Friday nights Mother sets the Shabbat table, plaited chalah on
the breadboard, bowls of chopped liver, platters of pink brisket.
She lights the candles, moves her hands in circles over the flame,
covers her eyes in prayer. Lacquered nails glow red, her skin
shines with chicken fat. Come on, she says. My palms break out in
sweat. I ask, did Nana's sisters learn the prayer too?
Mother tells a story. Before the war she sat on a kitchen stool in
Krakow, watched my Nana and Mudja the maid, cut slabs of fish
meat from the bone. She toddled to the fish bone, thrust in her
hand, captured her goldfish, and filleted it. I wanted to make gefillte
fish too, she laughs. When she tells this story she is proud.
I drag a chair to the oven; reach up, struggle for the knob. I don't
want to light the fire I just want to find my relatives. Mother
catches me staring, dizzy with the smell of gas, into the oven's
black pit. What are you doing, she shrieks. Her pile of hair wobbles.
Looking for Nana's sisters, I say.