I am trying to make an impossible summer as sweet as possible for my child.
This week there was deep exhaustion and sadness. Despite it all, Shabbat still comes
Within grief, and loss, and hardship, we need to find new ways to be resilient. I find resilience in insisting on joy. That’s what Shabbat is all about. Insisting on carving out time for love, joy, gratitude, and beauty. For prayer. For family.
Finding that joy, and the time and space to create joy is more difficult right now. There is so much work to be done as a country. There is so much work to be done in our homes. There is no childcare. There is no rest. There is no escaping the heartbreaking news - 115,000 dead of coronavirus, the trial of Ahmad Aubrey’s killers, the funeral of George Floyd, the enduring grief at the loss of Breonna Taylor, the devastating state of American Democracy. This year, summer days are long and hot and filled with frustration, obligation, and pain. Our nation is in pain. Families are in pain.
To borrow a phrase from former President Barack Obama, we need to have the audacity to hope. Hope we’ll be together again soon. Hope that justice is finally coming. Hope that we will make it as a country, as struggling families, as sick friends, as people. Just trying to make it. That’s where I am this week. Just trying to make it through.
I am trying to make peace with what I can and cannot do. Especially for my 3-year-old Black and Jewish daughter.
I am sorry, baby. I can’t bring back the summer you were promised, filled with friends and splash parks and poolside picnics and trips to the beach with grandma and ice cream on a farm with your cousins. I can’t bring back preschool. I can’t cure coronavirus - or as you call it, the very big cold.
I am sorry baby, that staying home with a Mom who is working isn’t much fun. I know you wish we could play all day. I hope when you grow up, and see what I did, you’ll be proud I am your Mommy. When I look at my Mom, I am so inspired by her work, and the sacrifices she made to achieve. I couldn’t have existed or dreamed or achieved on the level I have, without seeing my mother go back to work. I hope you feel the same way about me one day.
I am trying to focus on what I can do. For my daughter. For my country. For myself. This week. This day. This year. This too-short lifetime.
I can buy two pink kiddie pools and place them on opposite sides of the yard so you can splash with a friend while social distancing. I can set the sprinkler to fall on both sides of the fence so you can race your friends while getting soaking wet in the hot DC sun. I can have Beyoncé dance parties with you in the kitchen where we dance to Brown Skinned Girls while learning about kosher cooking. I can read you books filled with black girls who are confident and strong. I can plan backyard camping trips and make s’mores while you bird watch.
I can protect your little lungs from tear gas and pepper spray and fight like hell that those weapons are never unleashed on a child again. I can remain steadfast in my fury, and my organizing, and my writing, because damned if I am not gonna fight for it to be better for every kid. I can keep organizing and writing and demanding change. I can hold the tension of knowing that one day we will have to sit you down and have “the talk” about being a black girl and encountering police, while also fighting every day, and believing it is still possible that when I have to talk to you about this, it will be a different world. That we will be a different country.
I can insist that you maintain your innocence, beautiful child, for at least one more summer. I can shut off the news when you walk into the room. I can tell you every day that you are smart, you are kind, you are loved, you are beautiful. I am proud of you. When I am at my best, I am just grateful for the extra time with you, the moments when you sit on my lap, grab me by the head, and kiss me all over my face.
I can make a Shabbat treat just for you, who asks every day if it’s Shabbat yet. You who jumps and dances and sings and loves Shabbat so much. I can make as much sweetness in your life as possible, and understand that INSISTING on joy is a radical act of survival, of resistance, of love. I can fill your life with as much strawberries and whipped cream as possible. You love strawberries and whipped cream and I’ve never made you strawberry shortcake. You’ll pause dramatically and yell, it’s… DELICIOUS!!!! Your gonna love it. Have a sweet Shabbat, baby girl.
Strawberry Shortcake for the Best Little Girl.
This recipe feels special, and yet is relatively easy. It’s worth it to flash freeze the biscuits and bake them before Shabbat, because they are best the day of. The biscuit recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen, with the addition of lemon zest and a bit more sugar. If you want to make them Pareve, I have spent many hours testing cream substitutes. Soy milk is best for biscuits and coconut cream is best for whipped cream.
3 tablespoons of high-quality butter for dipping the biscuits in
2 cups butter
Zest of one lemon, juice reserved
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 ½ cups of heavy cream for biscuits
2 additional cups heavy cream for whipped cream
3 tablespoons Confectioners sugar
2 pounds strawberries
Breathe out. Clean off the surface of your kitchen for rolling and cutting. Crack your neck. Breath again. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Melt butter in the microwave. Put on your favorite song.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt - if you are like me and you don’t actually have a sifter, whisk it vigorously until it looks soft and fine like fresh snow. Let your daughter do this and tell her she is your special big girl helper. Know that being her Mommy is all you ever really wanted. Let her dump the cream and lemon zest in. Mix gently with a large wooden spoon.
Turn your dough onto your cleaned floured surface. Try not to be mad when your girl throws flour at you. You’re wearing cooking clothes anyway. Let her help you gently press the dough into about ¾ inch thickness. Remind her not to eat it.
Cut it into rounds. I am not organized enough to own a biscuit cutter, but I find a glass works well. Gather scraps to make more rounds. Set aside some dough for your kid to play with. Dip the whole biscuit in melted butter. Really cover it. There may be some butter leftover. Place the biscuits on the prepared cookie sheet and place it in freezer until just before Shabbat.
When you are ready, preheat the oven to 425. Bake the biscuits for about 15 - 20 minutes.
While the biscuits bake, cut the strawberries into pretty little slices, add reserved lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of confectioners sugar. Macerate together until serving.
Dump the remaining cream, sugar, and a splash of vanilla into a bowl and beat with an electric mixture until stiff peaks form. Really stiff, like meringue. It should hold its shape in the bowl.
After dinner, layer the biscuits, macerated strawberries, and whipped cream in a little bowl. Add extra cream to your kid’s bowl because childhood is too short and we should make it as sweet as we can. Watch their face light up in delight. Shabbat Shalom.
Carly Pildis writes and cooks in Washington, D.C. Read her #TweetYourShabbat every Friday in The Forward. And don’t forget to #TweetYourShabbat.