♦ Schuster Shealy

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Dear Shaina,

I laughed out loud, while shedding a few tears, when I read your response to Dad’s guest post. As if I didn’t know that the predominant gene pool stamped on your DNA had SHEALY all over it…

The minute you were born, after they slapped you to make you cry (Schusters don’t have to be prompted to wail loudly), they laid you down next to me for the first time.  I looked into your eyes as you quietly eyeballed me…and there you lay…clearly a mini Allen Shealy replica!  As you got older, the comments veered more toward, “We never knew Allen was so pretty.” I was grateful that at least you got my eyebrows!

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The Shealy genes penetrated far beyond appearance. By the time you were two, I understood that the die was cast and that I should give up any attempts at trying to mold you in my image, or any other…you were hard-wired. So much for nature versus nurture!

You were quietly cautious and  took your time…with everything.  You were shy with strangers, easily manipulated by your more Schusterly cousins and adored by everyone! Even as a small child you emitted a sense of calm, loving acceptance and tolerance.

Lest anyone think that you were simply a sweet, adorable child, easily malleable by the prevailing players in your life, that was not the case. The strength of your core, the individuality of your spirit and the stubbornness of your will were apparent and readily available to you when needed.

Your pre-school teachers would place your cubby next to the most out-of-control boy… every year.  They knew you would ignore the bad behavior while promoting a sense of calm around you. When you decided that ballet classes and soccer games involved too much public performance for your comfort, you simply stopped, literally in your tracks. I had no choice but to take you home and hope the next activity might be a better fit. Even at the age of three, you would modify the teacher’s model of an art project, creating your own version from some vision in your head…and then other children would copy yours. You were/are a leader, quiet and non-dogmatic, but clearly present.

You are so like your father! Your signature, Shaina Shealy, speaks to your comfort in your genes. However, the impact of nurture has not been totally undercover. I would like to think that some of your creative skills have come from the hands of your Schuster relatives…along with the importance of family, friends and tradition, your love of food and cooking for large hoards of people and, of course, your keen bargaining skills. Perhaps, someday, the Schuster may find its way back into your given name, Shaina Schuster Shealy, no hyphens necessary.

Maybe the biggest challenge for an only child overdosed with love and attention and privilege from two doting parents is to find her own voice.  You took that on from an early age. I know you often feel that your path eludes you, yet the thing I am most proud of for you, is that you have the courage to pursue that search. You have learned to trust and follow your voice…wherever it may lead you. Your voice…and your path…may change over time, but you have mastered the process of paying attention to who you are.  Despite all the Shealy and Schuster chatter, the Shaina murmurs ring strong.

I sit here in the living room  wearing the soft cotton housedress, a gift direct from India from you (it’s what all the Indian mothers wear around the house). You putter around your room identifying the things you will need as you set out for a year of study and exploration amidst the Schuster family ambiance in Israel.
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I sit with my own meld of mother worry and pride, an all too familiar feeling.  It has been a lightning quick summer filled with kitchen mess, stuffed refrigerators, endless trips to multiple grocery stores…and friends and family…sharing old traditions, trying on new ones…tashlich (casting away of sins) at the farm, new tastes at the holiday table, escaping from temple during Yiskor…the Schusters and the Shealys, together.
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Rosh Hashana was an extravaganza of tastes and blessings. You requested Pomegranate Tabouli, a sweet and savory salad that has become a new Rosh Hashanah tradition.  As you leave Birmingham for the land of milk and honey…and pomegranates…I hope this dish is a reminder to you of how two seemingly disparate flavors can produce something beautiful, sweet and uniquely flavorful and captivating.  This is your dish!

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We cooked together, we prayed together and we gave thanks. We looked to the new year with hope and promise. You bring so much that is fresh and honest and spiritual into our lives…making us better than we ever thought we could be. I will miss this time with you…even as I reclaim my kitchen.

I wish you safe travels, new friends, enlightening adventures…and an ever stronger voice!

Love,
Mom
xoxoxoxoxoxoxox

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Pomegranate Tabouli
With apples, walnuts and Pomegranates

  • 2 cups flat leafed parsley, finely chopped
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1 cup crisp sweet apples, diced unpeeled
  • ½ cup red onion, diced
  • 1 ½ – 2 teaspoons ground smoked paprika or chipotle chile pepper
  • ½ cup raisins or currants
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice and zest from one lemon
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • Honey (optional)
  • 1 cup walnuts

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Mix first six ingredients together in a bowl. Stir in pepper, lemon juice and zest and oil. Season to taste with salt and a little honey if you like a little more sweetness. At this point, the mixture can be covered and refrigerated for up to two days.

In a dry skillet, over medium heat, stir walnuts until toasted, about three minutes.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.  Crush with the side of a knife or in a mortar with pestle until they are in coarse pieces.

Stir crushed walnuts into pomegranate mixture. If mixture has been refrigerated, set it out at room temperature for about an hour before adding walnuts.

6-8 servings

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