TweetShabbat: Spaghetti and Meatballs

#tweetyourshabbat is a global movement founded by Carly Pildis, celebrating the struggle and joy of getting Shabbat on the table every week. This is a place for real dinners and real conversations about Jewish life. Join us at Forward in sharing what you’ll be eating and how your feeling this week at #TweetYourShabbat

My mom started a tradition when we were kids for the Shabbat before our birthdays. It was called Birthday Shabbat and you got to pick whatever you wanted and she would make it in your honor. It was awesome for a little kid, and honestly, even for a grown-up. I always picked the same thing ( My mom’s crispy chicken and mashed potatoes). It’s one of the little traditions I’ve kept going in own my house.

My daughter is turning four this week, and she is very excited. This morning in the car I reminded her that she gets to pick Shabbat this week because it’s her birthday. She sat there in her car seat, her curly hair in two puffs, holding her pink ballerina and weighing her options. Chinese? French fries? Pancakes? Finally, her big eyes lit up and she yelled: “I know! Spaghetti and meatballs!”

She began to sing “Spaghetti and meatballs, spaghetti and meatballs, spaghetti and meatballs,” over and over at the top of her lungs. When we got to preschool, she danced over to her teacher singing ‘Spaghetti and meatballs! Spaghetti and Meatballs! My Mommy’s making them for my Special Shabbat!!!

So much has changed since her last Birthday. She has gotten used to being told that things aren’t safe because of coronavirus. She knows all playdates must be outside and masked. She doesn’t cry anymore when she is told she can’t see her cousins or grandparents on her birthday. She just nods solemnly. Sometimes she crawls in my lap and whispers all the things she wants to do when the pandemic ends: go to a movie theater for the first time, ride in an airplane, go to the Zoo.

We don’t talk about death yet, but we talk about sacrifice, and keeping everyone safe, and being good helpers to the Doctors, nurses, and scientists on the frontline of the pandemic.

I miss my family a lot these days. I’ve missed a lot of time with them, birthdays, Jewish holidays, casual visits with trips to the playground, and rowdy games with kids thrown in the air and hung upside down. If the pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that time together is the most precious thing, and can vanish so quickly.

As we round the corner of the year, I desperately wish they could be here with us to celebrate my daughter turning four. It’s a wonderous thing to watch your baby turn into a kid. Someone who says please and thank you and doesn’t eat meatballs with their hands anymore. Not a lispy wobbly toddler, but a big girl who can count to 20 and dances ballet, and the people I love most are missing it.

While I am sad to miss so much time with the people I love, I know we are the lucky ones.

Over 270,000 Americans won’t have their next birthday. Hundreds of thousands of Americans will have their first Birthday without mom, without dad, without their siblings and best friends and children. When it’s hard to stay apart and stay safe, I focus on the big events in the future I want to be at. That’s where I find strength these days.

I visualize my nieces and nephews in their little suits reading from the Torah at their bar and bat mitzvahs and decline unwise invitations. I dream of my daughter’s wedding day and walk past the crowded restaurant beckoning to me during my evening walk. I’ve learned that time with the people I love is the most precious and fleeting thing, and I am dedicated to ensuring I have as much time with them as possible. In this dark winter, with our resolve faltering and the number of infections across the country surging, we all need to find ways to hold on to hope for a brighter future. We all need to make sacrifices to fight this deadly virus.

I am dreaming of a time we can all be together again. Until that day, we can still do Birthday Shabbat, with as many meatballs as my daughter wants. Happy Birthday, big girl.

Here’s the recipe.

How was your week? How are you spending Shabbat? Let us know at #tweetyourshabbat! Everyone is welcome at this table! Come hungry.

TweetShabbat: Spaghetti and Meatballs

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