My dad and I had a “conversation” with Mom yesterday. We called the nurse’s station at Mom’s care facility, and they called back when they were near her so that we could video chat. When we finally got her attention, she saw “my Jack,” and she even blew kisses. It wasn’t much of a conversation, but we could see that she was animated and doing well. The staff are now wearing masks when interacting with the residents. This didn't seem to phase Mom. She was her usual smiley self. When we sang a song to her, she sang along. The phone is an alien piece of technology for her, though. And the conversation was short.
Life here in her house—we’re living with my dad while our renovations are now completely stalled—goes on without her. Every day I take out her dishes, her pots and pans, and I animate the kitchen in ways she has been unable to for years. We are no longer struck by her absence—we know she cannot be home with us—but we miss her nonetheless. It has been so long without her presence in our daily lives that the painful awareness of her absence comes in occasional reminders: taking out her special Shabbat dishes; seeing photos of her in the electronic frame that amplify her vitality; sinking into the living room couches she loved. Most of her clothes are gone from the closets; but when I take out sheets or towels, I am reminded again of being with her in her home during my childhood and then adulthood when we’d spend Shabbat and holidays with them in Netanya. The kids, too—all grown up now—feel her absence. They remember her vivid bedtime stories, playing hide-and-seek with her, and the amazing bubble baths she gave them. Throughout my dad's house are an excess of things that he cannot part with because they are reminders of Mom.
This isolation is bringing up so many interesting thoughts and feelings—of loss and also strangely of well-being. We are safe. We are together. We are surviving.
The only thing I really want to make in the kitchen is dessert. Preferably something chocolate. And this last dessert, well, it’s the best chocolate “failure cake” I’ve ever made! That’s the name my mom gave to cakes that didn’t quite work well enough for guests but were still scrumptious. For some reason, the Nutella pie didn’t set. I’m sure when you make yours (and it’s perfect for Passover!), it will turn out just right. To eat the pie I made, we had to freeze it overnight then let it defrost for a few minutes. Ah, but so good.
My daughter-in-law is my partner in crime when it comes to Nutella pie. The first time I tried it, we were celebrating a family birthday and we ordered it at her suggestion. So I dedicate this pie to my son and daughter-in-law who are juggling two kids, online university studies, and part-time work schedules in a three-room apartment. Busy, tired, and in general, doing just fine.
2 cups cookie crumbs
¼ cup chocolate chips
6 Tbsp butter, softened
2 cups cream
2 Tbsp potato starch
¾ cup Nutella
1 tsp vanilla
dash of salt
Break cookies and place along with chips (or chocolate squares) in a mixer and pulse until uniformly crushed. Remove to a bowl and add softened butter then pat tightly into an 8” or 20 cm spring pan, or, if you have no spring pan, line a pan with baking paper. In a small saucepan, heat half the cream with dissolved starch and stir on low heat. Add Nutella and remaining cream and keep stirring until mixture begins to stiffen. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and salt. Let cool then pour into pan with cookie crust. Cool in refrigerator for up to two hours. If you don’t have a spring pan, carefully remove whole pie from pan and place on plate sans baking paper. Eat immediately!