Reclaiming a Long-Lost Possession

A while back The Curmudgeon found himself needing to make one of his infrequent and not-very welcome visits to a synagogue, and as he dressed quickly on a Saturday morning and was about to leave the house he realized he didn’t have a yarmulke – the little skullcap (okay, beanie) that Jews wear when we worship. He knows he has several, but when he looked in every place in his home where he thought they might be he came up empty. All he found was one of those cheap black yarmulkes that synagogues supply to those who come without their own, and if you go into a synagogue already in possession of one of these you might as well write on it, in bold letters, “I stole this yarmulke.”

Three generations of family tallis bags. The Curmudgeon’s is the blue one in the middle.

So where oh where could his yarmulke be?

First he checked his tallis bag. A tallis is the prayer shawl Jews wear when we worship and the tallis bag is where many of us also store our yarmulkes. No luck: all he found were his tallis and the special yarmulke he wore on his bar mitzvah – a bigger model that’s sort of like a stunted chef’s hat. If you go into a synagogue wearing one of those and you’re not 13 years old you might as well write on it, in bold letters, “I’m an idiot.”

Hurrying now, he decided to look in his grandfather’s tallis bag, which he inherited 30 years ago. (Well, he didn’t actually inherit it: when his grandfather passed way the assignment to clean out his apartment fell to The Curmudgeon and this was the only item he took for himself.) No luck: another tallis but no yarmulke.

Then it dawned on him: he now had his father’s tallis bag – claimed, like his grandfather’s, upon its owner’s death, just a few years ago. Surely dad would have had a yarmulke. The Curmudgeon hesitated for a moment: he had never opened that bag before.

Hello, old friend

But when he did, what he found surprised him: his own yarmulke, from his youth. It was the burgundy velvet yarmulke with decorative white stitching he had worn to Hebrew school and services from the time he got it, at around the age of 10, until sometime a few years later when he could no longer find it.

And then he realized why it was there: when The Curmudgeon celebrated his bar mitzvah he wore the oversized yarmulke and must have given his own to his father. After the service dad no doubt simply stowed it in his tallis bag, where it sat, untouched and unused, for the rest of his life.

The Curmudgeon smiled, happily reunited with a long-lost friend: lost to him, to be precise, since November 21, 1970, the date of his bar mitzvah.

So the boy was reunited with his yarmulke after a separation of more than 45 years, and if he was still faced with the undesirable chore of attending synagogue and sitting through a service, he was going to be just a little happier about it than he had been only a few minutes earlier.



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