WeWriWa—Unwrapping presents together

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This year, my Chanukah- and Christmas-themed snippets come from Chapter 20, “Dueling December Holidays,” of the book formerly known as The Very First (which is set during 1938). The new and improved title will finally be revealed upon its release next year!

This week’s snippet comes a few pages after last week’s, as the Smalls (originally the Brandts) and their sponsors/hosts the Filliards sat down for a dinner jointly celebrating the eighth night of Chanukah and Christmas Eve, which fell on the same night in 1938. Now they’re going to unwrap some of their presents together.

Artwork by Yelena Flerova

After the table had been cleared, everyone went into the living room to unwrap presents. The Filliards had wrapped the Smalls’ gifts in innocuous, secular paper, without any Christmas symbols, not even snowflakes. Both the paper and ribbons were solid green, red, and blue. The gift tags likewise were devoid of any hint of Christmas, and could’ve easily been affixed to gifts for any occasion.

Cinni watched expectantly as the Smalls opened her gifts. She’d gotten a small, no-frills compact mirror for Mrs. Small; a tin of shoe polish for Mr. Small; a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle for Gary; a book of Heinrich Heine poetry in German for Barry; and pearl hairpins in the shape of hearts for Sparky. Barry’s earlier Chanukah present had been a dark blue and white plaid beret, so he’d have a more stylish, modern way to cover his head. Though Cinni had itched to put a more personal inscription in the book, she didn’t want Barry to suspect her true feelings. Instead she’d settled for “Dec. 24, 1938, to Barry from Cinnimin. Happy Chanukah.”

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WeWriWa—Thanksgiving shopping

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This year, my Thanksgiving-themed snippets come from Chapter 19, “Happy Thanksgiving,” of the book formerly known as The Very First (which is set during 1938). The new and improved title will finally be revealed upon its release next year!

This week’s snippet comes a number of pages after last week’s. It’s now two days before Thanksgiving, and Sparky (real name Katherine), her mother, her oldest brother Gary (born Friedrich), her best friend Cinnimin, and Cinnimin’s older brother M.J. are buying food for the Smalls’ half of the joint household’s feast.

In 1938, Atlantic City had a large Jewish community, with many kosher groceries, bakeries, and candy shops.

Cinni rang the bell when Mrs. Small pointed out the approaching kosher grocery.  Though A&P had plenty of fruits and vegetables which were kosher by default, the Smalls typically bought their canned goods and bulk foods from kosher groceries.  Not everything at A&P could be trusted.

Inside the store, Cinni excitedly pointed out everything Mrs. Small needed to buy.  Since this wasn’t a fun food store like a bakery, Cinni didn’t linger over the culinary riches on display.  Within thirty minutes, they’d brought their bounty up to the counter and been rung up for $1.70.  The celery and cornbread were in the basket Gary carried, while Mrs. Small carried the baskets with yams and cranberries and Cinni held the pumpkin.

Their next stop was a candy store five blocks down.  Cinni eagerly ran inside and made a beeline for the bins and barrels of bulk candies and other sweets.  The richness of the choices overwhelmed her—chocolate-covered peanuts, rock candy, peppermints, salt water taffy, toffee, jellybeans, gumdrops, nougats, lollipops, nonpareils, peanut brittle, peppermint bark, fruit-flavored hard candies, chocolates of all kinds, fruit-flavored licorice, candybars, fudge, candied fruit slices, halvah, Jordan almonds, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, flavored stick candies, and marshmallows.

WeWriWa—Surveying the pantry

Happy 90th birthday to Mickey Mouse!

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This year, my Thanksgiving-themed snippets come from Chapter 19, “Happy Thanksgiving,” of the book formerly known as The Very First (which is set during 1938). The new and improved title will finally be revealed upon its release next year!

This week’s snippet comes some pages after last week’s. Sparky (real name Katherine) and her best friend Cinnimin have come home from school, and introduced Sparky’s mother to the concept of Thanksgiving. The girls begged her to make kosher Thanksgiving foods, so their families can celebrate together, each with their own foods on the table.

Mrs. Small isn’t entirely sold on the idea, since the money to pay for this food has to come from somewhere, and her family needs to save money for more important things. Regardless, she’s given the girls permission to go into her kitchen to check for holiday-appropriate food.

The girls went into the Smalls’ kitchen, and Sparky pointed out where everything was.  They discovered carrots, potatoes, onions, flour, sugar, salt, mushrooms, walnuts, apples, dried fruits, non-dairy baking chocolate, green beans, brown sugar, cinnamon, and eggs, all of which could be used to prepare traditional Thanksgiving foods.  Cinni set out the non-perishables on the counter the Smalls used for their parev foods, so they’d be reminded of what they needed to use.  She also left a note about needing to use the eggs and mushrooms.

“Your mom won’t need to buy too much,” Cinni declared as she surveyed the gastronomic loot. “Only cornbread, pumpkin, bread for making breadcrumbs, celery to add to the stuffing, cranberries, yams, marshmallows, and turkey.  You can make gravy outta the turkey drippings, and thicken it up with flour.  My mom can lend you her recipes for stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, and candied yams.”

“I can’t eat marshmallows,” Sparky objected. “They’re made with gelatin, and that comes from pig bones.”

WeWriWa—Art class turkeys

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This year, my Thanksgiving-themed snippets come from Chapter 19, “Happy Thanksgiving,” of the book formerly known as The Very First (which is set during 1938). The new and improved title will finally be revealed upon its release next year!

In first period art class, new immigrant Sparky (real name Katherine) has encountered the concept of Thanksgiving for the first time, and her rebellious friend Kit has made a turkey with very non-traditional colors. Their frenemy Adeline got into an argument with Kit about the realism of such a turkey, and Kit made sure to get the last word in.

Kit gave her turkey large turquoise eyes with generous drops from her paintbrush.

Sparky looked at Cinni’s turkey and tried to copy the colors, shapes, and placements of the feathers and various other body parts.  So their turkeys wouldn’t look exactly alike, Sparky didn’t put her feathers in the same order.  Cinni’s turkey alternated red, yellow, and orange feathers from left to right, while Sparky alternated yellow, red, and orange feathers.  Sparky also made her turkey a bit bigger, and put more detail into it.

“How come you never told me about this holiday?” Sparky asked at the conclusion of art class.

“I thought you knew about it.  My daddy says a bunch of countries have Thanksgiving, even if it ain’t exactly the same as the American version.  You knew about Halloween.”

Yom Kippur Beach Walk

This post was originally scheduled for 14 September 2013, as part of the long-discontinued Sweet Saturday Samples bloghop. I wanted to finally move all these old posts out of my drafts folder already!

Like last week’s post, this also obviously comes from an older version of the book formerly known as The Very First. It’s since undergone several more rounds of edits.

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Important Note: Out of reverence for Yom Kippur, this post, like all my other Saturday postings, has been prescheduled.

This scene takes place a bit after the Yom Kippur piece I shared last year. Young Cinni and Sparky are taking a walk on the beach in the late afternoon, and have gotten to talking about Cinni’s feud with her older sister Stacy (Eustacia). Sparky is trying to explain what repentance and forgiveness mean, though Cinni and Stacy will continue not speaking to one another until June 1985, when their near-lifelong silence ends by accident.

***

“Real repentance happens between two people.  God doesn’t perform forgiveness on your behalf if you haven’t talked to the other person and apologized.  And you’re not supposed to think about how things might be different or better in another life.  Our focus is on the here and now, on this life.  But the gates of repentance are always open.”

“So you can ask God, or other people, for forgiveness at other times of the year?”

“Of course.  And even though tonight is gonna be the main closing of the gates, they’re still gonna be officially open till Hoshanah Rabah, one of the holidays at the end of Sukkot.  It’s like one last chance to get in any final, missed prayers or apologies.”

“Wow, you people have a lot of holidays I never knew about.  I don’t think even Laura celebrates so damn many.  She says the Catholic Church stopped celebrating all their fast and feast days a long time ago.  At least, normal people stopped celebrating them.  I’m sure religious fanatics still do it.”

Sparky cast her eyes up toward the sky, which was still rather blue and not yet turning into a watercolor of the setting Sun. “I can almost see the gates of heaven up there, even though I know God doesn’t really live up in the sky or even in this world.  It’s hard to describe unless you’ve been there and heard it, but when the shofar is blown at the end of Rosh Hashanah services, the final, very long note, I can feel time and the world standing still, and the gates of heaven opening.  And when the long note is blown again at the end of Yom Kippur, it’s like I can feel the gates shutting for another year.  But God hears prayers at all times, even if this time of year is the most ideal time to ask for important stuff.”

“Next year at this time, I bet you’ll be a proper American girl and not so focused on old world stuff.  I mean, you can still be religious, but I hope it won’t be the main thing about you.  Laura lives in the real world while still doing her Catholic thing.”

Sparky looked down at her skirt, which covered her knees, and her sleeves, which covered her elbows. “I guess I still don’t look exactly American.  Even if I’m not Orthodox, I still was taught I have to dress modestly.  But when I’m at school or with you and your friends, I do feel kinda outta place.  The only other girl we know who dresses like me is Nancy, but you said she ain’t really your official friend.”

“You’ve got a leg up on Nan, ‘cause at least you show way more skin and don’t think it’s a sin to even look at a boy.  But your hair’s slowly starting to grow outta that awful haircut your mom forced on you, and the poodle curls are gone.  I think you’re more scared than you oughta be of showing off extra bare skin.  Once you start wearing more normal clothes, it’ll become like second nature, and you won’t be able to believe you useta shun them.”

“Can we talk more about this tomorrow?  Even if I’m not old enough to fast or do other grownup stuff, I don’t feel right talking about stuff like clothes and hair on Yom Kippur.”

Cinni dug her sandaled foot into a patch of wet sand. “If you insist.  I ain’t some twit like Al, who only likes to talk about stuff like that, even if I ain’t the opposite extreme like Nan or Adeline.  Speaking of, I’ve long been itching to get my hands on botha them to try to make ‘em over.  Perhaps they’ll be inspired once they see how I’ve successfully made you over.  Even unpopular girls can’t be that immune to wanting to look normal as they get older.  If they want boys to notice ‘em when we’re old enough, they’ve gotta start dressing the part and talking about normal stuff.”

Sparky looked up at the seagulls flying overhead as she and Cinni continued on down the beach.  If only she could be as carefree as the seagulls, and not worrying about heavy things like repentance and how to become a real American girl before she was even bat mitzvah.