My mother barely wrings her hands at all the preparation. Yet she has so many things to do. The sheets and towels must be washed and purified, the dishes must be blessed, the chair he will sit on must be scrubbed and purified, a jug of spring water must be placed at his bedside. The food? Don’t get her started: Mushroom knishes, and dal, fresh pita, organic fruit, organic ice cream, organic English muffins, the finest homemade butter.
She whisks me to the shopping center to help her carry the food—ingredients mostly. Though she is harried, she pats my back and thanks me. I tramp through the aisles of the grocery store, looking at the Frisbees and Nerf ping-pong paddles hanging from the shelves on thin metal sleeves. I count how many cans of pineapple they have, how many different types of peaches.
“Come on now, we should get going,” she says.
Her voice is steady, despite the fact that he will be here in three hours. She sways to the checkout lane.
“We have plenty of time.” I’m not sure if she’s telling herself or me.
I protest. Don’t we have to go to the health food store? Don’t we have to vacuum and scrub.
“Shhh. It will all get done.”
When we get home I’m furious. Why must she do all the work? Why does he get waited on hand and foot? What makes him so special? I do whatever she asks me to do to help. I dust and vacuum, mop and polish. I don’t tell my friends a thing.
That night I am nervous when I hear my father’s keys jingle on the front porch. Through the curtains I can see the multi-colored robes, the beads, the form under them. His shadow is tall, but his neck is angled downward. Now I understand. The door seems to make way for them, and they float through it into the inner warmth.
My mother stretches forth her arms in greeting. He stares into me, and I am blown open. She stands off to the side, suddenly fuzzy and indistinct. He bends down to me on one knee and shakes my hand. He says how pleased he is to meet such a “young soul.” Something is different, though it’s hard to put into words. He walks ahead, into the kitchen. We follow in his wake, as if drawn by ropes. The work is now a long forgotten spot on a large swath of linen, and I for a moment don’t think of anything other than the light.