It was the Friday before Thanksgiving, and I was at Busch’s, doing my penultimate shopping for the holiday. They sell Zingerman’s breads, and I chose two challahs, one seeded, one plain. I would freeze them until Thursday. They smelled wonderful and were still warm. I wondered how I would get them home without eating at least one of them.
As I moved down the aisle, a woman drew up beside me and commented on how beautiful the breads were. We both stopped and admired them. “They look like the breads my grandma used to make,” she said—to my surprise, since she was African American.
After we chatted a bit about her grandma’s braided breads, I told her that challahs had a special place in my family. My mother was born in a small village in Russia, a very dangerous place for Jews at the time. When her mother decided it was urgent to leave, she tried to take with her objects important to her. She and my grandfather had received a pair of silver candlesticks when they married. She baked each into a loaf of challah and brought them to America that way. Those candlesticks are my most precious possession.
The woman’s eyes filled up as I told the story, and she told me she admired my grandmother’s courage. We stood in silence for a few moments. Then she said, “You know, there is something happening in my life now that has felt impossible. But as you tell me this story, I think there might be a way, just as your grandmother found a way.” I said I hoped that was true.
As we walked side-by-side down the aisle, she turned to me and said, “There is a reason that people decide to talk to each other.” I agreed. And then she turned toward the checkout, while I continued on to the produce section.