BY MICAELA BLITZ
My parents were moving. After 40 years of living in the same house, they were moving out. Leaving the house where me and my two sisters had grown up. The house where I had lived until I got married and moved out to start my own house.
They were moving. They had decided it was time to downsize. They didn’t really need a 5 bedroom house with just the two of them rattling around in it. My dad was getting a bit wobbly on his feet and the stairs were getting more tricky, so it made sense that a nice modern ground floor flat would be much better for them.
They were quite excited about the whole thing really. They were moving into a complex where many of their friends already lived so they would have a built in social life. Not that they needed much help. They were both very busy people involved in various committees and groups, and they always had lots of friends to meet up with.
My sisters and I were excited for them too. We were all married and had our own lives, so were happy that they were doing something for themselves, but we were a little sad too. That house held so many memories for all us, and now another family would be moving into this special place. They would paint over the marks on the kitchen wall marking out our heights, maybe add a new carpet covering the weirdly patterned dated one that my parents insisted on keeping, and they would replace my dad’s comfortable, battered armchair with new modern furniture; erasing us completely.
We had all been helping our parents pack things up, but 40 years in one house means a lot of stuff. Every time we went to visit we tried to sort through a different room, and usually ended up with a box of our old stuff to take with us. Looking through forgotten drawers and cupboards full of random bits and pieces we had found things that had been too important to throw away, but not important to remember why they had been kept in the first place.
The last time I was there, I had come across at least 30 batteries, some broken Chanukah candles, a box of lightbulbs for a lamp that was given away years ago, and some stamps for letters nobody wrote. There also seemed to be lots and lots of different keys. Some looked like spares for windows and doors, and we had managed to work out where most of them belonged, but there were a few random ones that so far had remained unmatched. I joked to my dad that he could probably melt them down and make a healthy profit in scrap metal from them.
“Mummy. Do I look smart in my oo-niform” Shana asked proudly standing in front of me – here buttons were done up wrongly, her cardigan was inside out, and her shoes seemed to be on the wrong feet, but she looked so proud and happy. Shana was starting school next week. For her, she was looking forward to meeting new friends, learning new things. She was also super excited that she had a uniform and had been trying it on at every occasion since we had bought it. For me, I couldn’t quite believe that my baby was going to big school. She was growing up so fast. I was worried she would not need me anymore. But as my husband reminded me, “She will always be our baby. She is just moving onto the next stage of life. You still need your parents, and you are 34, so I am sure a 4 year old will need us a for a bit longer.”
He was right of course. I had spoken to friends who had also been through the same thing with their own children. They were now on their second or third child, so having one at school actually made it a little easier they said. So far, we only had Shana. We hoped that our prayers for more children would be answered soon, but we were happy as we were for now.
“Doesn’t she look cute?” I showed my mum the picture of Shana in her school uniform. Mum and I tried to meet up once a week if possible. We had our favourite kosher café on the high street which did the best coffee according to my mum, and also the yummiest cakes in my humble opinion. I wasn’t a fan of coffee myself. I loved the smell, although not the taste, but I had a pretty sweet tooth so often tried the cakes that had on offer. Cake was my major downfall, I just couldn’t resist. It didn’t matter what kind of cake it was, I would eat it. My mum used to joke that it was the first word I said when I was a baby, and my husband would probably say I loved it more than him, which is not strictly true. Although I never had to remind a piece of cake to take the rubbish out, or not to leave wet towels on the floor.
My mother and I had been coming to this café since I was young. It was our special place, where we would put the world to rights. We had come here after my first day of school, after my GCSE results, before I went to university, and I had even gone on my first few dates with my husband here too. Over the years we had become friendly with the owners. They were a lovely couple. They were originally from Israel and they had amazing food. Yaakov and his wife, Sara, were always happy to chat, and I would often talk about recipes and different ingredients she liked to use.
On our most recent meet up my mum had suddenly presented me with a box. A box I had not seen for about 20 years. It was decorated with doodles, glitter and stickers. When I looked at it, it brought back so many memories.
“I can’t believe you still have this stuff after all these years. I thought I was the one that never threw anything away,” I said to her as she gave me the box.
“Well I thought that you might want some bits and pieces from it. I found it in the back of the wardrobe in your room when we were packing. It looked like you spent a lot of time decorating it, so I didn’t want to throw it away.”
I laugh. I look at the childish handwriting on the front of it. “Ruth’s Box of Secret Stuff. Keep Out!!!!” With two older sisters, it was difficult to have anything private so I had kept this tucked at the back of the cupboard behind my winter jumpers so no one else ever found it. It would be funny to see what is in there, I guess.
“Well, have a look through and see what’s there and you can keep it or throw it away?” my mum encouraged me as she stirred her coffee. “Whatever you decide is up to you”
That night after Shana had finally gone to sleep, despite her usual bedroom antics of suddenly finding a toy to play with or another bed time story for me to read. I made myself a peppermint tea in my favourite, LET THEM EAT CAKE, mug and sat on the sofa with my secret box.
It may have been a bit dog eared in places, and some of the stickers had fallen off, but looking at that box again brought back so many memories. As I opened the box suddenly I was 14 again…