sitting shiva

You are perched on a little chair in front of masses of people. There are always people. They come in all day long. They open the door quietly and just as quietly, take a seat on one of the folding chairs that fill your living room. They look stricken. You hope they will tell you stories about your mom, because you don’t know what to say. The truth is, they don’t know what to say either. You are uncomfortable with the silence, so you ask them what they’ve been doing for the past twenty-five years since you last saw them. They tell you, then they ask you about yourself. It’s nice to see them; they look the same, but changed. Their parents look older. You look older, too.

Someone tells you a story from your childhood, from camp, from grammar school, from your Holocaust trip, from your year in Israel. You remember it differently. She adds details you’ve forgotten. She tells you something you never knew about herself, and you wish you’d known it back then, you might have been better friends. Your second-grade teacher comes, the one who sent you to the principal’s office. The first friend you ever made in nursery school comes, too. Another friend grew up to be the rabbi of your synagogue, and you find that strangely comforting.

You wander into the kitchen to get away from people for a minute, to get something to eat. You look in the refrigerator, hoping to find leftovers, the ones Mom made because she knew you were coming home, your favorites. You wince; there are no leftovers. There will never be leftovers again.

People bring food for every meal, because you are not allowed to do anything for yourself. That part is fun. There are platters from all your favorite bagel places and restaurants. There isn’t enough room on the table.

In the kitchen, you make snarky remarks to your brother and sister, because you are sad and laughing feels better than crying. You think about how much Mom would have loved this. You want to call her and tell her who came today. And then you remember, with fresh pain. You can’t.

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