In the deepest, darkest days of winter, there once was a baby who turned blue and stopped breathing. Her mother grabbed her from the bassinet and ran five blocks down icy streets in the the frigid Chicago winter to the doctor’s house. She banged on the door, and when the doctor  saw the blue baby lying too-still in her arms, he shook his head and said “why are you bringing me a dead baby?”

“She is not dead,” the mother shouted, and she turned on her heel and ran another two blocks to the synagogue.

The mother burst through the doors of the synagogue and found the rabbi deep in prayer. He looked up, his eyes pooled with concern to see a bareheaded woman on a freezing day holding what appeared to be a lifeless baby. Her face white and frozen with tears, the mother handed the motionless infant to the rabbi. He took the baby in his arms. He rocked her back and forth in the shul where her father davened every day. The baby stirred, began to cough, and within moments, the color had returned to her cheeks.

That baby lived. She learned how to jump rope, and learned “kometz aleph oh” alongside her ABCs. She took dance class and had the best legs in town. She went to the beach with her friends and met a man who made her blush. She married him. That baby got older and gave birth to three beautiful babies. She watched her babies grow up. She buried her parents. She moved to Texas, and then to California to be with her grandchildren. She made the best chicken soup and potato kugel in the whole entire world. She told me bedtime stories and sang softly with a crinkly voice. That baby buried two of her babies – my aunt, and my mother – in an absurd twist of nature.

And even though time slipped through her crooked fingers that had once deftly knitted me a pale blue sweater that I wore on class picture day, the fingers that stroked the cheeks of my sweet babies so many years later, she never stopped grieving, until three years ago tonight when she died again.

golda eli