We Are Resilient

My grandmother was someone who never took no for an answer. She fought fiercely for her passions, knowing they mattered. She spent a year teaching kindergarten through eighth grade in a one-room schoolhouse in Owl’s Bend, Missouri; worked for 25 years at the Brooklyn Public library; and published more than 200 poems. I have always tried to follow in her footsteps and live up to the expectations I knew she had of me. When she passed away at 96, I was 21 years old, confused and scared, worried I would forget her. I knew I would remember her accomplishments; those accolades never disappear. I wanted to remember the love she showed her son, her daughter-in-law and my sister. What I have discovered is that I am allowed to be angry with the world for taking my grandmother away. I have also learned that while it is OK not to be OK, my grandmother would have wanted me to pick myself up again. Everyone has different ways to cope with loss and hardship. I read these words my grandmother wrote to me, and I know while the world may be full of ups and downs, it is a bright place that needs me to be a part of it. “Granddaughter Penina Hedya, dress in bones and flesh, leap for the candles of your journey.” Zikhronah livrakhah. May her memory be a blessing.

– Marisa Papell


We Are Resilient 

The phone rings, voices fill the house

My grandmother is on the line

Seemingly less confused than usual

The phone is passed in my direction

Hello Grandma, I say

Hi Betty, she responds


That’s not my name

That’s not my name

That will never be my name


Is this how she remembers me

As some unidentified person

Instead of her granddaughter

The memories of good days fade

Like rain easing up after a storm


I remember my grandmother as happy and healthy

My father remembers his mother looking through a window

There reflections meet each other at the glass pane

Yearning to break free, but they stop short

Melting to the ground like snowflakes


I didn’t want the picture engraved in my father’s brain

I chose joy instead of pain, but was it the right decision

For her or for me


My grandmother didn’t remember herself

And I worry I won’t remember her either


She is now upstairs dancing with Miriam and her timbrels

Speaking to Abraham wondering why he smashed idols

Laughing with Isaac about the beauty of the world


These are her people, the children of Israel

She wrestled with G-d and

Her voice echos

Above the flickering light of the Shabbat candles

Louder than the noise of a groger

Stronger than the waves of the Nile

Marisa Papell, a recent graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, is fascinated by the interconnection between cooking and Judaism. Food has been a powerful tool in Marisa’s life, reminding her to enjoy the little things that bring her joy, hope and peace.

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