Care Is Also Culture

The creased embroidered tablecloth

(Self-translated by Noga Sklar)

Anyone who believes that when I refer to the lack of culture, to how I bother about the lack of culture, I happen to be kvetching about people’s ignorance of Bach, Beethoven or Shakespeare, would be mistaken. That would be “erudition.”

A caring attitude towards things, for example, was common when my Mom, of blessed memory, was still alive (yesterday was the 2-years anniversary of her death). Mom was chic, her dinner tables impeccable. She had a lot of money when she emigrated to Israel recently married, and donated to the kibbutz all her hand embroidered linen from Minas Gerais, to be picked and used randomly by anyone who chose it at the communal laundry, where, of course, there was nobody to starch them. Back in Brazil, she recovered the previous sophistication, but after my father died and we moved to Rio, acquired the habit of taking personal care of the things she valued. She always washed and ironed herself, for example, something I find myself incapable of.

When Alan recalls his own mother, it is even more humiliating: A perfect housewife, the house floor always shining, gleaming dishes; always perfectly dressed with impeccable make-up, and still an excellent cookie maker (cookies you eat, of course). But when the subject is laundry, he always asks me why I don’t take it to the Chinese around the corner, something that does not exist in Brazil. Moreover, to what refers to home maintenance, Alan became a perfect Brazilian husband: never washes his glass, or dish, not even takes them to the sink.

As to Ivete, my “secretary,” whom is perfectly capable of sitting with me for coffee and talk about tablets, cellphones and national politics (although she ignores that Lula and Dilma are cut from the same brand, one only bag too full, ready to explode), she has no idea of the value, artistic or emotional, of the only tablecloth I inherited from Mom. The embroidered linen from Madeira Island, that I use in only two occasions, Pessach and Thanksgiving, is invariably stained and creased when I need it — a rag that I uselessly try to stretch over the table. I have worked all day, you know, and at suppertime, I lack the will, or time, or inclination, to give it that neat touch, an inherited laziness from the time of the house slaves.

But the final result makes me very sad, of course. The fine crystal glasses, engraved with my father’s monogram, all miraculously opaque, and stained, and with broken edges have been facing a similar fate. And more, they keep slowly disappearing. 

Decidedly, our world of disposable goods does not care about fancy things. Since I cannot do without the help, I try to remedy a bit, and this year I have washed and ironed myself the Seder towel. To be checked next time.


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