by Moshe Schulman
Sunday afternoon, my father has a family friend, Jeff, over to the house. We rarely have guests over at our house, certainly on a Sunday afternoon. Why is this Sunday special? I watch from the front porch in excitement as Jeff’s three children pile out of the minivan onto our driveway. My father and mother greet Jeff and his wife Lillian. Their children wander around the driveway and front lawn.
“What’s going on?” I ask my mother.
“Your father had a dream last night that there are dishes in the woods.”
“He wants to find them.”
“I don’t know. You’ll have to ask your father.”
I am eight, and wonder why my father is so excited about dishes? Why doesn’t my mother have answers for me?
“Lets go,” my father yells, and leads our family and Jeff’s family to the backyard.
At the end of our backyard stands a four-foot wall made of rocks, and behind that wall, thick woods. My father leads both families to the woods with a scythe in his hand. I wonder if this is what Moses looked like when he led the Jews to the Red Sea with a staff in his hand. Will my father perform a miracle? Split the woods in half? Why aren’t any other fathers in the neighborhood searching their backyards for dishes?
“Watch out,” my father says, making sure no one is behind him. He swings the scythe, cutting down some thorn bushes and overgrown weeds. Everyone else is spread out, carefully maneuvering around the bushes and thick tree roots, looking for the dishes. Twenty minutes pass and no one has found anything. I get restless, not sure what I’m really looking for, climb over the wall, and watch the search continue from the backyard.
“So what kind of dishes are we looking for?” Jeff asks.
“Ceramic dishes,” my father says.
“Like ones we use for Passover?”
“No, definitely not holiday dishes. Just regular dishes.”
My father continues hacking at the woods with the scythe. Jeff repeatedly kicks his foot at the ground, looking for the dishes. Everyone else has slowly retreated to the backyard. Almost an hour passes and no dishes have been found. I wonder if my father has made up the dream just to get attention and create some excitement.
The sun is beginning to set. My mother and Lillian are inside the house. Jeff’s kids run around the backyard with my brothers and sisters. Jeff stands in the brush and my father’s search has taken him deeper into the woods. I imagine Jeff is tired and wants to go home. What a weird way to spend our Sunday afternoon, I think. I wish we had gone to the park. I wish my father would pay attention to me as much as he paid attention to his dream about dishes. I get up and head for the back door of the house.
“I found it!” my father yells.
I turn around and run toward the wall. My father walks briskly toward Jeff with something in his hand.
“Where’s your mother?” my father asks.
“She went inside,” I say.
My father looks disappointed.
Jeff’s kids and my brothers and sisters continue to play in the backyard.
“Like I said, ceramic dishes,” my father says holding them out for Jeff and me to see.
Indeed, my father is holding two ceramic dishes.
But they are broken.
Moshe Schulman has written for Orange Quarterly, Thought Catalog, The Rumpus, and Tablet Magazine. The recipient of scholarships from Bear River Writers’ Conference, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and Tent: Encounters With Jewish Culture, he lives in New York City, where he recently completed a memoir about leaving the Ultra Orthodox Jewish community of Monsey, New York. You can follow him on Twitter @MosheSchulman.