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Starch and Ribbons

But I don’t have much time to philosophize. Let me rephrase — I have time, but not quiet time

The problem isn’t so much that I gained weight. The problem is that I don’t care. Because my sweatshirts and slinkys fit, and that’s pretty much all I wear around here. My makeup sits untouched for the past two months or so, except for when I need to take out the garbage (coronajoke #12,345).

As Sunday morphs into Monday and Monday stays Monday for at least a year until Tuesday dawns at 11:30 a.m. and everyone in the house asks, “What day is it today?”, I finally get the feeling that I better start brisk walking. Also, I want to get summer clothes for the girls and a pretty jacket for the baby.

But people are dying and I shouldn’t be getting clothes now. I should be sitting over my Tehillim, which I try to do between preparing breakfast serving breakfast clearing breakfast preparing snack serving snack clearing snack preparing lunch serving lunch clearing lunch preparing snack serving snack clearing snack preparing supper serving supper clearing supper preparing midnight snack (because there’s no reason to go to sleep, and anyway, we’ve stayed on a Pesach schedule for a month straight).

I don’t shop because where does clothes shopping come into the picture? I eat chocolate instead. Another tragedy and it becomes harder to smile and serve and clear and eat. There’s bickering over phone lines and yearning for the cleaning lady. I definitely don’t shop for the summer or apply blush. I search for answers. It’s not the first time Klal Yisrael suffered.

I lose myself in a book. It’s a new release, the sequel to the best seller The Scent of Snowflowers. This one is titled And Morning has Come by R.L. Klein. I read of the protagonist, a new mother, running in knee-deep snow for hours with a baby in her arms. I read of her almost freezing to death and losing her family. I read of her taking in broken survivors and reviving them with a bowl of farina and a dose of love.


But more than that, I read of the beautiful ribbons she tied in her daughter’s hair a minute before escaping. I read of her knitting an exquisite little sweater while the Russians are hot on her heels.

As soon as she arrives to a new hideout, she polishes the furniture. I see a picture of her daughter during the escape. The white collar on her little gathered dress is stiff and starched. And more than all her bravery, I’m touched by that starched collar and the bow in the hair.

When I see that photo, I see Klal Yisrael. Our ability to hope and to starch collars when the world outside is burning. It’s not naivete, it’s strength. It’s our eternal hope and bitachon that stand strong. It’s our ability to find that simchah within and forge on during seven weeks of homeschooling, Yom Tov-ing alone, tragedies, and uncertainty.

I see the starched collar in my neighbor who went all out in making seven-layer cakes for Pesach. I see the collar in the Chaverim truck on Chol Hamoed with a traveling concert of music and singers. I see it in the many tele-schools and Zoom-schools although so many students have families in crisis.

And yes, I see it even in the shops that deliver the perfectly matching hair accessories and the websites that sell beautiful robes. Of course, the crisis has reframed our view on gashmiyus in every which way — hopefully, for a long time to come. However, there’s a difference between the focus being gashmiyus and the focus being simchah.

But I don’t have much time to philosophize. Let me rephrase — I have time, but not quiet time. So instead of philosophizing, a dab of makeup and a brisk walk should do. And then it’s back to serving the next snack. Or maybe I’ll starch a collar or two.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 692)


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