” the staff opts to played a cd of 50s music instead. All the residents are visibly moved to tap their feet, pound the table, even dance a little as Mom and I slowly shimmy and shuffle across the floor. Heaven!

My visits to Mom have become much shorter than I expected. I stay for about an hour, make sure she’s ok, laugh and sing with her, perambulate with her around the home, then redeposit her at the tables in the main room. Sometimes she’s too distracted by the residents to pay me much attention. As I watch her, I realize that Mom has become comfortable where she is. She holds spirited conversations with several of the women there, chatting away amiably even though they don’t understand English. Mom is like a motivational speaker, offering constant praise and support: “You are beautiful, I love you. You are so strong. You can do anything.”

All that can change in a moment. I can rarely decipher what makes Mom’s moods suddenly change, but when the music segues into Russian pop music, she clearly stops enjoying herself. I can’t even describe it: music that she knows sparks within her and she is dynamically alive. When she doesn’t recognize the music it becomes just noise and she is bothered by it. We take the opportunity to walk to a quieter place to call my brother Simon via video on my phone.

“You’re so handsome,” she tells Simon. It’s hard for her to carry on a conversation with him anymore, but Simon bravely sings one of her all-time favorite songs from My Fair Lady to try to connect. His effort falls flat, but he watches us as we continue walking around the home. When I see that all she wants to do is sit among the residents, I sign off with Simon and deposit her back in the main room. I place her big nursery rhyme book open next to her and she distractedly turns the pages, making comments on the drawings or reading the words in a strange monotone. The book itself has been ripped and written on, pages taped back together where possible, the spine and cover pages repaired several times over. She seems to enjoy turning the pages.

I say goodbye and Mom asks if she can come home with me. I so wish she could, but I know now that she is stimulated by the other residents and staff in ways I cannot duplicate in my own home or by myself. Instead, I cherish those moments of joy that are so palpable between us. I tell her I’ll be back soon, relying on her inability to judge the passage of time, and she lets me go with little fuss. Then I go back to my own world knowing she is well cared for in the world of her mind’s making.

I always think of my mother-in-law’s potato kugel as a holiday treat. And not to get too ahead of myself, but my brother Simon arrives for a visit in three weeks, and Rosh Hashanah is in five weeks. Gulp! There’s a lot to do before then (clear out the hornet’s nest in our kitchen window, attend several anticipated weddings, babysit for my precious grandchild), but I really wanted that crispy, tantalizing taste of potato kugel in anticipation.

Marilyn’s Potato Kugel

I’ve been holding on to this recipe since I got married. It has served me well, and I know you’ll enjoy it too.

6 medium potatoes, peeled and grated

1 large onion, grated

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 eggs

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 Tbsp matza meal

Salt and pepper to taste


Grate potatoes and onion then wrap in a dishcloth and squeeze out excess water. In a large bowl beat eggs, matza meal, garlic, salt and pepper. Add potato and onion and mix well. Pat into an oiled pan and bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 373° and bake an additional 45 minutes until top is crispy.

I'll be away next week babysitting the delicious Roi Green. Look for a new blog in a two weeks!

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