Sadie’s Same Old Shabbat

Sadie was sprawled out on the floor of her bedroom playing a video game when her mother called from down the hall, “Sadie, it’s almost Shabbat. Will you polish the silver?”
Sadie pushed herself up from the floor with a frown and a groan, and said to herself, out loud, “It’s always the same old Shabbat,” as she shuffled down the hallway to the kitchen. “And I’m always the one to do the polishing.”
Sadie’s mother was stirring a big pot on the stove, humming to herself. “Sadie, do you know where the polish is?” her mother asked. Sadie sighed, “Yes I do, Mommy,” as she knelt and took out the silver polish from underneath the sink, and then an old rag. Her grandmother’s silver Shabbat candlesticks were on the table, right where her mother put them every week after she set it. Kneeling on her chair, Sadie went to work.
Rag in hand she rubbed and buffed and made the first candlestick shiny again. Just as she set it down, the phone rang. “I’ll get it,” Sadie said, jumping off her chair. “Who was it?” her mother asked a minute later. “Who else? Aunt Deb on her cell-phone, calling from their car to say that she and Auntie Amrita and the twins are running late. Again.”
Sadie was putting the short white Shabbat candles in the candlesticks when the doorbell rang. “I have to check the chicken. Will you get it, Sadie?” her mother asked, leaning over to open the oven door. “Yeah, I’ll get it,” Sadie mumbled and took off down the hallway, muttering to herself. “It’s either Grandpa Sam and Ikuyo, or Uncle Bernie. Nothing ever changes around here. It’s always the same old Shabbat.” 1
“Who is it?” Sadie called through the closed door. “It’s us,” came a very familiar voice. Unlocking the door, Sadie let in her grandfather and his girlfriend Ikuyo, who he met three years before at the JCC in a senior swimming class. Grandpa Sam was leaning on his walker. Ikuyo was carrying a big pink box tied with white string, filled with pastries from her favorite Mexican bakery. “Every week she brings the same old thing,” Sadie thought to herself, as her grandfather leaned down to kiss her on the cheek and hug her.
Just as Sadie was about to lock the door she heard the familiar shuffling down the hall that meant Uncle Bernie was there too, a big shopping bag in each hand. “Oh my God, you wouldn’t believe the trouble I had finding a parking space. I had to circle the block four times and then I found one, right around the corner, and I was about to….”
Sadie sighed. It was always the same thing with her Uncle Bernie, who wasn’t really her uncle but her mother’s cousin and best friend going all the way back to childhood. “You couldn’t even say hello to us?” her grandfather said. “Sorry, Grandpa Sam. Sorry Ikuyo. Shabbat shalom. Shabbat shalom. So anyway, I was just about to pull in when…”
Sadie slid around behind him to lock the door, tuning him out again as he and her grandfather and Ikuyo went down the hall.
“So where are Debra and Amrita and the twins?” Ikuyo asked, as she did every Shabbat. Sadie’s mother was carrying bowls of soup to the table as they all came in to the kitchen. “My sister called to say that they’re running late.” Everyone seemed surprised but Sadie, who sighed to herself, “Every Friday night it’s the same old story. What’s wrong with all of you grown-ups? Haven’t you noticed?” 2
“Here, let me help you with the soup,” Ikuyo offered Sadie’s mother, as Grandpa Sam settled down at the table and Uncle Bernie began pulling food out of his two shopping bags. Sadie winced as for the millionth time a tossed salad with tangerine slices in it and a casserole dish of string beans and sliced almonds made their appearance.
“Not on the tablecloth, Bernie. Use a trivet,” Sadie’s mother cried out. “Honey, it’s cool already! I’ve done this every week since Sadie was a baby, and have I ever once burned your mother’s tablecloth?” Bernie answered back. Sadie groaned. “At least he knows it. It’s the same old Shabbat, week after week after week.”
Everyone settled in around the table. “How long should we wait for them?” her grandfather asked, as he always did. “A few minutes more,” Sadie’s mother answered, as she brought the last soup bowl over and took her seat.
Sadie remembered a time before her parents split up, when her father was still at the table, even though he wasn’t Jewish and never did figure out what Shabbat was all about. But even then, it was the same old Shabbat. “So we’ll wait another minute, and if they don’t come, we’ll light the candles,” Sadie’s grandfather said, as he did each week. And just as her mother was reaching for the matches in their little silver box that Uncle Bernie brought back from Israel, the doorbell rang. Sadie jumped down and ran to the door.
Aunt Deb and Auntie Amrita were standing there, hand in hand, with Jonah and Jasmin their twins standing in front of them. Her aunts both leaned down to kiss her, one on each cheek. Just as they did every Shabbat. And the twins pushed past Sadie and ran into the house, yelling, “Grandpa, Grandpa!” just like they always did. Locking the door
again, Sadie and her aunts headed back down the hallway to the kitchen, to see Grandpa Sam hugging the twins and pulling them up on his lap, as he did every week.
“I apologize,” Aunt Deb said to her sister. “It was all my fault. We got tired of bringing the same old challah. So we decided to surprise everyone. But I forgot to preheat the oven when I got home from work. Which is why we’re late.”
Sadie almost said out loud, “You’re always late,” when her Auntie Amrita reached into the large white plastic container she was carrying, and with a flourish, pulled out a tall stack of dark brown flatbreads. “Fresh from the griddle, and aren’t they beautiful?” Aunt Deb said.
“We helped make them!” the twins shouted in unison. But Sadie was very quiet.
“They’re from a recipe for Shabbat chappatis that my grandmother brought with her from India to Israel,” Amrita added.
“They look delicious,” Grandpa Sam said, as Amrita put them in the center of the table on the challah plate, and then put the blue and white embroidered challah cover over them, the one that they used every week. “I can’t wait to taste them,” Uncle Bernie said. “They look like the bread in that Indian restaurant Carlos and I used to go to every weekend… until right before he died.”
“What’s the matter, honey?” Sadie’s mother asked her daughter, looking over the white candles, the salad and stringbeans, the steaming bowls of chicken soup with noodles swimming through them, over the challah cover that her mother Sadie had embroidered – who her own Sadie was named for – to the opposite end of the table where Sadie sat in her chair, her face contorted, holding back her tears. “Sadie, sweetheart, we all miss Uncle Carlos.”
“Mommy, I miss Uncle Carlos all the time. But it isn’t that. I just don’t want there to be chappatis. Even special Shabbat chappatis. I want us to have plain old challah, like we do every week. And you, and me and Grandpa Sam and Ikuyo and Uncle Bernie and Aunt Deb and Auntie Amrita and Jasmin and Jonah saying the blessings over the candles and the grape juice instead of wine, because Uncle Bernie is in recovery but we’re not supposed to talk about it, and…”
For a moment everyone was silent. Then, one by one, they all began to laugh. Soon even Sadie was laughing. “I want Shabbat to be the same, Mommy. Just like I want it to always be the same when you read me a bedtime story.”
So Sadie’s mother stood up to light the Sabbath candles and lead them in the blessing, just like she did at the beginning of every Shabbat. And Bernie stood up to lead them in the blessing over the grape juice, just like he did every Friday night. Then Deb and Amrita and the twins stood up to say the blessing over the chappatis, just like they did each week over a challah, now tearing off pieces of the steaming chappatis and passing them around the table.
And everyone really liked the Shabbat chappatis, even Sadie, who asked for another piece. Then another. And another. 5