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Some years ago, a young visitor brought us a gift. It was an empty notebook. His mother had sent it as a thank you for hosting her son for Shabbat. We’ve gotten our fair share of wine and flowers so I thought why not a notebook – that’s a bit different.

But it came with instructions.

Write down everyone who comes over each Shabbat. And write down everything you serve them. Though the idea sounded simple enough, I found the notebook languishing in a drawer a few weeks later. Sad that such a pretty notebook remained unused, I decided to give it a try. I could jot down my menus, a few recipes in the notebook and keep track of the flow in and out of our busy house.

Little did I know that the notebook would grow into a beloved family tradition. It turns out I love looking back on weeks past, months past, years past. I like watching as families grow, as friends bring their boyfriend or girlfriend into our home seeking approval, as they then marry and have kids. I love the traffic and rhythms in our house. And I love to stop and appreciate.

The little notebook, stained with Shabbat foods, filled with recipes and lists of friends allows me a moment of gratitude. I smile when I think of the parade of friends in and out of our house. I tear up when I see the name of a friend taken years before his time. I love that I get to access those memories so quickly.

Buy a notebook. Make it pretty. And start writing. It’s better than any wine or flowers you could receive.

Shabbat Shalom.