by Linda Laderman (Commerce Township, MI)
Invited to a friend’s grandson’s Bar Mitzvah I am divided,
directed to sit behind a gauzy white screen in the balcony.
My Siddur lies on my lap open to a random page.
Ancient words in a language that still feels foreign to me.
Yet I stand on command, a stranger in my old house.
Near the end of a long hardwood pew by the exit
I watch a round-faced woman, young enough to be my
granddaughter, hair hidden under a shiny black sheitel.
A bevy of blue ribboned ponytails nestle their restless bodies
close to her. In a meditative moment she stands and presses
her back against a wall. Eyes closed, she rests her fingers
in the sliver of space between her breasts and burgeoning belly,
then turns and gazes at the five fresh faces looking at her.
Each one returns her gaze, leaning toward her like a chain of flowers.
She pulls a fistful of candy from her pockets & passes pieces
of the sweets down the row, then beckons her girls closer.
Locking arms, they rise and follow her out to begin the long-skirted
walk home. Too late to catch her eye, wishing I could have told her how
I once sat & fished rock candy from my mother’s pockets, my tight
ponytail pulling at my forehead. I think of what it is to want and not want,
to separate from what is given. Boxed & bowed, waiting for me to open
the lid to take what’s there, a package I have been unwilling to unwrap.
After the last prayer is recited, I hurry down the stairs. For a minute,
I imagine I have time to catch up with the mother and her five Shana Maidelas.
Linda Laderman grew up in Toledo, Ohio, where she has wonderful memories of walking to services and sitting in the balcony with her mother and grandmother at the old B’nai Jacob Synagogue. She earned an undergraduate degree in journalism from the E. W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Her news stories and features have appeared in media outlets and magazines. She returned to school in the 1990’s graduating with a Master’s of Liberal Studies and a Juris Doctor degree from The University of Toledo. Her memoir piece, “Grandmother’s Warning” was published in the summer 2021 edition of the Michigan Jewish Historical Society Journal, and later reprinted in the Detroit Jewish News. Her poetry has appeared in The Jewish Literary Journal, The Bangalore Review and The Sad Girls Literary Blog and is forthcoming this spring in The Scapegoat Review, The Write Launch and Beyond Words Literary Magazine. Linda currently lives in the Detroit area. For the last decade, she has volunteered as a docent at the Zekelman Holocaust Center, where she leads adult discussion tours and is a member of the Docent Advisory Committee.