Bubbe’s Mezuzah

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
January/February 2003

By Luria Rittenberg, Illustrated by the author

Mon, when is Bubbe coming?” I asked impatiently.

“Soon,” she replied for the seventeenth time.

It was a family tradition for my grandma to come over every Saturday to light the havdalah candle, a symbol that the Jewish Sabbath has ended, with our family.
I was sitting on the steps of the porch when I heard the steady tap . . . tap . . . tap of her cane. “Bubbe!!!” I exclaimed.

“Hello, sweetheart!” said Bubbe, while embracing me.

Clutching her cane with one hand, she carefully raised her other hand, which was shaking, to the mezuzah on the door and then lowered it to her wrinkled lips. I could tell it hurt her to stretch that far.

I asked her why she wasted so much effort just to kiss the mezuzah. She just chuckled and said that that was a long story.

“I’ll tell you when I sit down, darling.”

I helped Bubbe inside and then we both plopped down onto the couch.

Bubbe's Mezuzah girl on the lake

I would climb a tree and jump into the snow as if I was jumping into a lake

“Well, I wasn’t always old,” Bubbe began. “In fact, I was once a first-grader like you! Where I lived there were cold winters like you couldn’t imagine! There was one winter that was much colder than the others were. School was canceled, but we couldn’t even play outside in the snow because it was blocking the door! I think the temperature outside must have been minus twenty degrees! I wanted to play in the snow so badly. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore! I went out the back door and walked outside.”

“But Bubbe, didn’t you know that you weren’t supposed to do that?” I interrupted.

“Of course I knew! But did I listen? No! So anyway, outside I played a game where I would climb a tree and jump into the snow as if I was jumping into a lake. I walked deeper and deeper into the woods near our house until I found the perfect tree. I played the tree game for hours.

“Eventually, I started to get dizzy, cold, and tired. I looked around and realized that I was deeper in the woods than I thought. From then on, what happened was a blur. I vaguely remember my feet becoming numb in the ice-cold snow. I started to cry for my mother.

“I stumbled along until I made it to a small clearing where there was just one house. Dizziness was overwhelming me. I was just six years old, but I knew what would happen to me if I didn’t get inside soon. Finally, I crawled onto the porch of the house and knocked on the door. When no one answered, I fell against the door knowing my situation was hopeless. But then . . . something caught my attention. On the doorpost was one of those things that my mom and dad always kissed whenever they walked outside.
“Without thinking, I slowly raised my hand to the mezuzah. I remember seeing my life pass through my eyes and thinking about how much I would miss my family. To me, it seemed like all hope was lost. I lowered my hand to my lips and then fainted.”

“Oh Bubbe, please don’t tell me the rest of the story! It’s too sad!”

“Don’t worry, sweetie! After all, I’m here with you now, right? When I woke up I was in the hospital. I heard someone shouting that I was awake. The doctors told my parents that it was a miracle that I was still alive. I opened my eyes and saw four people in the room, two of whom were my mother and father. I could tell that the tall man in white was the doctor, but who was the last one?

“He was a young boy who looked about my age with curly brown hair. He told me that he had found me on the stairs of his side porch, an exit he almost never used. For some unknown reason he did that day. The doctors talked about good timing and good medicine and so on. . . but I knew that it was really the mezuzah! My deepest desire was granted because of the thing on the door that I had kissed! By the way, that boy eventually became my best friend and your Zadie!”

Bubbe looked at me for a response to the story, but I had fallen fast asleep with a smile on my face and an all-new appreciation for my Bubbe and the mezuzah.

Bubbe's Mezuzah Luria Rittenberg

Luria Rittenberg, 12
Jacksonville, Florida

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