‘Casting Spells’ by Rebecca Williams
I think of you every morning when I braid her hair. Never pigtails or a bun or a ponytail. Only a plait will do. I weave over and under, the familiar rhythm takes me back to you; back to high holy days.
We are all there, sat together on the uncomfortable varnished wood bench. One time we went to a different synagogue and the men and women were split up. I couldn’t breathe properly then.
Each year I count the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and I hope that maybe this one time you won’t make us spend all day in shul. It’s such a waste of a day off. Spending it with hundreds of people, singing and talking and mumbling in a language I can’t decipher. It’s so boring.
Sometimes I open the prayer books. The pages turn backwards, the words reversing into each other. I trace the complex lettering with a finger. It looks like spells, like incantations, like magic. Which come to think of it, isn’t that just what prayers are?
When I am done with that, there is only one thing left to do. It kills the hours while we are suspended between god and earth. Inside the sound of hundreds of lips murmuring together in hope, my sister and I, we plait the fringes of your prayer shawl. Every strand woven next to its sibling, pulling tight together, belonging together, bound together in love, keeping us all safe.