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blintzes, matryoshka & tuesday is for therapy - dafna steinberg


On his last day, my father ate blintzes for breakfast.

It was a tradition. Every time there was a voting day, the three of us (me, my mom and my dad) would cast our votes at the local elementary school and then go to the McLean Family Restaurant. We always ordered the same thing: my mom got eggs Florentine, I got the Western Skillet (sub corned beef for ham) and my dad would get blintzes. The order came with three, perfectly folded, filled with ricotta cheese and sour cream on the side.

I’d like to think that on his last day, my father took a bite of the first blintz and tasted it as if it was his first time. Savoring the sweet taste like a burst of joy.

Two months later, the McLean Family Restaurant is only doing curbside pick up. No one is allowed inside to sit down. My mom and I ordered brunch to go for Mother’s Day. She ordered eggs Florentine. I ordered a veggie skillet (they were out of corned beef). We ordered a plate of blintzes to share.

When it came time to eat them, we each took one, then stared at the third, sitting all alone in the takeout box, a reminder of our diminished numbers. Mom’s eyes began to brim with tears. My throat tightened.

'tuesday is for therapy': self portrait by dafna steinberg


I stood washing a breakfast bowl in the empty apartment. It was my first morning in the newly rented space and it felt far from home. Mom and I had camped out on inflatable mattresses, using battery-operated lanterns for the lightless bedrooms. Stiff and tired from a sleepless night, I looked out over the deep sink to the empty living room. Mom sat at our makeshift breakfast seating arrangements, a card table with two folding chairs, and read emails on her phone. My fingers fumbled with the slippery porcelain and the pretty green and white vintage Noritake dish fell from my hands, crashing into the sink. It collided with a glass that had a lovely little Matryoshka on it, one that was part of a set, three glasses that neatly fit one in the other. Each had a colorful image of a nesting doll on the outside. The broken one was the largest one in the set.

My mother looked up from her screen.


After seeing the frustration on my face, she added “It’s good luck to break a dish in a new apartment.”

It didn’t feel like good luck. Nothing about this move felt good. Part of me wondered if maybe I had made a terrible mistake.

This was going to be the first apartment I lived in that my Dad would not be visiting. He would never see the section of the Philadelphia skyline that I could see from one of the windows. He would never have a cup of coffee with me on the sofa that was once his. This was my first home in a life where my father no longer existed.

I picked up all the glass pieces out of the sink and put them together in a little pile. Staring at them, I couldn’t figure out why I was struggling with throwing the shards away.

Instead, I took them over to the windowsill where the backdrop of green tree leaves created a summer glow. Picking up my camera, I photographed the broken doll’s face, relating to the feeling of being shattered.

After, I pulled the two remaining glasses from the set out and poured orange juice.


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