Carmit Delman
Carmit Delman

Challah and Artzi

I know this makes me something of a groupie, but the truth is, I can break most of my life down into Shlomo Artzi songs. Memory is just that mighty and bizarre.

My neighbor understands this. She has even devised the perfect memory so as to be a nightmare to her future daughters-in-law. It’s a recipe for challah, with a pillowy consistency and whimsical swirls of rainbow sprinkles, somehow — impossibly — conjuring up birthday cake splendor every single week. Her boys are still young, but in their lifetimes, they will never eat regular challah without feeling just a bit hostile about it. The memory of her challah will be so powerful, it’s going to be a nightmare to my future daughters-in-law — possibly yours, too.

I admire my neighbor’s conscious effort to look ahead and craft the memories her children will take with them. The recipes (and memories) I make for my kids, I’m afraid, are far more haphazard. The most notable include a chocolate berry torte I shamelessly stole from my friend Alessandra. And a London Broil salad that is good but that guests have seen so often I’ve been asked, politely, to stop making it. And my kids don’t even like London Broil.

I shouldn’t have to remind myself of the cosmic gravity of memories. But sometimes I forget.

So I think back to something I read once, that the brain chemically imprints a first experience in an extraordinary way. And if you ever encounter that first again, you experience the same chemical wash all over again too, your body kind of reliving the past. This has actually happened to me, where it’s like this tunnel through time opens up and you step through to that original moment.

And I think back also to when I first heard Shlomo Artzi on the Nahariya tayelet, singing of the Mediterranean sky where the moon retreats and folds and the body is dizzy. And because that song fused with a sky and a moment, every time I’ve heard the song since, I am on that tayelet once again, stirred like I was at fifteen and picturing a life there off the beach – it could be nowhere else but there – and with that sky of his above.

And as life has passed, there have been new textures, new stirrings in the sky. With heartbreak, the ceiling slid down to the floor and the sky filled with birds, and I was dreaming and I was awake. With contentment, I found myself walking in a beautiful world but with the sun in our pockets as if plucked from through the clouds. And always it was some version of that original Shlomo Artzi sky.

I know it’s not in me to be like my neighbor, directed and collected, orchestrating whirlwinds with her crush-it challah. But I have started trying at least to remind myself that even the small moments are opportunities for painting up the sky.

About the Author
Carmit Delman lives in New York and writes on her glimpses of the American Jewish Israeli conversation. Inspired by her personal stories, love of food, work in education, and interest in all things multicultural, she is the author of, among other works, Burnt Bread and Chutney Growing Up Between Cultures, A Memoir of an Indian Jewish Girl, and has just completed a foodie novel.
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