“By the way, I finished sewing my shroud. It’s on the shelf in my sewing room,” Ima tells me, as she pours out three glasses of tea. Ima still uses a teapot.
“Congratulations,” I try to sound calm, as if she just told me where she left her slippers or the remote for her television.
Esther, my daughter, is not so calm. Her eyes grow wide and she is sending me text messages with her eyelashes. “What is Savta talking about?” she blinks.
I wave a hand as if to dismiss her fears. “It’s all right,” I mouth.
“How was it? Was it difficult?” I ask aloud.
“There wasn’t all that much to sew, actually.” I watch as Ima breaks a saccharin tablet in two and puts half into her tea. The other half she carefully drops back into the bottle. I stir two spoons of sugar into my tea. Ima gives me a look that says, “You don’t need two spoons of sugar.” I know the look well. I ignore it.
A few weeks earlier, Ima showed me a cardboard box, “One Size Fits All.” She bought it online.
“Why a shroud, Ima? You going somewhere?”
“You know sewing your own shroud means you’ll live a long life, and that lady from Gush Katif who cuts them out really needs the money.” Together, we opened the package and looked at it. The cloth was off white and very rough.
“You might want to wash it first, and put in a little fabric softener. It’s really itchy.”
“Then I’ll have to iron it! You know how linen wrinkles. It won’t bother me by the time I’ll be needing it.”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” I say. I hold up the trousers. “These are huge. They’ll be up around your neck if you don’t shorten them.”
Ima shrugged, “Who can be bothered? It’s not as if people will actually see me in them.”
“True.” We looked over all the pieces together, shirt, cap, coat, trousers, and belt.
“This reminds me of that do-it-yourself desk you bought when I started school. I was in eighth grade by the time we finished putting it together.”
Ima just smiled.
“Are you OK over there? You’re very quiet,” Ima says to Esther, who is examining Ima’s breakfront, just as she did when she was little. “Ima’s museum” has it all, antiques, candlesticks, letters, boxes of chocolate, and photographs; lots and lots of photographs — very old black and white ones with scalloped edges and colored ones of the grandchildren at various stages in their lives.
“Come look at this,” Ima says and she pulls out a gold frame from a shopping bag and places it in the center of all the pictures. It is of Esther on her wedding day. She and her new husband are standing together under the huppa, lovingly sewn by her grandmother.
“Don’t worry about the shroud,” she says. “I’m only being practical. I have to teach you how to cook first before I can go anywhere.”
In honor of the 9th yahrzheit of Ricky Aziz z”l who left us with many happy memories