They came all the way from Russia.

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Sonya rubbed the brass candlesticks to a bright glow.Sonya’s mama and papa came to America from Russia before she was born.


When Sonya was a little girl, she loved to hear the story. “Papa’s brother was living in America,” her mama would tell her. “He wrote that it was easier to make a living in America. So we made up our minds to come here, too.


“Your grandma and grandpa were very sad. ‘Will we ever see each other again?’ they cried. But we were determined to make a better life for ourselves in the new country.


“Before we left, Mama made a feather bed for us. She plucked feathers and down from chickens and ducks and geese, then stuffed the feathers into a big bag made of heavy material. It was as big as a mattress and could be spread on a floor if there were no bed. It was very useful during the long trip to America.


“My mother brought out her brass candlesticks, which had once belonged to my grandmother.


“‘May God go with you to the land of promise,’ my parents said to us with tears in their eyes. They rolled up the feather bed with the candlesticks inside, and that is how we brought them to America.” Mama would always finish the story with a kiss on Sonya’s cheek.


When Sonya was ten she began to help with the housework. Her special jobs on Friday were to scrub the wooden kitchen floor and to polish the candlesticks. After school, she hurried home to finish her work before the Sabbath began at sundown.


She changed into an old housedress and filled a pail with hot water. On hands and knees she scrubbed the unpainted floorboards with a scrub brush and soap.


Then Sonya began her next job. Making a paste of the cleaning powder they used for polishing, she rubbed the brass candlesticks to a bright glow. Meanwhile her mother was busy cooking the Shabbat meal, and the delicious aroma of gefilte fish and chicken soup filled the house.


Out of the white tissue appeared a silver candlestick!Sonya placed the shining candlesticks with the Sabbath candles on the dining room table. At sundown Mama would cover her head with a kerchief and say the Hebrew prayer. Moving her hands over the candles, then covering her eyes, she would finish with “Amen, gut Shabbes” (Amen, good Sabbath), and Sonya would repeat, “Gut Shabbes.” What a spell of peace was cast by the Sabbath candles as the family sat down for dinner!


In the neighborhood where Sonya lived, every family had a pair of brass candlesticks. But when she went to high school, Sonya began to have friends outside her neighborhood. One day she went home with a friend from one of her classes. What a beautiful home! This was surely a rich family. It was the first time Sonya had ever seen a silver candlestick, not a pair like her mother’s but a single cande-labrum that held three candles. The silver gleamed, and the arms that twisted to either side of the center holder were more graceful than swans.


After that, Sonya thought her mother’s brass candlesticks were plain and ordinary. She continued to polish them on Fridays, but they no longer seemed to glow.


Time passed. Sonya was growing up, a senior in high school. Her parents would soon celebrate twenty-five years of marriage, and a silver wedding anniversary party was planned.


Relatives and friends who had also come from the old country were invited to the party. It was a joyous time, with good things to eat and lots of Yiddish songs and dances.


Sonya’s aunts and uncles joined in to give Mama and Papa a gift. When it was unpacked from the large box, out of the white tissue appeared a silver candlestick! It could hold three candles, and its arms extended gracefully from the center post. Sonya was overjoyed! She wanted to tear it from her mother’s hands and dance around the room with it. Silver! They had no other silver. This candelabrum was now the most precious thing they owned.


Sonya urged Mama to get rid of their old brass candlesticks. Instead, Mama quietly stored them on the top shelf of a closet.


The new shining candlestick stood proudly on the dining room table. “Look, Mama,” Sonya said, “I don’t have to polish this candle-stick as I did the brass ones.”


Suddenly Sonya understood.But the silver did tarnish in time. So again, Sonya made a paste of the cleaning powder and rubbed the silver the same way she had done the brass. Suddenly the silver began to peel, and the metal beneath the silver plate showed through, gray and dull. Sonya stared, horrified.


“Mama,” she cried out. Mama came quickly. Sonya held out the candlestick and burst into tears. Mama shook her head.


Sonya, disappointed that the candelabrum had lost its luster, took no more interest in it. One Friday afternoon she bashfully asked her mother for the brass candlesticks.


Mama stopped stirring the chicken soup and turned toward Sonya with a strange smile. Putting down the ladle, she went to the closet and took the old candlesticks down from the top shelf. As she handed them to Sonya, Mama’s eyes filled with tears. “They were my mother and father’s wedding present; they belonged to my grandmother and grandfather before that.” She handed them to Sonya and hugged her. Sonya felt a tear on her mother’s cheek.


Suddenly Sonya understood that these candlesticks were more than just shiny brass. They were the link from one generation to another, and one day Mama would pass them on to her. Sonya polished the brass candlesticks affectionately, inserted the short white candles, and set them on the dining room table, ready for the Sabbath prayer.