I am a highly sensitive person. When I was seven I needed to be walked out of “Edward Scissorhands” twice because I felt bad for Edward when he popped the waterbed and just about any time he struggled with those scissors. At 23, I cried so hard while on a date to see “Cold Mountain” that the person sitting behind me leaned forward to pat me on the back. Now at 32, and a new mother as of October, I am in emotional overdrive. My heart explodes every day.
Regarding new mamahood, writer Katie Dohman said, her “innermost tectonic plates had shifted”. That is exactly how I feel. Those first-time-mom feelings of guilt, fatigue, fear, joy, helplessness and anxiety punctuate my thoughts all day and night. I check to see my infant daughter’s chest rise and fall at 3:00 am by the light of my cell phone. During the day I stare at her in awe and get virtually nothing else done. I cry when I think of how tiny she was for the shortest amount of time that I will never get back.
After a highly emotional week of trial and error tending to an infant, I am ready for one certainty: Shabbat. There is a comfort in the tradition of Shabbat. I have sweet memories of spending Friday evening at my bubby and zayde’s house in Golden Valley. My cousin and I would push the chairs together and pretend we were on a boat. We would eat farfalle soup and brisket. I would sleep on the way home and my mom would carry me to my room and pull off my socks while I pretended to stay sleeping. My husband and I have committed to keeping Shabbat each week. We wanted to start this tradition as soon as my daughter was born so that she could carry sweet memories with her, too.
Before she was born, we had already begun trying to do Shabbat with my parents on a semi-regular basis to help break up the work week and decompress together. We often enjoy take-out with them. When we found out I was pregnant, we invited my parents over for Shabbat dinner to celebrate. I ordered custom fortune cookies to open after our meal that would surprise my parents with the big news.
Shabbat is an enjoyable and affordable way to practice Judaism for us. My parents join us each week. My older brother and his wife join us from time to time as well. My dad stops at Cecils and picks up a challah. We have a dozen half-loaves in our freezer. Each week I remind my dad not to get any because we have a freezer full. Each week we end up with one more half loaf in the freezer. We could have challah French toast for days.
My mother and I light the candles and my family sings the blessings over the challah and wine (which is actually never wine and always 7-Up). I attended the St. Paul Talmud Torah Jewish Day School, Hebrew School, and had a Bat Mitzvah, yet somehow we still manage to muck up the blessings each week.
We keep the lights low since dinnertime is also the witching hour and we want to keep our baby calm. We take turns holding her, or by the miracle of Shabbat, she naps. Our conversation is quiet, sometimes a whisper as we sit in the candlelight.
This is how it begins. This is how we keep a Jewish home. The tradition and mitzvah of keeping Shabbat is our time to be together, to bless our new baby, and to be thankful for another week of learning new things as we grow as a family. With every passing week I become a more confident mother. With every passing Shabbat, we build a stronger Jewish home for our daughter.