The note sat on the ledge of my bathtub. It was written on a folded scrap of purple lined paper. The words were few. “Daddy would’ve been proud of you this weekend.” It sat next to one of our popped Billecart-Salmon champagne corks, a memory of a time long past. When I was 13, we hid Korbel champagne corks in all of the nooks and crannies of our grandparent’s medicine cabinets, kitchen cupboards and shoe boxes. We were a family that celebrated everything with champagne; birthdays, anniversaries, Jewish holidays. We used to giggle with glee as we stuffed corks into envelopes in my grandfather’s office or snuck them into my Aunt’s pocketbook. It was a game my father invented that just sort of stuck. After we started hiding the corks, we just couldn’t stop — ever.
I think I first introduced the game to my kids several years ago. We’ve been hiding corks ever since. My son’s Bar Mitzvah weekend had been literally 72 hours of unbridled celebration so champagne corks were plentiful. I expected my boys to stash some away in some of their favorite hiding places for me to discover one by one over the next few weeks. But somehow I didn’t expect the one on the bathtub ledge, left by the one person whose shared memories will always be the closest to my own.
My sister and I have always had a rocky relationship. I sometimes joke that she never quite forgave me for being born. We are as different as two people can be. But it was her very presence this weekend that filled my family, my home and my heart with joy, tradition and soulful memories. Seeing her smile and appreciate the world I had created away from the one in which we’d grown up, seemed to infuse my weekend with a sense of momentous value and significance.
I so wanted her to like my home, my friends, my synagogue. To approve of what I’d become and the family of which I stood at the helm. At nearly 50 years old, I still longed for the recognition, acceptance and approval of my big sister. It seems silly, but finding that note filled a space in my heart that had been there for as long as I could remember. “Daddy would’ve been proud of you this weekend.”
The truth is, my father would’ve loved this weekend. It would have filled him with a deep sense of joy and fulfillment. It feels remarkably unfair that he isn’t here to harvest the fruits that grew from his hard work, love and attention. He had lived to create this family, these traditions, and all that we had become. And yet, he had died before ever seeing his masterpiece in full view. Sometimes the injustice of life seems overwhelming to me.
“Daddy would’ve been proud of you this weekend.” And of you, my dear sister. Because somehow we managed to shelve the past this weekend, to burry away our bittersweet rivalries, to suspend our long-standing disappointments and disagreements. For all of that, I am grateful.
May we continue to live our lives in honor of the man whose love and hard work taught us the value of family, tradition, compassion and celebration. Times change. People pass away. But the memory of all that was good will never fade. I pray that we are creating those memories for our children and that they will always drink up the joys that life offers and forever remember to hide the corks when they do.