I'm packing up, getting ready to move on out after more than a decade of living in the same building.
You've been there. You're standing in your home—a dot in a sea of cardboard boxes, bubble wrap, packing peanuts, and duct tape—enveloped in a tornado of possessions strewn across every piece of furniture and floor space as far as the eye can see. You've got to decide what to take with you, what to give to tzedakah, and what to give to the garbage man—and you've got like a day to do it. Sound familiar?
So I thought I'd write through the packing stress and tell you about my Jewish-inspired items I'm taking with me, items that have helped shape my Jewish home, experience, and identity for more than a decade.
When I bought my mezuzah to kasher my new apartment as a 20-something Jewish woman, I chose a feminine, funky design for the ritual object, to show visitors before they even made it through the door that they were approaching Cindy's home. I figured when I got married some day, I might have to compromise with my future husband on a more toned-down, less girly mezuzah. And since I'm now engaged and soon will be starting a home with my husband, that day is almost here. The mezuzah's coming with me, but perhaps it will adjoin a lower profile entrance way, for the sake of my husband-to-be, rather than the front door this time around.
A whimsical painting of a fiddler, perhaps the not-so-distant cousin of Tevye, adorns my wall. I remember buying the painting when visiting an art fair with my family a few summers back. The fiddler reminds me of my late Grandpa Harry, born in a shtetl near Minsk, Belarus at the turn of the 20th century. As a young man, he immigrated with his family to America, ultimately settling in Wisconsin, where he would become one of the state's first Jewish farmers.
I bought this black sequin dress a decade ago. Ladies, you know the one I'm talking about. That dress you fell in love with at the store—and it was on sale too! I've attended so many simchas in that dress that it's practically paid for itself by now. Every time I look at it, I'm reminded of all the horas I've been lucky enough to dance in while wearing that dress. I can almost hear the klezmer now.
The kugel recipe.
My mom passed down to me my family's recipe for lokshen kugel (noodle pudding) when I first moved into my own place. I cherish the recipe in all of its sweet deliciousness. But, more than its taste, cooking kugel transports me back to the sweet nostalgia of growing up—the High Holidays, Thanksgiving, Chanukah, and the weekly Shabbat dinners with my family. My mom would make the dish, my sister and I employed as pint-sized sous-chefs in her kitchen.
I bought these small, sparkling, colorful gems, created by famous jewelry designer Michal Negrin, as a souvenir from Israel when I traveled several years ago with more than 60 other young Jewish Chicagoans on the Young Leadership Division Summer Trip to Israel. The earrings, to me, are synonymous with our transformative journey "home."
The ceramic tray, decorated with the Vincent Van Gogh's "Café Terrace" scene, has seen its share of Jewish holidays. Every Yom Kippur, for instance, I prevail over my hunger pains and prep the tray with brownies, toffee bars, and merengue cookies, inspired by my mom's holiday recipes, and get ready for the influx of Jewish friends that would come to my apartment annually to break the fast with me.
Of all my material possessions, photographs top my list of items I can't do without. After all, pictures tell our story best. Pictures of my family and friends pepper my walls with joy, light, and love. Like the picture of my grandparents, my parents, my sister, her husband, and me standing under the chuppah at my sister's wedding; or the one of my then-4-year-old nephew and me playing in the snow; or the one of my three girlfriends and me making goofy, mojito-induced faces in the photo booth at a Jewish party.
These objects aren't just material possessions to me. They're the building blocks of my Jewish life. They're with me to help me remember my Jewish narrative, a narrative that I hope resonates with many of you. I'm moving out, but I'm ready to create a new Jewish home at my next address.