The Schmatta

I remember lying on the grass next to my dog, Yodle on a beautiful spring day. I had my head propped up on his belly and it was precariously placed on top of the schmatta. A schmatta is a small piece of thick cloth, smaller than a hand towel but larger than a washcloth. The origins of the term schmatta are Yiddish, and usually refer to old or torn pieces of clothing. However, in my family a schmatta is a multi-use object. We don’t really use it in the context of battered clothing. Our uses of schmattas are much more personal and rich in emotion. I remember that as a young girl I would turn to my schmatta to help calm me down. I would hold it when I was sick like a teddy bear, or I would rest my head on top of it when I was ill. If I were crying or upset, I would squeeze the schmatta and hold it close to my heart. The schmattas have been passed down through my great-grandmother, to my grandmother, to my mother, and to me as they were brought over during their immigration from Austria. Surprisingly, they have endured and lasted through the years. Looking back on my childhood, I realized I was very close with my great-grandmother. She was someone I could always talk to, and I loved her very dearly. Since we only saw her a few times a year, schmattas gave me a connection to her although we were physically not together. They are a symbol of a journey to a new life, a culture, but most importantly, a symbol of family and love.

Year: 1940

– Rachel Molloy

Relationship:  unknown unknown