I was shocked by that scream, and in that moment I knew that Bubby was human — and I could be human, too
n the fourth floor, apartment 4N, there’s a maroon door that’s shut in my face.
It’s Bubby’s door. On the other side I should find her at the wooden kitchen table, her apron smeared with chocolate, pouring sugar, then flour, into a bowl and, like magic, a four-layered, pink-frosted cake should appear in my little hand and tingle my taste buds.
I regularly travel from Montreal to visit family in Boro Park. In days past, I always stepped into Bubby’s house with hubby and the kids. There hadn’t been no more cakes for over a decade, but there were five dollar bills that Bubby pressed into each child’s hand.
Bubby’s been gone for a year now. For the first time since her passing, I walked up the four flights of stairs, alone, for the nostalgia, as if I could reclaim Bubby just by staring at her front door.
After exiting Bubby’s apartment building, I got into the car and sat like a stone all the way to Liberty State Park. I trudged on the sand, counting my children as they slid, swung, and ran about. If only I could be a child again in her quiet house, I thought wistfully, and take in the yeasty scent of kipelach baking in the oven. Bubby’s house had a strong kind of silence that spoke of love.
Bubby knew exactly when I craved pizza, when I needed to suck rum balls, and that I liked chocolate bits floating in my cocoa drink. Only once did I hear her yell; when the garbage spilled on its way down to the dump. I was shocked by that scream, and in that moment I knew that Bubby was human — and I could be human, too.
A tug at my skirt brought me back to my three-year-old. Dovid, his eyes narrow slits, was whining that his blue ball was gone, the one with the soft bumps that he’d cradled in his lap the entire way to the park. We formed a search party, my husband and I and the older kids, looking under the slides, behind the benches, and around the bend. Nothing. I had to carry him to the car, squirming and screaming about his lost ball to the beat of my inner self longing for Bubby.
The cars on the BQE turned into statues, so still were they standing. Dovid was kicking his feet on the backrest of my seat whimpering about his ball, the older ones were squabbling again, and it was stuffy in the car. Through the window I spied the dark waters of the Hudson River and the grassy river bank. I pointed out the alluring sight and my husband veered off the exit.
The kids scampered out of the car, making for the water. We watched the waves while the older ones forged ahead. My eyes stinging, I told my husband about Bubby, how badly I missed her. No one else kept me together like Bubby did. Maybe it was because I rarely saw her as a child that I savored her presence more than anyone else’s.
(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 651)