Oh, the Clean Impure Hands!

After months of repeated pleas to spend more time at home, the wayward daughter has come back for a weekend at her parents. She has dressed in the manner her parents expect – long skirt, high neckline, long sleeves.

She is now waking up on Sunday morning, in the pull-out bed in her sisters’ room. The smell of eggs fills the house.

She peeks out the door of the bedroom and sees the coast is clear – father and brother are not in the hallway and will not see her in her pajama pants.She dashes to the bathroom and washes up, then repeats the peek-and-check, sees the coast is clear again.

Back in the bedroom, she languidly pulls on her skirt and sweatshirt over her pajamas. Her sisters are still asleep in their beds.

She makes her way downstairs in that delicious hush of a lazy Sunday morning. Her mother is in the kitchen, bustling from countertop to stove, boiling water and scrambling eggs and toasting bread. Her father will be home from shacharis soon.

“G’morning, Ma.” She makes her way over to the milchig cabinet, reaches up for a mug, gets a spoon from the drawer, puts a teabag into her mug.

“Good morning.” She hears a note of reservation in her mother’s voice and looks over to see her standing against the fleishig counter, looking at her with misgiving.

“Don’t take this the wrong way,” her mother says, and her heart stops, the lazy comfort gone in a flash. “But can you wash your hands before you touch the keilim?”

She stops her face from twisting into a sneer.

“I did,” she says, and know she shouldn’t be so antagonistic but can’t stop herself. “I  washed my face and brushed my teeth, too.”

(And thinks in her head but doesn’t say, “I washed ma hands and face afore I come, I did. I’m a good girl, I am.”)

Her mother’s face is stony. She knows it’s not anger but a warped sense of pain, possibly an attempt not to cry. “You know what I mean.”

She grunts and puts sugar into her mug, walks over to the stove near the counter where her mother stands, picks up the kettle and pours water over her teabag without looking at her mother. She stirs, then sips, and looks up at her mother over the rim of the mug. Her mother continues to look at her with sad, sad eyes.

She takes her mug into the living room and settles on the couch, thinking, thinking.

I could have just washed negel vasser to appease her, you know. Or I could resolve never to sleep over here again. Yeah, despite the hour-and-a-half train ride back to my apartment, and the probability of getting home past 2am, I think that’s the solution.

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