For the past five weeks, our family has gathered each Friday night to sing a blessing over an empty corner.
We sold our small white china cabinet with the door that never quite closed properly a couple of weeks before we put our house on the market. We took down our Shabbat candlesticks—the pewter ones with hamsas (hand-shaped amulets) and turquoise stones that I picked out amongst so many on display in the Judaica store–because they reminded me of my home state of New Mexico–and wrapped them up carefully before we put them away in a box that ended up in a storage unit we rented for a few months.
A few days later, the staging of our little house was complete. Except for our ketubah, all of our Judaica was packed away, replaced with framed mirrors and prints of birds and flowers. Our red couch was slipcovered in white, and our wedding quilt was replaced with a white duvet. It was still our house, but it no longer felt like our home. We stayed with my in-laws for the week, because there was no way I was going to keep a white couch clean in between the showings.
The house went under contract quickly, and we moved back in on a Wednesday. Two days later, I went to look for our glass challah plate, the one that Josh’s bubbe gave us right before she died, the one that I dropped and broke just a few months later. It took several phone calls and the help of a good friend who owned a Judaica shop to track down a replacement, one of the last ones left in the country as the artist had also recently died.
Shoot. We put it in storage. No big deal. I grabbed a dinner plate and put the challah on it. And then I realized that we had packed away the candlesticks. I wasn’t sure what to do. Dinner was made, and the girls were already setting the table, so going out wasn’t an option, and I don’t really like going out for dinner on Friday nights anyway. I didn’t want to skip the candle lighting all together, either. It’s one of my favorite parts of Shabbat, and with everything changing so much, I needed our rituals more than ever. And that’s how the four of us ended up singing the blessing over candles that weren’t even there.
I couldn’t bring myself to dig through all of the boxes in the storage unit to find the candles, so the next Friday night we pretended the girls were candles. They stood straight and still in the corner while we “lit” their heads.* The week after that, we held them and sang at the wall together.
Two more weeks without candles have passed, and tonight is our last Friday night in this little home that we have lived in for 11 years. By my calculations, that’s more than twice as long as I’ve ever lived anywhere. And now we’re moving. We’re just moving half a block up the street to a house that my husband and I have been renovating since the fall. I’m thrilled to be staying in our neighborhood, and I’m thrilled about our new house.
But we’re still moving. We’re still saying goodbye to the house that my husband and I bought just three months after we got married. The home that saw us through extended stays from family members, graduate school, career changes, losses of beloved family members, infertility, fertility, two children, countless playdates, and Shabbat dinners. Friday nights when Josh comes home early from work and our whole family gathers around the table have been a cornerstone in our lives, a sacred moment in a week that can so quickly descend into barely controlled chaos.
And so anyone who happens to be walking past our house early this evening will see me, and my husband, and my big girl who just lost her front tooth, and my little girl who is starting kindergarten in the fall singing at a blank wall. What they won’t see is how that little corner of our home has sustained me through some of the most challenging and most joyful experiences of my life. And for that, I will always be immensely grateful.
*No children were lit on fire in the making of Shabbat.