Having sifted through countless baking books and websites for Sukkot, harvest-inspired challah recipes last week, two choices remained in the running; "Pumpkin Challah" and "Seven Species Challah." They were both a definite departure from my very limited repertoire thus far, but I could only choose one.
What to do, and how to decide?
The easier, but somewhat ubiquitous pumpkin, or the more interesting, but much more labor-intensive seven species, with count 'em: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, dates, pomegranates, and olives (all of which were found when the Israelites crossed from Egypt into Canaan, the land of Milk and Honey)?
Pumpkin or seven grain; remedial or advanced; novel or over the top?
Suddenly, a small but powerful voice vocalized this, and only this, somewhere deep inside me:
Simple words, from a very powerful woman, my grandmother Annabelle. She, who had lost her mother at the age of three to the flu epidemic, had chosen not to wallow in grief and bitterness while growing up, but instead proudly wore a badge of optimism, in technicolor hues--before technicolor was even invented!
While her oversized personality and ways of navigating the world sometimes complicated important relationships in her life, by the time we grandkids came along, she had mellowed (slightly), and all we experienced was a blazing, light-filled radiance, the path of a woman with a lot of wisdom to be shared.
And share it she did! While my grandparents had made Aliyah (from Jersey!) to Israel before my brothers and I were born, they made regular two-month trips to the states throughout my childhood. It was during these periods that I was fortunate to spend a lot of one-on-one quality time with Annabelle. It was she who taught me my colors as we marveled at well-groomed gardens on our neighborhood walks. And it was she who taught me that to have a colorful life, it was up to me to get the paints, ready the brushes, and fill the canvas!
Fast forward to the present challah recipe dilemma; though Grandma Annabelle had passed away more than nine years ago, her advice was still loud and clear: choose the road filled with color, and make that seven species challah!
So I did. I went to the store, purchased the requisite ingredients (barley flour, anyone? figs? dates?), and picked up my daughter from school. And when we got home, who was waiting for us? Aviva's grandmother, Madelaine (my mother-in-law, affectionately named Abba Gabba by Aviva). Although she lives in San Francisco, she had just returned from a six-week trip abroad, and was eager to learn how to make challah from her youngest grandchild.
As the two of them poured, mixed, cracked, whisked, and laughed together (there were many moments of near catastrophe!), I found myself thinking back to my time with my own grandmother. How lucky I was to have had such moments of connection from such a young age. And how important it was that my mother Trudy had provided the space for me to develop my own relationship with Annabelle, free of the baggage that is inevitably part of parent-child relationships.
May I take this remembrance and commit to regularly provide that same space for my own daughter and her grandparents, all four of them unique, wisdom-filled and full of adventure. May I encourage them to have sleep-overs, trips to the park, and afternoons at the opera. And may Aviva take the lessons that they so freely and graciously share, and bring them to bear as life's doors open before her.