The Sukkot holiday started on Sunday night, and as usual, I found myself rushing around right before lighting candles and ushering in the holiday.
“Mommy,” Yehuda called while I was setting up in the kitchen.
“There’s a banana bread there that Avital just brought over.”
“What?” I said, completely sure that I had to have heard wrong.
“Avital,” he said while racing down the stairs to get in the shower, “She brought over a banana bread."
And I stood in the kitchen as the world spun a bit, chills creeping down my arms. And I cried.
Let me explain.
Stella loved to make banana bread for me. I don’t know if her family actually ever ate it – I’m not sure if she made it for anyone else. But there were, somehow, always loads of bananas “going bad” in their house, and Stella would whip up a batch of banana bread on a random Tuesday, before Shabbat…just about anytime, and send it down our way. She knew my children, especially Yehuda, loved it. And she loved giving people things that she knew they loved.
We had a running joke for many, many years about the banana bread. And when she got sick and I thought I might never see another banana bread, I blogged about it and about my joy when yet another loaf showed up in a moment of energy that Stella displayed.
And when she was gone, one of her daughters made me a banana bread a few times. And we hugged, and cried, and enjoyed every bite.
So on Sunday evening, I was thinking about Stella, since we met 19 years ago that day. We had a story that turned into a bit of lore about how we met and the funny situation that brought us together. And I was a bit weepy as I reminisced this Sunday about the years that were and the times we had; about the nights we spent enjoying and laughing in our sukkot together, including the last one that we shared six weeks before she passed when her burst of energy allowed her to join us all in the sukkah for a night of memories.
I came into the kitchen to prepare for the holiday on Sunday with these thoughts heavy on my mind.
And then, “Mom,” he yelled. “There’s a banana bread in the kitchen for you from Avital.”
And I stared in disbelief at the banana bread. Since Avital, my wonderful, sweet newlywed neighbor, knew nothing about my relationship with Stella and nothing about our shared banana bread bond, our sukkot story, our friendship. And Avital had no particular reason to bring over anything on that evening – I hadn’t loaned her bananas, I hadn’t mentioned I was hungry or needy, I hadn’t helped her to fix a pipe.
And yet, there was a fresh, hot banana bread in my kitchen as Sukkot was about to begin.
And I laughed through my tears, turned to the heavens and smiled up to Stella.
I hear you, my dear friend. I see you. And I remember, as you obviously do as well today.
Chag Sameach wherever you are.